Marka Hansen And The Trouble With Gap

After 4 years as president (and 24 years with the company), Gap head honcho Marka Hansen is stepping down and leaving the brand. Her stint as prez has been anything but smooth, so it’s not a huge surprise she’s making an exit.

The company was in trouble when she took over the top post from Cynthia Harriss back in 2007. In fact, the company has been flailing for the past decade. This has translated into a whole lot of executive turnover, starting with the firing of current J. Crew bigwig Mickey Drexler in 2002. Despite the press’s brief love affair with Patrick Robinson in the summer of 2008, Hansen wasn’t able to boost the company’s cachet.

For you numbers people, Gap’s Forbes Global 2000 ranking was 452 in 2006. They have not been able to break 535 since, bottoming out at 668 in 2008. But numbers don’t tell the whole story, so allow us to educate you on the scandal-ridden tenure of Marka Hansen.

The Claim: Gap employs children in Indian sweatshops.
The Details: The children were hired by an unauthorized subcontractor used by one of the company’s Indian vendors to fill orders. Gap also dealt with similar allegations in 2000 and 2006.
The Response: “It’s deeply, deeply disturbing to all of us. I feel violated and I feel very upset and angry with our vendor and the subcontractor who made this very, very, very unwise decision.”
The Outcome: Gap terminated their relationship with the subcontractor, did not sell the sweatshop-made garments in stores and continued to police factory conditions around the world.

The Claim: The company’s new logo is a design abomination.
The Details: Gap redesigned their iconic logo, and the resulting design looked like it was made on Microsoft Word.
The Response: “The natural step for us on this journey is to see how our logo — one that we’ve had for more than 20 years — should evolve. Our brand and our clothes are changing and rethinking our logo is part of aligning with that. We chose this design as it’s more contemporary and current. It honors our heritage through the blue box while still taking it forward.”
The Outcome: Gap decided to crowdsource a design to replace the new one, but ultimately returned to the classic logo.

The Claim: Gap’s FEED America bags were made in China.
The Details: Though promotional material claimed the Lauren Bush-designed bags were made in the U.S., tags on the inside of two of the five designs stated they were made in China.
The Response: Hansen did not issue a personal response, but a company spokesperson explained: “There are several bags in the FEED USA collection. The FEED USA Canvas Tote bag and the limited edition one-of-a-kind Bandana Bag are both made in the USA. However, the FEED USA Denim Bucket bags are made in China, and should not have been connected to the made in the USA signs.”
The Outcome: Signage and wording were changed to accomodate the fact that the bags were not actually made in the U.S., though sales from the bags still contributed to the FEED USA campaign.

The Claim: A stolen Flickr image was used on a babyGap onesie.
The Details: In a story that broke yesterday, it appears as though Gap printed a stylized version of a Flickr photo (taken by Chris Devers, who is in no way affiliated with the company) on one of its onesies.
The Response: Response is pending.
The Outcome: It’s unclear what Gap is going to do about the claim, but we can’t help but wonder if it factored into Hansen leaving the brand.

In a press release dated today, Gap announced that Friday would be Hansen’s last day at the company. Gap Inc. CEO Glenn Murphy had this to say:

Marka has been one of Gap’s most passionate champions for 24 years, leaving a strong imprint on the company as a highly-respected leader, talented merchant, and mentor to many. During the last four years, Marka has put many foundational pieces in place — such as 1969 denim and our new store design — that should provide a springboard for the future. After several conversations, Marka and I agreed this was the right time for a change in the organization in order to take Gap brand to a new level. I am grateful for all that Marka has contributed to the company.

Hansen’s replacement is expected to be announced tomorrow.

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