When Did The Gap Become a Black Hole?
I don't know what happened. It feels like a deep personal loss, really. Seems like just a few months ago I dogeared my copy of Fortune with Mickey Drexler on the cover, marveling alongside so many other readers at the genius that built the Khaki Empire. That was actually 1998. "Gap Gets It," they proclaimed.
What changed? Was it the taste level of the jeans & t-shirt wearing population? Did retailers overeducate us, making us too sophisticated in our clothing preferences? Or did Gap shoot itself in the foot by saturating the market and letting "basic" become "ordinary"? When did we all stop being so vanilla?
All I know is GAP doesn't speak to me anymore the way it used to. The middle brand seems to have become Gap Inc.'s less-favored middle child, or perhaps red-headed stepchild. We used to flock to the stores for the combo of style and value, but whatever style the company had gravitated toward the Banana Republic end of things. And if you want Gap-looking stuff at a great value--well, heck, you can get it at Old Navy. Gap painted itself out of the picture.
Mickey Drexler has moved on (J Crew is giving him a chance to shine). I look forward to seeing what Gap does next to dig itself out of this gaping black hole of oblivion. Is it time to get back on-message, or is the era of Basics dead and gone?Should they fire their design team and reinvent the Gap aesthetic altogether? Or should they try to become the first great American fast-fashion company, a la Zara or H & M?
My vote is for the last. I think they could pull it off.