In one way, the answer to the above question is a definite yes. Yesterday Patrick Robinson, the brand’s creative director and a man whose arrival after stints at high-end brands like Paco Rabanne and Perry Ellis seemed to signal a new, fashion-forward direction for the mass market name, was ousted from the company.
“After spending the last three months in New York with the Creative team, I’ve made the decision to make a change within our Gap Adult design team,” said Pam Wallack, head of the Gap Global Creative Center in New York.
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That’s pretty anodyne.
And thus ended Mr Robinson’s brief era – he joined in 2008 – where Gap engaged in mini runway shows, staged presentations for glossy magazine editors and last year actually sponsored the Met’s Costume Institute ball, dressing Diane Kruger, among other celebrities. Is this the end of that approach?
Though there was some buzz post-Met, it never coalesced into a specific image for the brand. Mr Robinson himself is relatively mediagenic, but whilst GAP at first seemed interested in the idea of a frontman to represent them, a classic strategy of high-end brands that use their designers to humanise their name and connect it to consumers, they never seemed fully committed to the approach.
Interestingly, in the time between Mr Robinson’s appointment and his departure, a number of other high street names have followed a similar path. Last year Theory signed up fashion darling Olivier Theyskens (late of Nina Ricci and Rochas) to great success, and Uniqlo has an on-going sell-out collaboration with Jil Sander (the person, not the brand).
Why they have made it work and Gap couldn’t is an interesting question, and probably has something to do with integrating design and backroom and perhaps that Theory and Uniqlo are owned by the same parent.
Still, I think ultimately it comes down to a very basic sense of identity – of what Gap stands for – that needs to be resolved internally.
Is it a faceless label, there to be the base of a wardrobe, or something less necessary, more emotive? Where, in the end, do the greatest profits lie?