Patrick Robinson is out at Gap… but why?

Photo by Mark Von Holden/Getty Images for NYC & Company
Photography by Mark Von Holden/Getty Images for NYC & Company

We’re barely halfway into 2011 and the fashion world has already seen our fair share of industry shake-ups: the Galliano scandal, Carine Roitfeld’s exit at Vogue Paris, Christophe Decarnin’s mysterious mental illness/ousting at Balmain, and now Patrick Robinson has been booted from the Gap.

While most of the recent switch ups seem to make sense⎯Galliano’s anti-Semitic outburst couldn’t very well go un-reprehended and Decarnin’s health issues were clearly in need of medical attention⎯we found ourselves puzzled upon hearing the news that Robinson had been presented with a pink slip due to lackluster sales in the first quarter of this year. We’ve seen many a powerhouse figure reinstate retail dinosaurs (Bonnie Brooks at The Bay , Jenna Lyons at J.Crew), so why not Robinson at the Gap?

With his own experience as a designer, working everywhere from Armani to Paco Rabanne to Anne Klein, and industry connections (he’s married to Vogue’s fashion market and accessories director, Virgina Smith), it seemed like it had all the makings of a successful re-brand when he was hired on in 2007. And indeed throughout his reign, Robinson did a lot of good for the company and had made constant attempts at injecting the company with doses of elevated aesthetics. Gap’s series of collaborations with the CFDA gave incredible exposure to young designers like Alexander Wang, Rodarte and Thakoon. Footwear collections by the cult French designer Pierre Hardy as well as childrenswear collections by Stella McCartney were universally drooled over. And the inclusion of high fashion models like Lily Donaldson, Liu Wen and Catherine McNeil in recent campaigns gave the store’s windows and displays more of an editorial feel. His laid back designs were also decidedly different from the brand’s usual offerings of sweatshirts, sweaters and ill fitting bootcuts.

When everyone from fast fashion and bargain retailers to soft drink manufacturers are collaborating with everyone from storied fashion houses like Lanvin and Missoni to revered designers like Karl Lagerfeld, maybe the Gap is the one place customers are after nothing but the basics. But who could walk such a delicate tight rope? The brains behind Uniqlo, the Japanese basics brand who copied Gap’s business model once they had their sights set on expansion could have a shot. Contemporary heroes like Maria Cornejo, Phillip Lim, Rachel Comey or the girls at Vena Cava? At this point, it’s truly anyone’s game!