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Apple’s passion for fashion misstep

The Apple Store on Regent Street in London.
Adam Jeffery | CNBC
The Apple Store on Regent Street in London.

When you think of Apple, you may think of style, but you probably don't think of fashion. The company's sleek-yet-simplistic look and mantra followed the lead of Steve Jobs, a man whose recurrent uniform was a black mock turtleneck and blue jeans.

This makes the company's second major senior-level hire from a major international fashion house all the more perplexing. Following the hire of Yves Saint Laurent's CEO Paul Deneve for "special projects," Apple has poached international fashion house Burberry's CEO, Angela Ahrendts, to spearhead its online and offline retail endeavors.

(Read more: Apple's Burberry hire: A lesson in brand strategy)

Apple's strength is everything that fashion is not. Fashion – especially high fashion – is steeped in trends that change from season to season. It's about form over function as well as personalization, customization and choice, all of which are distinctively un-Apple.

Apple's success was born from having a modern but minimalist design and a lack of choice in its products. Its brand and revenue growth has been driven by innovation and function. Even its consumer appeal has been rooted in creating an affinity group of users that can easily identify themselves – highlighted by its iconic "I'm a Mac" commercials. At its core, Apple is anti-fashion.

This is likely why former Apple retail chief Ron Johnson failed miserably when he tried to recreate a primarily fashion retailer as JCPenney's CEO. While JCPenney is not high fashion, it still has the wide variety of stock keeping units (SKUs), seasonal products with rapid turnovers and other hallmarks of the fashion industry.

Given that Apple's mindset doesn't work for fashion, it's hard to believe that fashion's mindset will work for Apple. Everything from the competencies to the cultures of the two are at opposite ends of the business spectrum.

(Read more: Marc Faber: Apple 'could go bust')

The other questionable element of the Deneve and Ahrendts hires is that their backgrounds are firmly planted in luxury products and retailing. Luxury brands are a Holy Grail in consumer products. However, premium brands sit lower than luxury brands in the branding pyramid and Apple is squarely a premium, not luxury, brand.

While luxury brands can often move down the brand pyramid with spin-off brands that are more affordable, rarely is a brand able to move up the brand pyramid. Simply said, Apple is unlikely to be able to achieve true luxury status because its brand is so firmly established as below-luxury to start.

Most importantly, even if Apple could somehow embrace fashion, it's unlikely to be the silver bullet to their growth challenges. Apple's size and scope have been built off of being a technology company.

That's led it to more than $150 billion in annual revenue, which dwarfs that of even the largest and most prestigious fashion houses by an exponential factor. Ahrendts' former employer Burberry makes around $2 billion a year in revenue and Ralph Lauren's annual revenue is approximately $7 billion. Even a retailer like The Gap., with all of its brands and SKUs, is only a fraction of Apple's size (around $16 billion in annual revenue).

(Read more: Apple is a luxury brand, not a tech company)

Given the size differential, it's highly unlikely that any fashion endeavors would have a meaningful impact on Apple's numbers and be the future growth catalyst that Apple needs.

By chasing fashion, Apple's strategy is falling too far from the tree. The only way that Apple will sustain its growth is to drive technology innovation of the same type that made them the world's most valuable brand to begin with.

Carol Roth is a CNBC Contributor, a 'recovering' investment banker and bestselling author of The Entrepreneur Equation. Follow her on Twitter: @ CarolJSRoth

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