Can Zac Posen Solve Gap's Fashion Problems?

In a move that surprised many in the retail world, Gap Inc. named designer Zac Posen as executive creative director and chief creative officer of the Old Navy brand. At the height of his popularity, Posen was best known for elaborate red-carpet creations for stars like Rihanna and Ariana Grande, which seems light years away from the low-cost, casual family fashions Old Navy is known for.

“This move is a little bit perplexing,” David Swartz, a senior equity analyst who follows the company for Morningstar, tells Retail Insider. “People don't expect to find fashion at Old Navy.”

Hiring Posen is the latest move from Richard Dickson, who joined the Gap as president and chief executive officer last summer from Mattel. In the company’s announcement, Dickson says Posen represents “an exciting new chapter for Gap Inc. “His technical expertise and cultural clarity have consistently evolved American fashion, making him a great fit for the company as we ignite a new culture of creativity across the portfolio and reinvigorate our storied brands."

The biggest story, of course, is Old Navy, the company’s largest division. In Gap’s most recent quarterly results, Old Navy’s sales fell 1% to $2.13 billion, as the brand continues to try and shake off several years’ worth of bad news. That included a bold pivot to inclusive sizing that ended badly for all concerned, including the speedy exit of then-CEO Sonia Syngal and Nancy Green, who had been Old Navy’s president.

Posen’s career has also had ups and downs. In 2020, Centric Brands acquired the Zac Posen brand and continues to market apparel and accessories.

The company’s other banners include Gap, where sales fell 15% in the most recent quarter, and Banana Republic, where they dropped 11%. “Those divisions have both been struggling for many years and closing stores,” Swartz says. Whether Posen can fix them is doubtful. “That’s going to be a real long shot.”

Reinvigorating Old Navy is more realistic. And while it in many ways a healthy brand, despite recent missteps, Swartz says Gap still doesn’t seem to have a great answer to who, exactly, is an Old Navy shopper.

 “Old Navy is mostly sold on price,” he says. “The company seems to think they need to do something to revitalize sales. But one of the brand’s best-selling products is a $5 T-shirt with an American flag. That doesn’t require a lot of design talent.”

Many fashionistas over at X are also shaking their heads. “As a lifelong Zac-head, I think Zac Posen at Gap is a misuse of his talents, at best,” writes one stylist. “But I’m hoping to be proven wrong.”

“Nooooo,” writes another. “Pls come backkk this isn’t you.”

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