High-profile fashion designer Zac Posen, known for designing red carpet looks and showing at New York Fashion Week, is taking on a new corporate role as executive vice president and creative director at Gap Inc., and CCO (Chief Creative Officer) of Old Navy.
Posen, whose eponymous fashion label shut down in 2019 amid financial trouble, will become the new creative partner to newly appointed Gap CEO Richard Dickson — who comes to the company from Mattel, where he was credited with helping revive the Barbie brand.
"Thrilled to start my next chapter today in San Francisco," Posen said in an Instagram announcement Monday, referring to the role as "leading design, merchandising, and marketing for the second largest apparel brand in the US."
This is not the first time that Gap has tried to revive its brands with the help of fresh design talent, but this is arguably their first very high-profile hire — and one with a design that could redefine the brand in the public's eyes.
"The problem in the past is that the designers had no real say in strategy," says Neil Saunders, managing director of research firm Global Data, speaking to the Wall Street Journal. "This time, Posen has a better chance of being able to work some magic."
Gap has, like many retailers, been struggling in recent years to compete as consumers shopping behaviors and tastes change. And while the Old Navy and Athleta brands were seen as success stories for the company in recent years, even those may now be struggling — especially at the brick-and-mortar store level. It can't not be seen as symbolic when San Francisco-based Gap shuts down its Old Navy flagship store on Market Street.
The company shut down its prominent Gap flagship store a block away three years earlier, in August 2020. And the company's other brand, Banana Republic, saw its SF flagship store at Sutter and Grant shut down last year and relocate to much smaller digs.
Posen has long been known for favoring retro glamour and Old Hollywood style, designing statement gowns for celebrities including Natalie Portman, Reese Witherspoon, and recently Molly Ringwald. But following the height of his early rise to fame, which began with his first New York fashion show when he was just 20 years old in 2001, Posen pivoted several times into more easily accessible design avenues. As the Great Recession was hitting in 2008, Posen was designing a line for Target. And he also designed Z Spoke, a similarly affordable collection that was sold at Saks.
Posen joined the reality competition show Project Runway on its main panel of judges in 2013, and continued on the show through 2017.
After shutting down his fashion house over four years ago, Posen put out an affordable, ready-to-wear collection for Fall 2023 that leaned into youthful looks and party clothes. Those items are now heavily discounted and on final sale on his website.
Retail experts say that the Gap and Old Navy brands became too cluttered and ill-defined. As one consultant, Liza Amlani, tells the Journal, "When you walk into Gap or Old Navy today, there is way too much product. No one wants to shop like that.”
CEO Dickson says that Posen will become the brands' "cultural curator," and in a release he calls Posen a "great fit” for the company as it works to "ignite a new culture of creativity" and “reinvigorate" its brands.
Top image: Posen attends "In America: An Anthology of Fashion," the 2022 Costume Institute Benefit at The Metropolitan Museum of Art on May 02, 2022 in New York City. (Photo by Taylor Hill/Getty Images)