We weren’t exactly what you’d called shocked yesterday when Gap fired its best-known designer, Patrick Robinson. But retail insiders pulled no punches when they were asked to comment on the staff change, and said that while Robinson might not have made the biggest splash with customers, he’s not exclusively to blame for the brand’s lackluster performance over the past several years.
An article about the firing in today’s WWD serves more like a dressing down of Gap Inc.’s corporate decision making than it does like a news story. Nearly everyone quoted — from retail analysts to Gap competitors to people who know people who work at the Gap — said Robinson’s designs weren’t the sole cause of the company’s problems.
“Anything can be turned around, but this is a huge, massive effort.…It’s not just Gap. It’s fixing Banana, Old Navy, moving start-ups, international, franchising. This is a very deep story. But at the end of the day, it’s about the chief executive,” said one competitor, pointing to Gap Inc. chairman and ceo Glenn Murphy, who has headed the retailer since August 2007.
Yet Robinson’s departure creates some challenges for the retailer, since he has been the face of the brand since 2007, conducting fashion previews and media interviews, and had been entrenched in the organization and was in Murphy’s good graces until recently.
We have to wonder why it took so long for Robinson to fall out of Murphy’s favor — especially considering the two started at the company in the same yeare and were both brought in to shake things up and help the brand shine. The full picture at the Gap hadn’t looked that pretty for the two years prior to Murphy and Robinson getting hired there, and if neither one of them could save it, shouldn’t they both have been let go?
Because it seems to us that if what the Gap actually needs to move forward as a competitive brand is real change, it needs it on both the business end and the creative end.