Published in T Qatar: The New York Times Style Magazine, March 2013
By Priyanka Pradhan
T Qatar had a Middle East-exclusive preview of the Gap Spring/Summer 2014 Collection,straight from a special presentation in New York City. With a new creative director at the helm, and a bold direction, the collection throws up quite a few novel touches.
NEW YORK City’s busiest, most glamorous borough is surprisingly quiet in the mornings. The city’s wailing sirens disrupt the quiet every once in a while, while the crisp, cool air comes laden with the aroma of
espresso and cream cheese bagels. On one such morning, I hurry along to the preview of Gap’s Spring/Summer 2014 Collection, heading towards Spring Studios on Varick Street in Manhattan’s artsy downtown district.
As I step inside the gallery, I find it reflects a minimalist aesthetic, with warm, wooden interiors set against the backdrop of stark white walls and a high ceiling with wooden beams — an unusual setting for the young and
vibrant all-American casualwear brand.
But that was before I met Rebekka Bay.
Expertly working the crowd and mingling with journalists, the new global Head of Design and Creative Director of Gap was making her way across the studio towards me. I observed her as she took each guest through the collection personally, animated and passionate about the first Gap collection under her direction. Before being snapped up by Gap Inc. to fill the position left vacant by former Creative Director Patrick Robinson in 2011, Bay already had 17 years of experience in fashion retail under her belt. After founding in 2006 and leading the upscale casualwear brand COS owned by Swedish high-street retailer H&M, she moved on to Danish fashion house Bruuns Bazaar, where she served as Creative Director. Now back in Manhattan at the Gap Inc. headquarters, she aims to lead the brand’s portfolio with crystal-clear vision.
“Part of my mission is to make sure that all the branches of Gap, baby, mens and women’s, speak with one voice as a brand, and to make sure the brand is relevant in the era we live in. Today, Gap is much more about a certain lifestyle; it is about how we evoke the connection and how we work that into iconic pieces; how much newness is added every season and how to speak one language across the brand, with small tweaks and succours,” Bay says.
The changes in the core aesthetic of the brand’s new collection are evident. Her Nordic sartorial sensibilities have made their way into the collection with minimalist lines, a sophisticated color palette, emphasis on monochromes and trendy updates to classic Gap pieces.She adds; “There is this idea of working around that perfect little uniform with a shirt, shorts, or a little skirt or denims. In the Spring/Summer 2014 Collection we focus a lot on length, proportions and volumes.”
For instance, the collection sees dip collars and turn-up cuffs in a playful tweak to denim jackets and casual shirts. Even the classic Gap indigos are getting made over, with new types of washes and experiments in dyeing with different colors.The statement Gap denim dress comes in a demure, classic version as well as a bolder, ’90s-inspired wash in the new collection. Hemlines remain a bit conservative but one sees a lot of experiment in fabrics, shapes and
This sleek new aesthetic also extends to menswear. Sweatshirts make a big statement in the collection, as do foliage and camouflage print. As models strut onto the ground-level ramp at the studio, the keen attention to detail is seen spilling over from womenswear to the men’s collection.
Tony Kretten, Gap’s VP of men’s global design, says: “One of the influences at the conceptual stage was owning blue as a color. Ranging from the blue canvases of Yves Klein, the great French painter, to iterations of inks and slates — just a beautiful array of blues. The menswear collection is also about how do we take khaki and reinterpret it in a very modern way, to offer this beautiful blue with tons of whites and naturals.”Gap menswear is also focusing on collaborations with men’s lifestyle magazines, having just launched its second limited edition in association with GQ. Kretten indicates there are more such third-party collaborations lined up this year for Gap’s consumers — a move to
assert the brand’s positioning and fresh creative stand.
Kretten says, “Rebekka has brought it all together to bring together a common conceptual point for Gap. In the past the brand seemed schizophrenic — Gap baby would look like one brand, while menswear would look like another and womenswear yet another. Now, the color palettes and the vocabulary we use to speak to the customer have all started to come together.”
Using this language, Gap is hoping to influence the “millennial generation,” the style-conscious and constantly “connected” consumers. With a modern take on the brand’s heritage, the creative direction aims to nudge Gap towards a more style-conscious, refined and globally relevant status. Little wonder, then, this elegant, upscale venue was chosen to complement the new collection. Even though the typical art studio champagne-and-caviar fare is replaced by hot coffee and spinach juice for the morning, the theme of Gap’s Spring/Summer 2014 remains unequivocally “sophisticated casual-chic”