Photo credit, left: Donna Alberico for the New York Times
We've made no secret of our love of Patrick Robinson's recent collection for Gap. Simple, sophisticated, and chic, the line takes Gap back to it's West-Coast beginnings as an outlet where those both in and out of fashions sway could casually walk in and walk out with two or three reliable staples and one breezy, stylish piece. Of course, there's a big difference between Robinson's Gap and the one that first opened in San Francisco almost 40 years ago—the price point. Are people going to buy a $190 light trenchcoat from the store formerly famous for this?
As Eric Wilson says in his piece in today's New York Times Style Section, "The clothes are indeed compelling…but will customers, espically those who to Gap for jeans and T-shirts, get it?" The question of selling muted, smart clothing to a large crowd— and a small case of designer hubris—is exactly what earned Robinson a pink slip at Perry Ellis, a brand that needed fresh style and capital perhaps even more than Gap. Certainly, Robinson has reinvigorated his current brand, so much so that we're actually going to buy a number of the pieces with no shame or irony. Nonetheless, Robinson is clearly steering away the retailer from the sort of products that swelled their market share between the Regan years and the end of the century. "We can't go back and put women in big old heavy sweatshirts," says Robinson to Wilson. "That was Gap in the '80s." Robinson's point is aesthetic and true—with H+M and the rise of fast fashion, women demand more sex and style for their buck. Still, the quote shows that Robinson's main concern is just that—style. As we read about Wilson noting that his man-on-the-street research found that Abercrombie & Fitch outsold Robinson's Gap almost seven to one, we had to wonder: In a time of recession, will this recently revived brand have a chance to flourish and develop a new, more ambitious customer base, or will the bean counters derail Robinson and send Gap back into the era of $20 "Est. 1969" sweatshirts? Vote with your feet, consumers.