June 21, 2015

Closing the Gap

Gap has been having a tumultuous year. Back when former Creative Director Rebekka Bay left the company in late January, I posted on Facebook that I would address the issue...eventually. Turns out my procrastination has somewhat worked in my favour, as it was just announced this week that Gap would be closing 175 stores.

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

June 7, 2015

Welcome Home

The city I go to university in has terribly underwhelming shopping malls, which means I find myself deprived of high-end window shopping for practically 8 months a year. So when summer rolls around, I try to hit up Holt Renfrew and Nordstrom at least once a month. Walking into these stores is like falling into a warm embrace that welcomes me home and comforts me with the promise of great fashion. Here are a couple of highlights from my latest adventures:

Theory Ruffle Shirtdress

My first encounter with Theory was with one of its impeccable blazers. I was in high school, finally confronted with the trials and tribulations of finding a job. Back then, I only had enough credentials for retail sales associate or office admin postings, but my parents insisted early on that I always present myself as a professional - which meant shopping for blazers and business pants. In my quest to find the perfect blazer, Theory stood out as a winner. Theory blazers are divinely tailored, skimming the body in all the right places to create a crisp silhouette. But it wasn't a blazer that made me stop in my tracks during my most recent shopping trip to Holt Renfrew...it was a shirtdress. I quite like the look of shirtdresses (see: Now that's what I call menswear-inspired), but this ruffled number from Theory took it to the next level. Not only was it tailored to a T, the ruffle at the hip highlighted the tension between dressy and casual. Juxtaposition - what I consider one marker of good fashion.

Balenciaga Wire Shopping Tote

I first came across this tote in a fashion magazine, and already then I fell in love with it. So when I saw the bag displayed in Holt Renfrew, I had to take a closer look. The lines were clean and minimal, and the tote exuded a slicing industrial edge. I loved the use of rough metal wire against the flawless leather and gleaming gold logo plate. It's one of those cheeky items that reminds us some of the best fashion comes with a good sense of humour.

Alexander Wang Sneaker Bag

Speaking of humour, Alexander Wang is chalk full of it with his latest sneaker bag. No, this is not exactly the prettiest of handbags, but it is definitely among the most creative. My curiosity was initially piqued by the two air bubbles; I remember thinking I had never seen anything like that on a handbag. It wasn't until I turned the bag to its side that I saw the heel of a sneaker materialize. I was floored. What a great design concept! While you might not carry this for purely aesthetic reasons, you could very well carry it to make a statement.

Valentino Rainbow Rockstuds

Being the Red-Soled Fashionista, most people tend to think I'll spend my first paycheque on a pair of Christian Louboutins. Even though I certainly love the famous red soles, my dream shoe is actually a pair of Valentino Rockstud flats. I have lusted after Rockstuds ever since the they first appeared parading down the Fall/Winter 2010 RTW runway. It won't be my first paycheque, but one day, I do plan on being a proud owner of Valentino. While I will likely buy these now-iconic flats in red (staying true to my blog in some way), I found this multi-coloured version a fun way of transforming a classic pair of flats into a trendier option for potentially new audiences. I'd never invest in this rainbow rendition, but I certainly do appreciate it.

Mackage Arrow Bag

I feel as if I've come across the name Mackage before, but despite having heard of the brand, I don't recall having ever seen one of its products in person. Our official meeting, therefore, was at Holt Renfrew when I saw this Mackage arrow bag. The body of the bag is a design typical of our modern minimalism - angular and spare - but I found the silver arrow closure an adorable feature. To unlock the purse, one must twist the arrow 90 degrees and slide it out. I can imagine all the cool girls deftly unlocking and locking their purses with an insouciant air, making this particular sleight of hand more coveted than the handbag itself.

Kate Spade Shira Glitter Sunglasses

As I've mentioned before, Nordstrom is a gold mine for sunglasses. What I found on my latest trip there was golden - literally. I have a guilty attraction to things glittery and sparkly (but classy, not tacky), and these Kate Spade shades were just begging me to try them on. I've been searching for a new pair of glasses over the past year, and I've come to find that cat eye glasses just don't jive with my face shape. So I actually wasn't expecting these sunglasses to look so good! The bridge fit my flat nose, which helped the frame sit up past my eyebrows (a rule of thumb my dad has passed on to me). When I put the sunglasses on, they felt so right and looked so chic. It's rare that a pair of glasses melds so well with my face structure, continuing the lines of my visage like an artist with a slick wrist. Maybe it's not that I can't do cat eye frames - I just need to find the right one!

Kotur Glitter Globe Clutch

On another glittery note, I found this stunning Kotur Glitter Globe Clutch as I walked inside a boutique selling evening attire along a hip and artsy avenue. As a kid, I remember having a fascination with shaking snow globes as hard as I could, and as it turns out, that childish quirk can be satisfied even as an adult. Once shaken, the outer shell of this perspex clutch fills with glitter. The glitter you see in the centre is actually a sparkly pouch that can be removed to make the clutch entirely see-through, giving you options for different looks. I'm obsessed with this idea of dynamic fashion, where movement and metamorphosis play a role in making your outfit wholly unique. This clutch strikes me as a more elegant approach to Christopher Kane's gel-filled clutches (which I also adore!), and I would highly recommend checking out Kotur's other gorgeous creations.

Image Source: TheoryBalenciaga, Alexander Wang, Valentino, MackageKate Spade, Kotur