Is Gap Officially Back?

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Anne Hathaway just wore a custom Gap by Zac Posen shirt dress — and we’re kind of obsessed.

There’s a new brand lighting up the fashion world — and chances are you probably already some of their pieces. Yes, we’re talking about Gap, the casual denim-focused brand that has been less than caszh lately. On May 20, Anne Hathaway stepped out in Rome wearing a custom white shirtdress by Gap. The look, designed by Gap creative director Zac Posen, was a fresh take on the classic white shirt, featuring an asymmetrical off-the-shoulder, corseted waist and sky-high slit. And unlike most Gap collared shirts, this one was paired with with Bulgari high jewellery.

As is the case with pretty much anything the newly minted romcom star wears lately, the Anne Hathaway Gap dress sent the internet into a tizzy. The slit! The corset! The fact that it’s Gap!?! We can’t help but wonder: Is Gap…back?

Hathaway is far from the only celebrity to wear the household-name brand on a red carpet lately. Earlier this month, actress Da’Vine Joy Randolph walked the famous steps of the Met Gala in an all-denim gown designed by Zac Posen for Gap.

And off-the runway, Gap has been making moves, too. On May 17, the brand launched a collaboration with buzzy Los Angeles-based brand Dôen. Well-known for their cottagecore dresses and nostalgic nod to California, Gap x Dôen marries the former’s emphasis on quality essentials with the latter’s love of romantic silhouettes and whimsy. The end result? Versatile and super chic pieces that’ll make you want to frolic through a field of California wildflowers.

The response to Gap’s new collab, as with Hathaway and Randolph’s looks, has been largely positive, with social media users flocking to Instagram and TikTok to share their love for the brand and show off their hauls. TL;DR: Gap is cool. Or maybe we should say Gap is cool again. Because as millennials will remember, there was one time when the brand was it.

@alliebethc I’d like to thank my mom, who dressed me in Gap fresh out of the womb. (Stop, I’m getting emotional.) She’s the reason I love fashion and it feels so serendipitous the week of Mother’s Day that this is announced. ❤️ I can’t believe this collaboration – I truly feel like I am dreaming. Can @gap @DÔEN ♬ original sound – allie

Originally founded in 1969, Gap built a reputation during the 1980s and ’90s as a mecca for casual wear, slinging denim, tees and hoodies like it was going out of style. But, the brand was decidedly in style. For teens, rocking one of the now-infamous and instantly identifiable logo hoodies was a kind of social currency, a symbol that you knew what was fashionable and you could afford it.

The brand’s emphasis on classic casuals appealed to almost everyone, with actress Sharon Stone even wearing a $26 USD Gap mock neck turtleneck to the 1996 Oscars. Talk about high-low fashion! As The New York Times noted in an August 1992 article about the brand: “As ubiquitous as McDonald’s, as centrally managed as the former Soviet Union and as American as Mickey Mouse, the Gap Inc. has you covered, from the cradle to the grave.” That was pretty high praise. But since the early 2000s, the brand that was at one time synonymous with youth, has been feeling, well, old.

There are a few reasons for this, including, as CNN notes, a big shift in how consumers shop, with the popularity of online shopping overtaking that of malls and in-person experiences. And what was OG Gap if not the mall store? In 2020, Gap shared that they were planning to close 30 per cent of the company’s Gap and Banana Republic stores in North America by this year. Not to mention the fact that with the rise of online shopping came greater access to other brands — and direct competition for Gap. They just couldn’t keep up with the competition, according to the aforementioned CNN report, losing touch with their identity and customer base. Add in a series of missteps and controversies, like criticisms around a racist ad from the brand in 2016, and it was a no huge surprise that Gap fell into a prolonged slump.

The past few years have seen a slow resurgence in Gap’s popularity thanks to gen Z’s love for nostalgia and anything “vintage” (a.k.a. before the early 2000s). But its recent celebrity endorsements and buzzy collabs have cemented Gap’s comeback.

Part of what is making the brand’s renaissance successful seems to be Gap’s willingness to do what it once did best, and what brands like Coach and Tory Burch have done over the past several years: tap into what young people want. They’ve done this by focusing on their bread and butter products — quality essentials — and giving them a cool, youthful twist, much like Hathaway’s deconstructed dress shirt or Randolph’s denim gown. And by aligning themselves with stars, influencers and brands who speak directly to their desired consumer base (we are in the midst of an Anne Hathaway renaissance, after all), Gap is saying “Hey, we’re cool, too.”

Chances are we have Gap’s new creative director to thank for this. In February of this year, the brand appointed American designer Zac Posen as executive vice president, creative director of Gap Inc. and chief creative officer of Old Navy. Posen, who closed his namesake label in 2019, is fashion royalty, having worked with some of the biggest celebs in the industry and earning a reputation throughout his career for creating garments that celebrate the female form. With Posen known for taking calculated risks while sticking to classic silhouettes and fabrications, his appointment makes sense. And, maybe it could save the brand. If the past several weeks are any indication, we’d say Posen — and Gap — are on the right track.

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