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Gap

gap jeansGap is betting that a creative director can chart its return to relevance, reports Susan Berfield in Bloomberg Businessweek (3/24/14). The creative director is Rebekka Bay, a "Danish fashion designer who had never worked in America until October 2012, when she joined Gap." "What I think I heard was that they were looking for one person to create a singular voice for the brand," says Rebekka. "I don’t know if that’s what they said. But that’s what I heard." Gap’s interest, apparently, was just as much in Rebekka’s skills as a trend forecaster as a designer.

Her boss, Steve Sunnucks, says Rebekka’s "experience in trend prediction means she takes a much broader view and thinks about the brand, the product, and the customer experience holistically." The result, so far, is what Rebekka calls the ‘American uniform,’ which starts with T-shirts and denim, and continues with "bomber jackets, moto jackets, parkas and peacoats." "My role is to balance creativity and commerciality," she says. "Good design is less about taste but more about integrity … I think we can do less, and do it better …"

"We probably have 12 to 20 blue shirts and 6 to 10 white shirts," says Rebekka. "They’re effortlessly cool. We’re a denim brand, but we’re really a casual brand. It’s a lived-in attitude." The premise is that, around the world, customers want "an American look." "That’s not founded in any research," she says. "That’s just superintuitive." Allen Adamson of Landor Associates sees a canyon ahead: "Gap spent 10 years screwing it up," he says. "One collection, one ad campaign, one of anything won’t be enough." Gap has "almost 1,700 stores in nearly 50 countries."