Iconic American fashion designer Zac Posen has been named Executive Vice President, Creative Director of Gap Inc. and Chief Creative Officer of Old Navy, the companies announced Tuesday. The high-profile hiring signals a bold new creative direction for the struggling retail giant as it aims to revive sales and connect with younger consumers.
Posen Brings “Fearless Spirit” to Restore Brands
In a press release, Gap Inc. CEO Sonia Syngal said Posen will bring a “fearless spirit and superb creative eye” to the company’s portfolio of brands. His “keen understanding of true American style and culture” makes him perfectly suited to craft narratives that will allow the brands to ramp up relevance in the cultural conversation.
As Creative Director, Posen will be responsible for shaping the creative vision and experience across the entire Gap Inc. portfolio globally. This includes leading design and marketing for the company’s Old Navy, Gap, Banana Republic and Athleta brands.
In his role as Chief Creative Officer of Old Navy specifically, Posen will reinvigorate the brand’s stylistic approach and connect with its target demographic of value-driven families.
Turnaround Efforts Follow Years of Decline
The appointment comes as Gap Inc. continues major turnaround attempts after nearly a decade of sliding sales and profits. The hiring of a high-wattage fashion industry creative leader like Posen signals Gap Inc. CEO Sonia Syngal’s intention to revamp brands through the lens of culture, creative expression and style.
“Zac’s talents in blending fashion and function to design truly great clothing are unmatched,” said Syngal. “I’m thrilled to have him as a creative partner to build modern, accessible style into all of our brands.”
Table 1: Gap Inc. Recent Financial Performance
|Revenue (USD billions)
|Same-Store Sales Growth
Data Source: Gap Inc. Annual Reports
Posen “Thrilled” for New Creative Challenge
The 42-year-old Posen, known for his glamorous and body-conscious evening wear, founded his namesake label House of Z at age 21 in 2001. He has dressed celebrities like Michelle Obama, Oprah Winfrey, and Naomi Campbell over his long career.
In a statement, Posen said the opportunity to use fashion to shape culture across multiple iconic American brands was a lifelong goal of his.
“I could not be more thrilled. This chance to make clothes designed for everyone on an unprecedented scale and reach is a creative dream,” said Posen.
Posen added that he’s energized by Gap brands’ legacy of “bringing democracy to fashion over the past 50 years.” He said he looks forward to continuing that mission in an “authentically American way for decades to come.”
Industry observers say Posen’s star power and superb design chops could attract much-needed attention from younger consumers. His focus on celebrating real women of all ages and sizes is also a good fit for brands like Old Navy.
Strategic Shift Towards Creative Focus
Retail analysts view the hiring as confirmation that Gap Inc. sees improving style and design as central to turning sales around after years of missteps.
Morningstar analyst David Swartz said the company realized it has lacked cohesive creative leadership and brand identity as it shuffled executives over the years.
“Posen’s edgy and glamorous aesthetic brings a jolt of creative credibility that Gap sorely needs if it wants to play a bigger role in culture and conversations,” said Swartz.
The company likely hopes Posen can sprinkle some of the magic he brought to his own luxury brand, where he gained fame for dressing A-list celebrities for red carpet events. Some analysts questioned whether his high-fashion background translates to designing affordable apparel for middle America families.
“It’s a bit of an odd pairing, but perhaps Posen’s inventiveness can shake things up product-wise, even if Gap shoppers aren’t lining up for ballgowns,” said Neil Saunders of GlobalData Retail.
Table 2: Gap Inc. Brand Performance
|Affordable family clothing
|Contemporary workplace wear
|Performance and lifestyle apparel
Data Source: Gap Inc. Annual Reports
Posen To Lead Creative Across Portfolio
As Creative Director, Posen will work across all brands to develop cohesive yet differentiated brand identities rooted in culture, individuality and style. He will set the overall creative agenda and lead teams responsible for design, merchandising, marketing communications and store experiences.
He will also partner closely with brand presidents and country leaders to tailor products and campaigns locally while maintaining global creative alignment.
Analysts say Posen may first focus on injecting more fashion newness into struggling Gap apparel essentials, which has lost share to faster-moving competitors like Zara and Target. Reinvigorating styles could better resonate with target 25-40 year old shoppers.
At Old Navy, Posen will likely aim to drive excitement through capsules, collaborations and engaging campaigns celebrating body positivity targeted at moms and kids. Some analysts speculate the brand could be ripe for expansion into plus sizes.
Conclusion: Pivotal Moment for Company Revival
The hiring of Posen caps a two-year executive reshuffle following Syngal’s arrival as CEO in early 2020. As Syngal works to stabilize declining sales and profits, analysts see improved creative output as essential to reviving brand desire.
Posen’s design skills and industry credibility offer a dose of forward momentum. Yet some remain skeptical whether he can reinvent price-driven apparel for mainstream appeal.
Nonetheless, analysts broadly agree Posen’s bold appointment signals Gap Inc. is finally getting serious about its creative void. They predict his visions for democratizing style modernizing icons could result in renewed brand admiration among young shoppers.
After its long creative slump, many in the industry are cheering on Posen to help Gap Inc. rediscover relevance so its brands can inspire the next generation of Americans.
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