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beauty is pop culture // sex rules the world 

  • Arianne Obi

Putting Gap back on the Map


Credit: Gap, Spring 2024, Tyla, Rolling Stone

From Fashion Powerhouse to Modern Icon: The Evolution of Gap Under New Leadership and Creative Direction


If you were raised on a diet of 10p Freddos, Nintendo DS and sub-par teen Rom Coms, you’ll also know about true winners and losers in these films. Here, the popular girls were often leggy and preppy with tadpoles for eyebrows; the Big American Mall acting as the cornerstone of adolescence and Gap being one of its temples.


Once a fashion mecca, GAP hasn’t always been smirked at: it used to be the biggest stockist of Levi’s Jeans and the business grew hugely in the late 90’s and early 2000’s on the back of their specialism in stylish simplicity. With campaigns starring legends such as Lenny Kravitz, Missy Elliott and SJP and it was a champion of ‘everyday classics’. The retailer’s chequered history was also tinged with controversies (naturally, what’s fashion without drama), including questions around minimum wage and labour practices. Once the brand tried to ditch its unpretentious style and instead follow suit of the Forever 21s and H&Ms of this world, things went a bit south.


The present decade has seen a massive upheaval for vintage and fresh Gap products under trends in the fashion (amen to TikTok) and a revived brand image. Putting aside the mess that was YZY Gap - the brainchild of Ye himself and Mowalola Ogunlesi - Gap hasn’t been afraid to take risks to self-liberate. Gen Z girls are fishing for Y2K GAP jeans on Vinted and the company is partnering with the freshest talent around, from New York legends to global superstars.


CREATIVE DIRECTION UNDER ZAC POSEN

Earlier this year, Zac Posen was named EVP of GAP. A prodigy in his own right, he created iconic looks for the stars from the age of 20, including Naomi Campbell and Rihanna. His eponymous brand took a downfall and he attempted to revive his reputation following a short stint on TV flop Project Runway. Gap however recognised his talent and reinstated him as a cultural creator in to bid to bring a bit more heat to the brand and a touch of beauty to everyday basics. This year, the MET Gala served as the perfect platform to show who’s boss: Da’Vine Joy Randolph rocked a denim gown that was equal parts feminine as it was powerful, it it was a smart move of GAP’s part to show off their relevancy as a leader of denim.

Credit: WWD

COLLAB CULTURE

We’ve reached collab fatigue (or at least I have, Pringles X Crocs was my 13th reason) where brands are mutating with other brands to reach peak…something. Be it hype, social media likes or media value, it does work to create an inimitable - albeit transient - buzz in pop culture. Gap, for better or worse, has had its fair share of collaborations worth talking about. Remember Yeezy Gap? The partnership between All-American boy Kanye West and All-American brand was birthed to create a collection of elevated basics and spearheaded by Nigeria’s Finest, Mowalola. Whilst the collection was a knockout (think standout sales and attracting new customers), once Ye opened his big mouth with his antisemitic remarks Gap had the last word pulled out of the partnership. Despite this all, Gap has had some successes worth celebrating; in the 12 months alone dropping collections with Dapper Dan, hopping on the Barbie-mania train and tapping in to 90s Skate Culture with Palace. 

Credit: Palace

BEST IN CLASS CASTING

Earlier this year, a video of Global Superstar, Tyla, dancing to Jungle’s ‘Back on 74’ went viral. An expression of individuality, movement and style, you’d think it was a music video reminiscent of 90s Aaliyah or Destiny’s Child….well think again. Gap instead tapped her for ‘Linen Moves’ a campaign video which outperformed the brand’s recent work for using a viral song and choreography as well as talent that resonates with the young as well as gives nostalgic edge. This camapaign transports us back in to a time where Gap wasn't just part of Culture, it lived and breathed it Culture. There was a time where every celebrity would kill for a international Gap campaign, and it's always kept it's cool by choosing best in class talent to represent the brand. Before Nepo-babies, there was Naomi Campbell, Missy Elliott, Spike Lee and Lenny Kravitz, and now the brand is reviving earnest and relatable names like Jay Shetty, Sporty Spice and Labrinth as part of cementing it's next-gen Icons.


If there's anything Gap has shown us, it's that culture matters. Unlike trends, culture isn't ephemeral but feeds in to how we see and are meant to be seen. They've made great gains by sticking to their roots of all-american classicism with a cosmopolitan edge, and it's worth hoping that these new brand custodains will trigger a change of pace that translates in to societal and financial gains.



 Are you passionate about exploring the intricate worlds of beauty, sex, wellness, and culture? Do you belong to a marginalized community and have unique perspectives and stories to share? If so, Nightstand Service is eagerly seeking contributing writers like you! Get in touch: info@nightstandservice.com

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