Designer Zac Posen has headed to Gap Inc. as creative director of the apparel conglomerate and chief creative officer of its Old Navy banner.
He will join the C-suite, and in his Gap Inc. role he “will serve as a cultural curator and creative partner” to CEO Richard Dickson, according to a company press release. At Old Navy, he will lead design, merchandising and marketing, reporting to Old Navy CEO Haio Barbeito, the company said.
Posen’s career spans more than 25 years and has included red-carpet couture, ready to wear, accessories, costume design and more, the company said.
Posen joins a long line of designers arriving at Gap Inc. with high hopes.
Dickson has previously acknowledged Gap Inc.’s need to claw back to cultural and style relevance, and the company on Monday said that part of that responsibility now falls to the designer, who specializes in women’s dresses and made a name for himself on Hollywood’s red carpet. Posen joins a team tasked with “redefining Gap Inc. for a new era through continued operational and financial rigor, brand reinvigoration and greater cultural relevance,” per its release.
This is a strategic hire rife with opportunity, but Posen has an uphill climb, according to some observers. For example, his designer chops complement Dickson, who has little apparel experience, Liza Amlani, principal and co-founder of Retail Strategy Group, said by email.
He could devise fresh and affordable styles that may enable Old Navy to better compete with the likes of H&M and Shein, according to Thomai Serdari, director of the Fashion and Luxury MBA at New York University’s Stern School of Business.
“Right now, there is a creative gap in that space where everything looks the same, costs very little, and offers no incentive for brand loyalty other than price,” she said by email. “The Old Navy's customer base is a consumer with a tight wallet and a desire for great styled apparel. Once Zac Posen delivers on that, not a small feat, I can envision additional opportunities for him in the Gap Inc portfolio of brands.”
But the mass market is not familiar territory for Posen, making this yet another head-scratcher hire from Gap Inc., according to Lee Peterson, executive vice president of thought leadership and marketing at WD Partners.
“If you look back at Gap Inc. in the last 20 years, they're notorious for hiring these famous designers to come in and save the show,” he said by phone. “They’ve gone from Yeezy all the way back, making the same mistake all century.”
In 2022, the Yeezy Gap brand, helmed by Ye, imploded amid his problematic behavior, after a couple of years of fits and starts. The company had nixed a planned partnership with Telfar Clemens to make way for Yeezy, suffering some backlash. Before that, Danish designer Rebekka Bay lasted three years at the company’s namesake brand, arriving from H&M’s Cos brand. She had taken over from Patrick Robinson, who was there for four years and to some observers wasn’t given a chance to succeed.
That’s in part because of Gap Inc.’s impatience and the fact that designers often lack a skill set that Gap’s Old Navy and namesake brands are in dire need of, Peterson also said.
“Mickey Drexler — who was obviously the most successful leader of Gap Inc. ever — was a great merchant,” he said. “He was a merchant, and he had a great eye, and that combination is what they really need. And they don't only need a designer, they need somebody who can design for the masses, which is really different than what Posen’s been doing. He got hands-on learning from couture brands. I'm sure he can design some great stuff, but it doesn't really matter if it doesn't fit the brand.”