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Wednesday, May 11, 2011

I Rant, You Read! Patrick Robinson and The Gap

What drives your thought process when you enter a clothing store?  Dread or desire?  Maybe you're one of those individuals with money burning a hole in their pockets, where the only thing that can extinguish the interlined inferno is a perfect cordovan oxford or a slingback in buttery kidskin.  Perhaps you have a considerable amount of focus to where you know the store has a stack of cranberry v-necks on sale or even the most perfectly dyed coordinating murse or überpocketed tote couldn't draw your attention away from your targeted buy. 

Well I have a thought process in stores.  Stay away from the crowd!  Not necessarily because I may get trampled by tourists, 'mullers' and moms with carriages chasing after marked down twinsets but rather because I realize a lot of people don't know how to shop with connected visions.  Meaning that their goal is longevity but their selections guide them towards 'stylistically-fleeting-trend-driven-lore' with very little 'investment-stretch-your-buck' sensibility.  I think it takes an understanding of clothing and how they'll be wearing it, garment construction vs body construction (a 38F in a tube top..really???) and when and how to go high-low 'retail-istically'.

Designer Vivienne Westwood once said something that has stuck with me to this day.  In a telelvision program years ago she concluded that she didn't think it wise to accumulate hoards and hoards of cheap clothing.  Now while some things don't necessarily need to be acquired at ridiculously exorbitant prices (like Balmain's $1800 ripped 't-shirt' last spring) other things need to be purchased with some wardrobing intelligence, especially amongst those who travel more by means of self-driven car and rail rather than learjet.
Now I'm not about to unleash a lengthy syllabus for "How to Shop for everything from ascots to zoot suits in Today's Marketplace:101" but I will say this.  You can pull longevity in clothing out of places as common as Banana Republic and as daunting as Neiman Marcus; you just have to be aware of what's really worth splurging on and what's worth riding the frugal freight train for. 

Speaking of the Banana Republic family for example, in that pyramid Banana is top and Old Navy the bottom with The Gap filling in the middle.  However, I learned that The Gap had recently let their well-seasoned head designer Patrick Robinson go claiming that one of the weakness in the brand was the cohesiveness of the designs.  Now while I don't frequent The Gap I do shop there for clients and I will say that being such a broad chain can produce many negatives and positives.  First and foremost positively, it has the capabilities to reach a vast American audience and negatively it 'has' to reach a vast American audience.  What Robinson achieved at The Gap was the start of a new attuned fit and fashionable sensibility for the chain but it was all happening at a time when many Americans would either choose to invest with a Banana approach or play lowball with an Old Navy strategy.  Being the middleman is never easy during an economic downturn especially when the public's thirst for fashion and trend stays bubbling and churning.  I believe he was trying to create a smarter consumer all around.  Perhaps an answer for The Gap could've been to do more designer and celebrity collabos.  Who knows?  However,  I feel Mr. Robinson is a design celebrity in his own right with an amazing resume and trained skills who perhaps was selling himself short at The Gap.  He should really have a namesake label by now, but that's one for the Mr. Robinson to chew.

At any rate, I believe he was on the right track but the American public seems to either want to 'invest and forget it' (Banana) or as Ms. Westwood said 'buy hoards and hoards of cheap clothing' (Old Navy).  I guess the CEOs for The Gap were understandbly more interested in turning fast dollars than taking the time to rebuild a legacy through design.  There are companies and labels trying to do both today, I guess, and hope to strike gold by achieving the formula for both.  So I suppose until future enlightened ones arise, 'When In Rome'...get someone who thinks more like a native.

1 comment:

  1. I used to love the Gap, but I just don't understand the vision now. There was once a time when that blue bag had such a cache...not so much anymore. The company's vision needs to be defined and activated.

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