Gap's New Design and Merchandising Team Could be Its Most Cohesive Yet

The ailing retailer has made a few strategic new hires, all of whom have worked under the Gap umbrella before.
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Eliza Brooke
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The ailing retailer has made a few strategic new hires, all of whom have worked under the Gap umbrella before.
Gap jeans. Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Gap jeans. Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

After consecutive quarters of falling sales, Gap headed into 2015 with a focus on rebuilding its team in the hopes of shaking some life back into the brand. Jeff Kirwan started as Gap's new global president in December, and in February, Art Peck came into office as Gap Inc. CEO.

That was just after the big design news hit: Gap's creative director, Rebekka Bay, was ousted in late January and her role eliminated entirely. Her replacement was Wendi Goldman, whom Peck hired as executive vice president of Gap product design and development.

Since then, Gap has continued to build its design and merchandising team. According to a rep for Gap, Steven Sare and Alessandra Brunialti are coming on board in the next week as the SVP of global merchandising and VP of women's design, respectively. Sare will work "closely" with Goldman, while Brunialti reports directly to her. 

It's not their first time working together. Sare, most recently the chief merchandising officer of Uniqlo, spent 11 years under the Gap Inc. umbrella at Banana Republic in the '90s and early '00s. Brunialti also clocked 15 years at Banana from 1995 to 2011 as the VP of design and product development before heading to Vince. And guess what: Goldman spent eight years on Banana Republic's product team, too, ultimately departing in 1997. 

So it looks like Gap's executive team made an effort not only to hire leaders from hot brands (Uniqlo and Vince), but to hire merchants and product people who have a shared professional history. And that's not insignificant, because strife between the two has been a big problem for Gap in the past. As our own Lauren Sherman pointed out in January, Patrick Robinson, who came on as the brand's creative director in 2007, clashed with merchandisers. The same went for Bay, whose innovative style never seemed to make it to the sales floor. 

Does the fact that Goldman, Sare and Brunialti all shared two years at Banana Republic ensure that things will go more smoothly this time around? Probably not, but that, combined with the fact that the design department is now led by an executive rather than a creative, does suggest that Gap worked hard to create cohesion on its new team. 

It just might work.