With the launch of the Spring 2014 lookbook in April, Gap Creative Director Rebekka Bay sets the tone of her six-month-old stewardship as Creative Director of Gap, Inc. For those of you who aren’t yet familiar with Bay, who joined Gap in October 2012, she is known for her conceptualization, development and launch of H&M brand COS (a higher end fast fashion brand).
The Logo Rioters Get Their Way
Bay’s Spring 2014 lookbook does two things: it tells us that Bay is defining who Gap is through her own COS lens (which is great), but also through Gap’s no-frills, 90s aesthete past (even better). Gap’s target influencer demographic is wearing COS abroad and vintage 90s Gap minimalist casualwear right now. Influencers everywhere are pouring into Opening Ceremony for clothing that is essentially Gap in 1999… for $300 a shirt. Think of this demographic as the one that threw a fit over losing the original Gap logo to the Helvetica-ized version, and had their way when Gap reinstated the original logo under pressure. This is because while Gap has been in flux for a decade trying to figure out who it is and who it could be, the Gap consumer has had a very strong understanding of the brand’s identity, and how the brand should continue. And over and over again, in focus groups and style forums around the world, the answer has rung out: bring back the Gap of the 90s, and become the classic brand that you once were.
The COS Filter
Bay’s lookbook does that, to an extent. She thoughtfully, and articulately, takes Gap’s golden era, repurposes it to have a very current context with her COS filter, and fulfills an underserved market segment — mid- to low-range casual wear that women can wear to work, and wherever. The direct competitor for this segment will be Joe Fresh on the low end and J. Crew and Club Monaco on the mid to higher end. If Gap can right their quality consistency issues, they will get a piece of Joe Fresh’s customer base back, beat out J. Crew for women’s workwear (something J. Crew has not fully won over), and will be cheaper and closer to cutting edge than Club Monaco.
The Italian Leather Standard & Beyond
Reliability and quality will make or break Bay’s creative direction — unless buyers are convinced through the quality of the product that Gap is not competing with turn and burn fast-fashion brands anymore, but is sticking to their legacy guns, the millennial consumer will not be interested. The reason that J. Crew can justify their much higher price point to their consumer is because they’ve convinced the consumer that they are up-charging for Italian leather and not Chinese, through marketing campaigns, through heritage brand collaborations, etc. Gap did this too in 2012 through their menswear collaboration with New York surf shop Saturday’s NYC. If they can do this with womenswear and the rest of their brand, they may be adequately prepared for COS’ arrival in the US, announced this year.