Back in May 2011, Gap’s head designer Patrick Robinson was ousted from his post following a four-year tenure at the company. Besides a general dip in Gap’s North American sales, the consensus was that Robinson’s sensibility was simply too high-fashion for the brand. Since then, he’s kept a relatively low profile, working on Pashko—a sportswear line that was recently launched on Kickstarter.
Today, WWD reports that he’s back in business, having been tapped as creative director for A|X Armani Exchange, known as the most accessible Armani brand and a mall staple. Here, we break down the changes you can expect to see from Robinson, based on his tenure at the Gap and beyond.
Designer collaborations: During his time at Gap, one of Robinson’s most lauded moves was masterminding collaborations with designers like Alexander Wang, Stella McCartney, and Pierre Hardy. While these collections failed to make an impact like Missoni for Target (and were perhaps lost on the average Gap customer), they created much-needed buzz for the company. The folks at Armani have clearly wanted to get their feet wet in this highly lucrative realm, famously bringing on Rihanna in 2011 to create a line of jeans. Robinson will likely bring in some high-profile faces to lend their talents.
A return to Armani’s roots: Armani Exchange currently has a less than stellar reputation from a fashion perspective, especially when it comes to craftsmanship and quality, which are buzz words in retail right now. A stereotypical Armani Exchange devotee conjures up images of “Jersey Shore” like characters who load on hair gel and live in tight black T-shirts (an Armani Exchange staple). Luckily, Robinson is well-versed in the Armani empire’s message as a whole. In fact, he worked with the brand for four years, and helped make the fledgling Collezioni line profitable before departing in 1995. The higher-end Armani brands are characterized by crisp tailoring, sumptuous leather jackets, and a sleek European sensibility, and Robinson could easily integrate these into his first collection.
Less emphasis on logos: In 2010, Gap made headlines after it changed its classic logo without saying anything. Immediate backlash prompted them to change it back. The controversial situation clearly showed Robinson that people don’t love change. So even though some would argue the Armani Exchange logo (which is “A|X”) needs updating, he’s probably more inclined to simply remove it from products where it feels out of place. Many feel that logos covering clothing cheapens it, and with his background, he would probably agree and eliminate some from T-shirts and polos, where they are often used. Logos have been a hot button issue as of late, with Hedi Slimane being criticized for altering the iconic YSL logo to simply “Saint Laurent” before he even sent a collection down the runway. Robinson, married to prominent Vogue Fashion Market and Accessories Director Virginia Smith, is aware of the flack he would get, and would certainly avoid a complete alteration.
An emphasis on denim: One of his most notable accomplishments at Gap was spinning off the 1969 denim line into a separate brand. Gap hired Seven for All Mankind executive Rosella Giuliani to run the 1969 division, where she reported directly to Robinson. Some saw it as Robinson’s way of preparing the company for his departure, but it was truly a representation of how far he had taken the denim line at Gap. Although Armani Exchange does offer denim, it is far from memorable. This is definitely an area that he could improve.
Photo via GQ