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The Great GAP Comeback?

Picture of India Doyle
Updated: 23 March 2017
If you haven’t been living inside a Ferrero Rocher recently you’ll have noticed that 90s nostalgia is back again, this time with a hefty dose of logomania. One brand quick to monopolise on this hype is American icon GAP. While in the past decade the brand has struggled with its identity, and falling footfall in stores, the new obsession with brand logos has offered a clear avenue for the company to reclaim their market share. After all, how many of us can claim not to have spent the snottiest part of their youth adorned in fleecey GAP hoodies and marl-grey tee-shirts. Gird your loins: GAP is back.
© GAP
© GAP

The renewed energy of the brand has manifested itself most recently in a new ‘I Am Gap’ concept store, a part of which includes the capsule collection created in collaboration with Central St Martins graduate Ryohei Kawanishi, and his label LANDLORD. The designer, who had created his AW16 collection around the brand, was approached by GAP after the media coverage of his show brought his work to their attention.

‘I was focusing on making neutral garments because it was the first collection and we weren’t sure if we would keep doing label or not. I made the collection as neutral as possible so that anyone could wear it from season to season. I was also wearing a lot of old GAP at the time because I could find inexpensive pieces at thrift shops and I got what my parents used to wear too. Then I started to reference those pieces for our first season,’ Ryohei Kawanishi explains when we caught up with him earlier this month.

© GAP
© GAP

The designer, who cites inspiration as diverse as Michael Moore and his daughter, is on a mission to make American streetwear great again. ‘It’s not wrong’ he tells us, ‘it’s just positioned in a cooler way in Europe—more as high fashion. So I want to create streetwear in the context of high fashion in the US too.’ Such ambition seems like a perfect fit for GAP, a brand that will need to harness the lexicon of haute-streetwear if they want to replicate the success of brands such as Supreme or Stüssy. And while GAP needs to continue to speak to a market that includes a lot of thirty-something women in search of handy staples, the power of creating a ‘cult’ tee-shirt seems like too good an opportunity to waste. Vetement’s sell-out DHL tee-shirt last year or Gucci’s recent meta-fake tee-shirt (that retails at £350 (US$438)) are examples of recent successes.

© GAP
© GAP

The collaboration comes as part of a wider brand initiative that has seen the introduction of pieces such as the bodysuit, reverse fit and easy fit denim, pleated khakis and the pocket tee, alongside the Generation GAP campaign launch in February. In the campaign, kids of 90s icons – Lizzy Jagger (daughter of model Jerry Hall) and DJ TJ Mizell (son of Run DMC’s Jam Master Jay) – revive pieces that were worn by their parents more than two decades ago. Indeed in an era when millennials are desperately seeking a sense of belonging, it seems that the nostalgic power of the GAP logo might just plug the… well, you know.