Monday, March 4, 2024
Monday, March 4, 2024
HomeFashionCan Zac Posen save Gap?

Can Zac Posen save Gap?


As a teenager in the early 2000s, I dreamed of a job at Gap. I saw working in the workshop of my local shop (now closed) in Canterbury as an elevated alternative to waitressing shifts in my village pub. Gap was low-key, affordable and optimistic, an early proponent of the now widely used phrase “everyday classics.” It wasn’t intimidatingly cool, but it was aspirational in a relaxed, utilitarian way. Her pieces could be worn by everyone from Madonna to Missy Elliot, both former brand ambassadors, to a 15-year-old who still makes very real sartorial mistakes with denim.

They were low-risk pieces that didn’t scream; clothing that had intergenerational appeal. I was too young to appreciate Joan Didion’s 1989 campaign for the brand, but I was just old enough to be won over by Sarah Jessica Parker’s Lenny Kravitz ad in 2004, which made me save my waitressing salary for a pair of pants. low rise. Ripped jeans. Everyone I knew had a hoodie with the ‘GAP’ logo, and the only reason my friends and I had heard the song ‘Mellow Yellow’ it was through the brand 1999 normcore video campaign. For a time, Gap was “it”: a budget version of Levi’s, firmly at the forefront of the zeitgeist. At its peak in 1999, the brand had more than 2,000 stores worldwide, with sales reaching a colossal $11.6 billion. Today, Gap is in a very different position. Sales are at a low level and, even with their latest star appointment in the form of Zac Posen, their future seems unclear. This week, the luxury designer was named vice president and creative director of Gap Inc. and creative director of Old Navy, Gap’s budget-conscious sister brand.

“Gap was sober, affordable and optimistic, an early proponent of the now widely used phrase ‘everyday classics'”

J. Vespa//fake images

Sarah Jessica Parker on the set of a Gap campaign in 2004

At the same time my regional teenage self was desperate for the low-rise jeans SJP wore in its Gap ad, the company’s sales were already starting to decline. Its president, Mickey Drexler, who had spent 20 years building the company into a global giant, was fired in the midst of the 2002 crisis. He then applied his Midas touch elsewhere, namely at the then-ailing US preppy label J Crew. which he transformed into a stylish hitmaker popular with Michelle Obama. Drexler’s skill was giving brands an identity, and without him at the helm, Gap began to experience an identity crisis, which it has struggled with ever since.

Drexler may not have founded Gap (that title belongs to a real estate developer named Donald Fisher), but he did lay its foundation: a democratic and discreet style for everyone. Color was key, with well-made essentials in saturated hues, as was comfort. There were separate categories for men’s and women’s clothing, but there was easy fluidity between the two; Both sexes can wear a linen shirt or Gap polo. He created a modern, simple uniform that looked optimistic and fresh. The brand’s logo became world famous, as recognizable as those McDonald’s golden arches. Cult director Steve Jonze was hired to create a unique campaign. Gap went beyond the street giant to become a cultural reference.

Madonna and Missy Elliott appear in Gap campaign

fake images//fake images

Madonna and Missy Elliot in a 2003 Gap campaign

Gap’s problems arose when malls and brick-and-mortar stores began to suffer under the weight of e-commerce, a problem it addressed by routinely applying deep discounts in its storefronts and online, cheapening public perception of the brand. Another blow came in the form of competition. When Gap emerged on the fashion scene, it was the only brand offering relaxed basics. Soon H&M and Uniqlo began to follow. Fast fashion brands, from Zara to Topshop, attracted customers with their ever-changing list of runway-inspired looks. Internally, Gap’s leadership team continued to change, which in turn meant that the brand identity seemed inconsistent and confusing. In 2006, the company was widely criticized after it emerged that employees at its textile factory in Jordan were being mistreated and forced to work in unsafe conditions. The controversy continued after a 2010 fire at a Bangladesh factory that supplied clothing to Gap stores killed 20 people. Customers found more and more reasons to stop buying from the brand. In 2020, hoping to revive its image and fortune, Gap reached a 10-year collaboration deal with Kanye West and his Yeezy line. The partnership had a somewhat shortened lifespan after the rapper pulled out two years later, citing breach of contract, leaving the brand even more confused about its point of view. While West had been given a huge distribution platform to sell his products, Gap was left with very little in return.

street style september 2022 new york fashion week

Alex Rosenfeld//fake images

A street style star rocks one of Kanye West’s Yeezy Gap hoodies in 2022

Just when it seemed like Gap was destined to dwell in the backwaters of fashion, it received some unexpected help from the Barbie family. Mattel Chairman Richard Dickson, who is credited with restoring the reputation of the world-famous but often controversial toy doll, was named Gap’s new CEO in July 2023. Dickson was responsible for more diverse Barbies and inclusive sizes that launched in recent years, along with new brand collaborations and marketing campaigns that led to the release of Greta Gerwig’s hit film. Dickson, a creator of transformative brands, could well be the missing piece Gap needs to revive its business.

“Gap and Posen have more in common than it initially seems”

preview of Kate Holmes wearing Zac Posen at the 2019 Met Gala

All of this brings us to the company’s latest appointment: Zac Posen as creative director. The designer, best known for his red carpet looks, was forced to close his luxury brand House of Z in 2019. His new role as creative director at Gap Inc, a four-part portfolio spanning Gap, Old Navy, Banana Republic and sportswear brand Athleta will see him, according to a press release from the group, as “Dickson’s cultural curator and creative partner.” They may seem like an unlikely pairing (Hollywood dress designer and high street basics brand), but Gap and Posen have more in common than initially appears. Both have mass appeal (Posen is a household name thanks to his work as a judge on the Bravo TV show). Catwalk Project) and both embrace inclusivity: They pose by dressing plus-size women, including Oprah Winfrey, and Gap through their wide size range and various campaigns. The challenge and potential magic will depend on whether Posen can deliver luxury and desire without alienating Gap customers. At a time when there’s more interest than ever in high-end essentials and clothing to wear over and over again, there’s huge potential in Gap’s playbook.

zac posen track

Neilson Barnard//fake images

They pose with Naomi Campbell after her fall/winter 2015 show in New York

What is needed is a thoughtful creative partner to revitalize your apparel, merchandising and marketing. Posen has the technical ability and experience in creating clothes that women really want to wear at least on the red carpet, but her success at the high street giant depends on whether she can translate these skills into the mass market. Along with brand-building wunderkind Richard Dickson, he could be the one to finally turn the ship around, as long as he doesn’t tip the scales too much toward the runway realm. Evolution is essential but, for this to happen In fact In their work, Posen and Dickson must return to the heart of the brand—accessible, hard-working, versatile staples that have built-in longevity and don’t follow a trend cycle—and recontextualize them for modern audiences. Timeless classics with a touch of luxury fairy dust; nothing else could fill the void.



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