"This generation of nouveau riche is shunning 'conspicuous consumption' in favor of brands that represent quality, aesthetics and authenticity," advertising industry veteran Tim Arnold wrote in Advertising Age. "These attributes, along with uniqueness, integrity, design and performance, represent today's 'prestige' for these high-end consumers."
If Apple has already mastered the luxury game, why does it need Ahrendts?
One reason may be the company's entry into the "wearables" market, with watches and other devices. Having an executive who has reinvented a storied luxury brand through better design, quality and digital and social media can only help—especially on the retailing side.
(Read more: Reasons why the wealthy don't give more)
But Furman and others say the company may be looking for Ahrendts to bring fresh ideas to a company that's always looking for an edge.
"Apple is always looking to up their game and [give] that extra oomph," Furman said. "I think she can bring that."
—By CNBC's Robert Frank. Follow him on Twitter: @robtfrank.
"Secret Lives of the Super Rich"
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