Let's start from the beginning. Patrick Robinson was hired on at Gap back in 2007 to revive the brand. He was a vibrant character, and he brought with him a youthfulness and hope that the company could shed its bland exterior and strike a note with buyers once again. I don't think he quite managed to accomplish the company's goals, as it was only until late 2011 that I found a Gap item worth blogging about. But as luck will have it, Robinson had already been dismissed earlier that year.
Another year later, enter Rebekka Bay. The irony is, Bay was brought on for the same reason Robinson was: to revive the company. Once a boulder starts rolling, there's little you can do to stop it. The revival efforts just kept on coming, one after another. There has to be a point when one realizes revival has simply become a desperate fight for survival. Under Bay, the brand lost what little lustre it had left. It was selling incredibly dull basics - khakis, t-shirts, blazers - with absolutely no unique design elements. They were just khakis, just t-shirts, and just blazers. On occasion, there were one or two pieces that'd pique my interest, but more often than not, I'd walk into a Gap store and be bored by the end of it. Gap fell into what I call the Bermuda Triangle of fashion retail. Average quality, average prices, average design - deadly middle ground that leaves customers halfhearted and uncommitted.
So then fast forward to 2015. Rebekka Bay has been removed - in fact, her entire position has been removed. Gap stated it would fly without a pilot, opting instead to leave design responsibilities to a team. Having a design team run the show isn't a bad thing (see: fast fashion retailers, Maison Martin Margiela's old model), and I was very curious about what would come out of it. As they say, two heads are better than one. Perhaps what Gap needed was just a bit of diversity.
But in February, Gap hired Wendi Goldman as the Executive Vice President of Product Design and Development. While the position in of itself was new, Goldman had essentially taken over Bay's role. The brief headless-design-team experimentation was over, and now we find ourselves in present time, with 175 Gap stores set to close in North America and Europe. The white flags are up, and defeat is in the horizon.
I understand the history of the company as quintessential American sportswear, and am sad to see that in this case, sticking to one's roots is like shooting poison into one's veins. I do believe there is a place in the market for casual separates with an all-American flair, but the pieces need to be done right. There needs to be either quality construction or unique design. After all, wardrobe basics can be bought for a couple bucks from fast fashion retailers - Gap needs to prove it has more to offer.
Image Source: GQ, Elle, Social Broadcast Network