April 22, 2009

The Gap (San Francisco)

The economic downturn has been punishing for many apparel companies and designers, but it could prove to be a new beginning for the Gap. After all, while the economy grew in recent years, the 40-year-old basics chain floundered; but with fashion-world darling Patrick Robinson at the helm, and shoppers increasingly seeking value for their limited budgets, the Gap may just be poised to reclaim its position as America's go-to line for simple, reasonably priced clothes. 

Collaborations? They've got 'em -- and juicy ones at that. Pierre Hardy shoes, Albertus Swanepoel hats, the annual white shirt collections from CFDA/Vogue nominees... and most recently, from the company that continued to crank out mom jeans well into the new millennium, a surprisingly up-to-date new denim collection. Robinson challenged designers from higher-priced denim lines to see what they could produce for the Gap's under-$60 price range, and they came out with a worn-in boyfriend jean and a super-skinny cigarette jean that, at least in thumbnail-size photos, rival any designer version. In a ringing endorsement from the fashion world, Style.com has gone so far as to include the fall collection among the runway shows on their website, alongside such up-and-comers as Josh Goot and Cushnie et Ochs. 

Still, the company's website and in-store merchandising don't yet seem to reflect Robinson's high-fashion-at-low-prices vision. Which makes us wonder: Will we see a gradual roll-out, or is corporate hobbling him? Can the Gap become the Uniqlo of the USA? It could be. It just could be.

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