Flip through nearly any September issue, and ads from fashions brands peddling just about every fantasy you can imagine practically jump off the page. This season, Dolce & Gabbana offer a fairy tale — complete with regal queens in sweeping gowns and sexy knights in jewel-encrusted chainmail frolicking in the forest. Michael Kors promises glamour, with a supermodel posing by her private helicopter. Saint Laurent sells rocker-chick insouciance, Versace (naturally) peddles sex, and Marc Jacobs’ ads — featuring pale-faced and androgynous alien-like models wearing equally pale-colored garments — are so deliberately ugly-pretty that only the coolest, most avant-garde customer could be seduced by them.
Then there’s Gap, with a campaign featuring celebrities like Anjelica Huston and Elizabeth Moss wearing fleece-lined jackets, gray sweaters, and slate slacks looking utterly… normal. Gap, it appears, has embraced the whole #normcore trend and ran with it.
Yet, it makes total sense. After all, Gap, with its denim jackets, parent-approved khakis, and basic tees, was normcore before normcore was a thing. Gap is not quite “preppy” — lacking the sort of WASPy panache that Ralph Lauren possesses; it’s not quite all-American either — it never had the history of Levis and didn’t fetishize its devotion to denim or plaid. And, even when it was kind of considered “cool” — for a period in the ‘90s (remember those swing-dancing commercials?) — it was never, ever trendy.
Gap has been suffering, with fast-fashion competitors like H&M and Forever21 luring away customers with straight-off-the-runway copies and a wider variety of looks and styles at cheaper prices. And, as a recent study of teen consumers showed, no one is interested in conformity or looking like everyone else — they want to craft their own individual style identity and stand out from the crowd.
No one, that is, except for those who are tired of dressing to impress and have retreated to the Seinfeld jeans, bland turtlenecks, and windbreakers of their youth, spawning a trend called “normcore” that has simultaneously befuddled and captivated the fashion world.
Despite the predominance of normcore on the runway (see: Chanel’s supermarket-themed presentation featuring sweatpants and leggings), no brand is bold enough to use it to sell their “basic” duds. Which is what makes the Gap campaign so brilliant. It revels in its blandness — the celebrities wear virtually no makeup, are hanging out on a cloudy beach or an inconspicuous diner — making them seem utterly individual. Being “normal,” it turns out, isn’t the same thing as looking like everyone else — it’s actually having the courage to just be yourself. (Ad Week)