What Jony Ive said at the Met Fashion Gala

ive_hero20110204Sir Jony Ive, chief design officer of Apple was one of the four co-hosts of Metropolitan Museum of Art Costume Institute Gala alongside Anna Wintour of Vogue, singer Taylor Swift and actor Idris Elba. Apple, was an underwriter of an event widely known as “Oscars of the East Coast.” Here is a text of his speech at the event. (I am working on a larger piece on fashion and technology, which will soon follow!)

We are thrilled at Apple to help bring to life Manus x Machina: Fashion in an Age of Technology.  When Anna and Andrew first talked to me about their idea, I was particularly intrigued that it would stimulate a conversation exploring the relationship between what is made by hand and what is made by machine – that it would challenge the preconception held by some that the former is inherently more valuable than the latter.

In the design team at Apple we share some similar preoccupations and goals with the designers whose work you see here today. Many of us believe in the poetic possibilities of the machine while in equal measure have tremendous respect and admiration for what is made by hand.

Our goal has always been to try to create objects that are as beautiful as they are functional, as elegant as they are useful.  Our physical designs are informed by our passion for materials and processes based on an experience we have gained by actually making things ourselves.  Surprisingly fewer and fewer designers, regardless of their particular discipline, are interested in the detail of how something is made. With a father who is a fabulous craftsman I was raised with the fundamental belief that it’s only when you personally work a material with your hands that you come to understand its true nature, its characteristics, its attributes and critically of course it’s potential. I’ve always believed that it’s terribly important to understand the physical world and real objects, not purely digital representations. 

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As I have watched the exhibition’s narrative evolve, it has been exciting to see craftsmanship considered not only in the context of today but also the future. The Chanel dress, that Tom mentioned, Andrew’s inspiration for the exhibition, is a wonderful example of artisan-like craft, executed with the deepest consideration, yet enabled with the very latest technology. Most breakthroughs in craft, that some may now consider as having a value deemed part of tradition, were once perceived as truly innovative, often shockingly so. At one point in time, using a metal needle to stitch deeply challenged the conventional thinking of that time.

 Predictably I am humbled by the innovations of the past, in the same way that I’m humbled by the work that we can see here today. It’s easy to think that craft cannot change but important to remember that all craft process was at some point new, at some point challenged convention, not to be contrarian but enabled by some breakthrough, some newly discovered principle or some wonderful accident. Fundamentally and most critical of all for me in this discussion is the notion of care.   Whether something is made in the smallest volume – as is a one-off couture piece –  ultimately manufacture. 

It’s care that I recognise in every exhibit here today – regardless of whether it’s been made by hand or by a machine.  It’s creation has been led by great consideration rather than driven by schedule or price point.  And I believe that will resonate with visitors to the exhibition. Ultimately, it is the amount of care invested, whether machine-made or hand-made, that transforms ordinary modest materials into something extraordinary.

I would like to sincerely thank Anna, Andrew, Tom and the team here at the Met, on behalf of all of us at Apple, for the opportunity to be part of this exciting and thought provoking endeavor.  I know that it will be an inspiration to many and challenge us to recognise that, far from being mutually exclusive notions, technology and craft are of course not at odds and, much like beauty and utility, go hand in hand, all the more powerful in combination. 

Thank you all for joining us this morning – I do hope that you enjoy the exhibition, which Andrew will now tell you more about.

Thank you Andrew.

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