There was a moment, sometime in the late-80s and early-90s, when the Gap was the be-all-end-all—at least in the fashion consciousness of a tween-teen growing up in New York City (that would be me). Back then, the store had the best jeans, great hooded long-sleeve tees, V-neck sweaters in ever color of the rainbow, and don’t even get me started on its vast and wonderful wall of socks.
But somewhere along the line—probably sometime around the confluence of the internet, the smartphone, the rise of e-commerce and when foreign fast fashion retailers zoned in on the American market—the Gap lost its way. And while there still seems to be a Gap on every corner, and while folks might flock to the store for its fantastic undies and other basic bits, it’s no longer the must-shop destination it was, 20 years ago.
Is that all about to change? Yes, at least, according to the Gap’s new-ish creative director Rebekka Bay. She came to the company from the much-heralded just-this-side-of-ordinary H&M-owned higher-end line COS, which has stores all across Europe and is planning an expansion into the United States later this year.
Bay sat down with the folks at Bloomberg Businessweek to talk about her vision for the brand—and how she works. If you’re a loyal Gap customer—or want to be—here’s how her thought process is influencing what you wear.
She’s a simple dresser: “I am happiest if I have jeans in a couple of washes, tees in black, white, and heather gray, and a seasonal coat to pull off the look.”
She’s all about getting back to basics: “Everyone has an opinion, but I had to go after what it is for me. What was my fondest memory of the brand?”
On good design: “Good design is less about taste but more about integrity. I think we can do less, and do it so much better, that it is going to be more productive for us.”
On what people want: “That’s not founded in any research. That’s just super intuitive.”
On building a collection: “You need a very strong foundation. You have boundaries, and you can only—and I’m kind of rigid about this—you can only work within them. First, you design the most iconic piece. Then you can maybe create a seasonal version of that. If anyone is going to go beyond that, I have to agree to it.”