Jony Ive’s vision for Apple stores includes plenty of live trees, so who can be surprised that the “Christmas tree” he and BFF Marc Newson designed for a swank British hotel turned out to be a minimalist fir with not a bauble in sight?
Unusual as it is, Ive and Newson’s creation is far from the most offbeat reimagining of festive firs in Claridge’s history. Check out previous Claridge’s Christmas trees, which range from truly ostentatious to totally bizarre.
2009: A snow leopard Christmas tree
Right from the start, Claridge’s stretched the definition of Christmas trees with this piece created by designer John Galliano for Dior. If you like your Christmas to come with copious numbers of dragon flies, parrots and snow leopards, this is probably the tree for you!
Incidentally, Mac OS Snow Leopard also shipped in 2009. We guess they were “in” that year…
2010: Water way to decorate a Christmas tree
Yes, it looks a little bit like the Terminator 2 scene in which the liquid metal android writhes around after getting shot. In fact, Galliano’s second Claridge’s creation was designed to look like an undersea tree — complete with pink coral, seahorses, starfish, jellyfish and more.
2011: The 1970s meets Downton Abbey
The Claridge’s Christmas tree for 2011, the year Steve Jobs passed away, was designed by Moroccan-Israeli fashion designer Alber Elbaz.
A combination of 1970s nostalgia and Downton Abbey mania (because what more natural combination could there be?), the tree was covered in French-made multicolored baubles. Beside it, a set of puppets represented the creator’s view of the ideal family (alongside a pearl-wearing, feather duster-sporting maid).
Elbaz himself even made a cameo, as a bow tie-wearing angel sitting atop the tree.
2012: ‘Forest Murmurs’
The work of Kally Ellis, founder of renowned British floral designers McQueens, Claridge’s 2012 Christmas tree was, in some ways, a cross between Ive and Newson’s concept and the traditional tree many of us would expect to see.
It took inspiration from the natural world, with lichen and magnolia branches, but added white, gold and silver emerald jewel eggs.
2013: A Dolce & Gabbana Christmas
Fashion designers Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana were asked to “curate” Claridge’s 2013 tree. To do this, they used 450-plus custom-blown Italian glass baubles created by “master artisans.” These baubles included designs based on citrus fruits, flowering almonds, pears and other imagery meant to evoke the feel of a Sicilian garden.
At the base of the tree were 30 handcrafted marionettes, carved out of wood, and showing medieval knights. The green, red, yellow and blue colors of the tree referenced Italian festivities.
2014: Dolce & Gabbana strike back
Like John Galliano, Dolce and Gabbana returned to design the Claridge’s Christmas tree for a second year in a row. (Whether Ive will be back with an incremental “s” model Christmas tree for 2017, focused mainly on internal upgrades, remains to be seen.)
The 2014-era tree is probably the upscale hotel’s most traditional-looking holiday piece. It’s a nod to its creators’ childhood, with 300 hand-painted glass baubles representing various international flags.
There were also 9,000 fairy lights and a forest scene below the tree staffed by animatronic woodland creatures. Because nothing says Christmas quite like an electronic woodland animal!
2015: Burberry baubles
Created by Christopher Bailey for Burberry, the fashion company previously run by Apple’s retail VP Angela Ahrendts, this tree couldn’t be more different from Ive and Newson’s austere Christmas tree.
Perhaps as an admission of the realities of recent British Christmases (read: less snow, more rain), the “tree” is constructed out of 100 motion-sensing gold and silver umbrellas, designed to sparkle as people walk by. Oh, and an astonishing 77,000 lights thrown in for good measure!
2016: I’m dreaming of an iPod white Christmas
In addition to the unfurnished fir seen at the top of this article, Ive and Newson also created a special room consisting of a shifting light scheme, some fake snow and more plain branches devoid of decorations.
“There are few things more pure and beautiful than nature, so that was our starting point, layering various iterations of organic forms with technology,” Ive and Newson said of their Claridge’s Christmas tree. “Our aim was to create an all-enveloping magical experience that celebrates our enormous respect for tradition while recognizing our excitement about the future and things to come.”
Next year’s model will no doubt be thinner!