Seems like Galliano won't be the only head designer looking for a new label to call home. Gap Inc. released a press release last Thursday announcing that Patrick Robinson, the brand's executive vice-president of Gap Global Design for Adult and Body for the last four years, was ousted effective immediately.
"After spending the last three months in New York with the Creative team, I've made the decision to make a change within our Gap Adult design team," said Pam Wallack, head of the Gap Global Creative Center in New York. "I believe we needed to take a fresh approach to continue the work to improve Gap's fashion relevance."
The Parson School of Design alum, Robinson, 44, got his first big break - and much lauded recognition - working for Giorgio Armani's Le Collezioni White Label from 1990 to 1994. From there, the California-born designer worked as head designer at Anne Klein, then headed to Perry Ellis and lastly Paco Robanne prior to his appointed position with the Gap in 2007. Robinson also designed a limited-edition, affordable collection for Target Corporation's Go International line.
While Robinson's successor is still being sought, Wallack will oversee day-to-day management of design teams and Jennifer Giangualano, senior vice president of Kids and Baby Design, will take leadership and direction on Adult design. Rosella Giuliani, who heads the brand's design office in Los Angeles - and was last known for her work as vice president of design and merchandising for Seven for All Mankind - will continue to oversee Gap's 1969 denim product line, reporting directly to Wallack.
"Patrick has been a dedicated and passionate advocate for Gap brand and our customers over the last four years, and we're grateful for his hard work, especially related to our 1969 denim," said Glenn Murphy, chairman and CEO of Gap Inc. "Our leaders of the new Gap Global Creative Center are taking the necessary steps to compete and win around the world."
The Gap's propensity for "winning" is fraught with as much clarity as Charlie Sheen's current career status. It's being speculated that Robinson's sudden departure was brought about due to the Gap's steady decline in sales for the past six years, expressly in the North American market. Further speculation correlates Robinson's lack of color for season's past collections to the decline in sales.
According to a New York Times feature prior to his arrival at Gap, Robinson said he wanted to "take the classic, iconic heritage of the company and make it relevant" but experts believe he failed to hit the mark.
Adrienne Tennant, a retail analyst at Janney Capital Markets told the New York Times that his choice of colors was "very, very neutral throughout 2010. Part of what Gap had done well is use bright colors to connect with customers' emotions, particularly around the holiday season, and we didn't see as much of that. The Gap division, particularly at holiday, really resonates when there’s color and pop and vibrancy."
Before taking the Gap's reigns, Marka Hansen, former president of Gap North America, sang Robinson's praises.
“Patrick brings broad experience—from high-end fashion to mass market retail—demonstrating his versatility to interpret and create fresh, clean designs true to the Gap brand aesthetic,” Hansen said in a statement. “We believe his skills and experience with some of the most respected apparel labels in the world will be great assets to Gap brand.”
And based on Robinson's list of career accolades, its easy to see why the Gap believed him to be, as many have said before, "a megabrand messiah". He has been a member of the Council of Fashion Designers since 1994 and was named one of Vogue's 100 rising stars in 1996; he earned a Swarovski Perry Ellis Award nomination in 2004 for his eponymous line and in January 2009 was recognized by the USA Network with a "Character Approved" award, given to those individuals who were noted for "positively influencing American culture".
But despite all of his success, this isn't Robinson's first dismissal. He was fired from Ellis in 2003 after a "falling out" with the design house over "creative differences" and left Robanne after producing just one collection, with three other collections derailed by the fashion house, much to his chagrin.
Robinson succeeded 54-year-old Charlotte Neuville, the former head designer for Gap North American who left the company after just two years.
Best of luck to Robinson, although his dismissal leaves questions, such as:
1. Which design house will Robinson add next to his (extensive) resume?
2. Who will replace him at the Gap - or moreover, who would you like to see replace him?
3. Will the Gap be able to turn their sales around without Robinson, or was Robinson not the problem?
4. And will you, the consumer, (literally) buy into the new Gap image yet to be seen or is the Gap so 2000 and late?
Only time will tell, but in the mean time you may want to dust off your relegated khaki cargo shorts, it's about to get interesting...