Editor's note: This story has been updated to include information from a joint Gap and De Rigo press release, as well as additional analyst comments.
Last year's tie-up between Gap Inc. and licensing firm IMG has its first deal: a Gap-branded collection of prescription frames and sunglasses from Italian eyewear maker De Rigo for the United States, Canada, Mexico and Brazil markets, according to an emailed press release from the companies.
The line will debut in 2022 and will be distributed through De Rigo's sales network and in select Gap stores, per the release. The deal is for multiple years, according to Women's Wear Daily, which first reported the news.
As WWD also notes, the effort follows a move from Italian apparel retailer OVS to offer Gap merchandise for men, women, children and babies at its stores and online.
Gap Inc. executives have made it clear that the iconic namesake brand — which once defined casual American fashion but has been left behind now that America is more casual than ever — must prove its mettle in a precarious environment for apparel retail.
The brand's much-anticipated collaboration with Kanye West's Yeezy label is widely viewed as an opportunity for a reset, though many analysts remain in wait-and-see mode.
In the meantime, the brand is being downsized, with stores closing not just at many malls but also at its hometown San Francisco flagship location. The downshift extends abroad as well, with company-owned Gap stores in Europe to be shuttered or franchised. The deals with De Rigo and OVS nevertheless reflect some enduring confidence in the label.
Gap's forthcoming eyewear collection will be in good company. De Rigo also makes optical products for John Varvatos, Carolina Herrera, Fila, Chopard and Lozza, among other major brands. "Gap fits perfectly into our portfolio and represents an important step for De Rigo in its development plan in the Americas," Michele Aracri, Managing Director of De Rigo Vision, said in a statement.
The market is booming, with global sales expected to reach $255.3 billion by 2027, reflecting compound annual growth of 8.1%, per Research and Markets. "Partnering with licensees such as De Rigo gives us the opportunity to amplify our strong, globally relevant brand and extend its reach to customers around the world," said Adrienne Gernand, senior vice president of Gap Inc. Strategic Alliances & Licensing, Franchise, Global Real Estate, Store Development.
Still, without tackling the core issues that have led to its decline, this kind of third-party branding expansion can be a risk, even if it's a money-maker, according to GlobalData Managing Director Neil Saunders.
"Adding eyewear is not a bad idea per se, but Gap really needs to address the fundamental issues with its business before it starts exploring brand expansions," Saunders said by email. "The impression given off by the company is that it doesn't have the will, desire or capability to do this. All that said, starting with eyewear is more logical than expanding into something like homewares. Eyewear is part of the fashion industry so it is closely aligned to Gap's offer and heritage."