Hot Designers Put The Gap Back in Vogue

Discussion
Apr 26, 2007

By George Anderson

The designers brought on by Gap Inc. to create the retailer’s Design Editions line have gotten some welcomed attention from no other than the fashion icon Vogue.

The magazine has put Gap’s Designer Edition clothes on its front cover and it is leading a chorus of cheers from many fashion industry watchers. While it’s early, there is a feeling that Gap’s new approach with designers Doo.Ri Chung, Rodarte (sisters Kate and Laura Mulleav) and Thakoon Panichgul might be its best, last shot at getting its business turned around.

For their part, the designers seem to be relaxed, despite the obvious need for Design Editions to succeed.

“There’s such a classic coolness that comes with Gap. I think that, for me, to be involved in that kind of aesthetic, on that kind of scale, is really cool,” Thakoon Panichgul said in a press release earlier this month.

“The challenge of working with the classic Gap white shirt was really interesting from a designer’s point of view. I see Gap as sort of a blank canvas – it’s the go-to place if you don’t have something to wear,” said Doo.Ri Chung.

Patricia Pao, founder of Pao Principle, is among those who believe the new line of clothes with a slightly dressier presentation than the standard Gap look may be what the chain needs. She told The Wall Street Journal, “Bringing on new designers will buy the Gap some time so they can get their house back in order.”

Roseanne Morrison, a fashion director at Doneger Group, believes that many Gap customers moved on when the chain failed to meet their needs and their return is doubtful. She told The Journal, “They’ve totally lost that middle-ground customer – she doesn’t shop there anymore.”

“On the ads, Gap’s cool, it’s hip. When you go in…it’s a disappointment,” she said.

Still, the Gap is hoping the de facto approval of Vogue and others will justify consumers taking another look. Now, it can be argued, what the chain promises in its ads is delivered in the store.

“Directionally, it makes sense,” Wachovia analyst John D. Morris told The Journal. “The Gap is going after the 20- to 30-year-old customer. They’re now fine-tuning that.”

Discussion Question: Are the new Designer Edition lines what Gap needs to get its business turned around?

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6 Comments on "Hot Designers Put The Gap Back in Vogue"


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Jen Millard
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Jen Millard
15 years 21 days ago

Directionally, adding new designers and collections is a refresh for the GAP and adds variety to a brand that has been called stale. Long term, The GAP is in a tough position–it will have to compete with fast fashion retailers for a share of the 20-30 year old consumer…that is tough in their current development cycle.

I applaud them for trying something new! They appear ready to make some hard decisions and have started by closing Forth & Towne as well as taking a harder look at Real Estate Placement for Old Navy and The Gap. Designers cannot fix everything…but updating the assortment and adding a new voice and statement is a good start. Focusing on the merchandise first is a good indication that they are getting back to basics.

Mark Lilien
Guest
15 years 21 days ago

The Gap might be better off trying dozens of new designers and concepts in a few stores before announcing a national commitment to only a few. Or perhaps they’ve done enough testing and market research to know they’ve got a home run. One of the alleged reasons for Coach’s success is their constant use of testing and research.

Jeff Weitzman
Guest
Jeff Weitzman
15 years 21 days ago

I wouldn’t put much stock in a pundit’s predictions about what any given demographic will or won’t buy. If it was predictable it wouldn’t be fashionable. Gap has other problems, but selling clothes people really want to buy certainly has to be part of any plan. Time, and only time, will tell.

Mark Burr
Guest
15 years 21 days ago
The Gap was my most disappointing shopping experience this past Christmas season. I had felt that they had declined the year before, however this season it was clearly evident. From both a merchandising and product point of view there was clearly a disconnect. While the exact same thing had occurred in recent years with Eddie Bauer, it was clear this year, from visits to multiple locations, that they had changed and had their act together. They had also surpassed all of my other experiences in the season with specialty retailers. Can The Gap do the same? It remains to be seen. When a retailer has become as severely disconnected as they appear to have become, it may be difficult. In years past, their advertising alone made you want to shop there. They appear to have lost that edge as well. As one commentator notes, they have more problems than one or two designers may be able to cure. They are no longer ‘hot’ or ‘fun.’ Without either going for you in their sector of the… Read more »
Camille P. Schuster, Ph.D.
Guest
15 years 21 days ago

Trying a new approach was necessary. Is this the right approach? Depending upon how much time they spent talking with, observing, and listening to consumers while they pursued deals with designers will determine the outcome. If they did both, they could well be on the track to recovery and success.

Narayan Moorthy Moorthy
Guest
Narayan Moorthy Moorthy
15 years 20 days ago

The approach taken to create value addition to the brand is logical, given the fact that the consumer is an ever changing phenomenon. The complexity increases when age groups change over time and consumer taste differs accordingly. This assumes more significance in the case of GAP when it says that it is looking at the 20 – 30 year old group. We need to remember that the consumers who grew used to the GAP brand over time are getting older by the day and therefore, to remain contemporary and significant to the old through the new age group while enticing the new consumers with new world fashion is logical and should have the desired impact in the long run.

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