There was no actual red carpet, no flashbulb clicking press line. But Hollywood made its style known in Cupertino, Calif., on Monday, when Oprah, Reese Witherspoon, Jennifer Aniston and more took the stage to tout Apple’s new content strategy and streaming TV offerings.
Although Apple doesn’t have a specific dress code for its office or events, its late cofounder Steve Jobs is still the archetype of Silicon Valley fashion; his uniform of black turtleneck, jeans and sneakers still permeating the keynote stages of tech power nearly eight years after his death.
What was interesting on Monday was to see how Hollywood challenged that carefully dressed-down image, both on the Apple presentation stage and at the party the night before that had stars capturing candid snapshots and chatty social media posts that invited the public into the notoriously private, Norman Foster-designed Apple campus.
“In association with the misfits, rebels and troublemakers,” the opening film credits teased in the Steve Jobs Theater, setting the stage for the storytellers from down South who Apple is counting on to transform its hardware-based business model and help take it into a content-driven future.
Apple chief executive officer Tim Cook wore his 2019 version of Jobs’ tech uniform: gray jeans, crewneck sweater, white button-down shirt and black leather sneakers, which it should be said looked slightly more high-fashion than his typical everyday Nikes. (Maybe he dressed up just a bit for Oprah.) The announcements for Apple News, Apple Arcade and Apple Card were made by a host of executives similarly dressed in the Valley’s business casual fashion. Then came Hollywood, more deliberately costumed for the occasion but still tempered slightly by the spirit of NorCal conservatism.
“Sharing stories makes us feel less alone,” the teaser film for Apple TV plus promised, suggesting that the almost $1 trillion tech giant’s latest offerings will somehow save us from a life of screen-bound solitude by drawing us closer together. Enter Steven Spielberg. The director greeted the crowd aglow with computer screens, while dressed in a tweedy windowpane-check blue suit that screamed “Action!” To introduce his reboot of “Amazing Stories,” he wore a vest and jacket with patch pocket details that recalled Cecil B. DeMille’s adventuring director safari style filtered through a British haberdasher’s lens.
Drawing even more applause were the new stars of Apple’s upcoming “Morning Show.” Steve Carell mirrored Spielberg’s tweedy creative look but in a more “Crazy, Stupid Love” modern way, by swapping a vest for a sweater. Reese Witherspoon abandoned the Southern belle style of her Draper James brand, choosing instead a no-nonsense, dark-hued sheath by thinking woman’s designer Gabriela Hearst. Meanwhile, Jennifer Aniston stayed true to her Nineties sexy-minimalist personal brand in Loewe black leather pants and a cleavage-baring black Saint Laurent blouse accented with a Hoorsenbuhs necklace. (Yes, they were styled for the occasion by their Hollywood image-makers.)
Both women wore heels, which are still out of the comfort zone for some working in Silicon Valley. (In January, I met a woman who works on the Google campus who was so fed up with feeling like she had to censor her style for her workplace, she made it her New Year’s resolution to wear her favorite heels to work. I wonder if the Hollywood crowd’s appearance onstage in Cupertino will make her more empowered to do so or less.)
“Aquaman” actor Jason Momoa was his high-fashion superhero self. No pink Fendi Oscars tuxedo here, but he did wear a Tom Ford suede biker jacket, Rick Owens T-shirt and Schaeffer Garment Hotel leather jeans. Meanwhile, Kumail Nanjiani chose a green Asos suit and white Officine Generale shirt “similar to a Pakistani kurta,” according to his stylist Jeanne Yang, who said that his forthcoming Apple show “Little America” is about immigrants and he wanted to make reference to the colors of Pakistan, from which he emigrated.
The morning’s supernova was Oprah, who will make two documentaries for the streamer. Dressed in a ribbon-tied white high-low shirt and black pants, she looked part guru, part maestro. “They are a company that has reimagined how we communicate,” said the great communicator before delivering the day’s most memorable line about Apple. “They’re in a billion pockets, y’all, a billion pockets!” Even Cook seemed star-struck. “I will never forget this,” he said, hugging her onstage.
While it was hardly the Oscars come to Cupertino, the men and women of Hollywood did bring their own fashion flair to the stage — and on Sunday night, to the Apple campus, where a rose Champagne-sipping Witherspoon (dressed in a black Victoria Beckham dress with subtle red cutouts), Jennifer Garner and Oprah were among the stars capturing social media videos and bringing their own version of red carpet banter to the public watching on their Apple — or other brand — devices. It was fun to have a bird’s-eye view.
One wonders now that Apple is cozying up to Hollywood how the cultures could merge. Will Los Angeles, for decades a punchline for Northern California, continue to be a joke? Or will there be more of an entertainment-and-tech meeting of the minds and styles as the two industries forge a future together?
As it moves ahead with its ambitious slate of programming, Apple is building its presence in L.A., leasing the building at 8777 Washington Boulevard in Culver City, longtime Hollywood home of Sony Studios. It plans to employ 1,000 people there by 2022. Amazon is also nearby, leasing 280,000 square feet of space in Culver Studios. What will the new SoCal NorCal uniform look like?
We already have Silicon Beach, bring on Silicon-wood.
Editor’s Note: This is the first in a recurring column by WWD West Coast executive editor Booth Moore.