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Gap's most iconic advertising campaigns

From the black and white shots starring Spike Lee and Joan Didion in Individuals of Style to the collaboration between Madonna and Missy Elliott

Gap's most iconic advertising campaigns From the black and white shots starring Spike Lee and Joan Didion in Individuals of Style to the collaboration between Madonna and Missy Elliott

The crisis of fast fashion has affected also Gap that a few days ago announced the closure of 225 stores, but there was a time when the American brand was the right place to go to find casual, essential clothes available at affordable prices. Between the 90s and the early 2000s everyone was ready to "fall into The Gap" because working with the company founded in 1969 by Donald and Doris Fisher meant reaching such a high status in pop culture that it could make or stop a celebrity's career. The list of photographers and filmmakers who worked for the brand actors, singers and artists who have worn denim, basic t-shirts and khaki pants is very long and goes from Karl Lagerfeld to Naomi Campbell, from Spike Lee to Winona Ryder, from Steven Meisel to Sofia Coppola. Names now very far from the Gap world, but direct testimony of the status of the American brand in the years of greatest splendour, unique in a world like that of fast-fashion that has now become synonymous with low-level and low-quality fashion.

Legendary campaigns such as Individuals of Style, Who Wore Khakis starring iconic pop culture artists from James Dean to Muhammad Ali, and TV commercials such as Khaki Swing or Mellow Yellow full of catchy songs and choreography have made Gap the biggest retailer in the US and the third-largest worldwide. Then, everything went wrong. Will the collaboration with Kanye West and his Yeezy raise the fortunes of the 90s king of normcore?

We hope so, in the meantime let's go back to the brand's golden age, retracing Gap's most iconic advertising campaigns.


Individuals of Style, 1989

In 1989 Gap launched the Individuals of Style campaign featuring some of the world's best photographers taking black and white portraits of icons from the world of art, film and music. For example, Patrick Demarchelier chooses to photograph Lenny KravitzBrigitte Lacombe John MalkovichAlbert Watson Ryuichi Sakamoto; but the most famous images are those taken by Annie Leibovitz: Spike Lee, Whoopi Goldberg and Joan Didion (who later became the star of a Celine advertising campaign) with her daughter Quintana. 


Who Wore Khakis, 1993 

In the early 90s, the U.S. brand launched its most successful campaign. Who Wore Khakis is a collection of archival black and white images of icons wearing khaki pants. James DeanMarilyn MonroeErnest Hemingway, Pablo PicassoSalvador DalìAndy WarholAmelia EarhartMiles DavisArthur MillerJack Kerouac and the others turn an ordinary item into a must-have. 


Khaki Swing, 1998

The commercials full of catchy songs and choreography have allowed Gap to enter the history of fashion. Over the years khaki pants have been the focus of a long series of videos. What changes every time is the soundtrack: swing, hip hop, country, rock,... 


Digital Love, 2001

Daft Punk in total denim look dance with Juliette Lewis on the notes of their hit Digital Love. Gap chose the French duo to star in this TV commercial, realizing their coolness long before adidas, Saint Laurent and Hedi Slimane.


A New Groove, A New Jean, 2003

It wasn't Dua Lipa with the Levitating remix the only one who felt the explosive alchemy between Madonna and Missy Elliott. The two artists had already collaborated in the early 2000s in a Gap commercial for which they had made a mash-up between two of Miss Ciccone's hits, Hollywood and Into the Groove


Pardon Our Dust, 2005

In 2004, Gap's top management decided that the stores seemed too old, dated and in need of renovation. To announce it they chose director Spike Jonze, at the time the next big thing thanks to the successes of Being John Malkovich and Adaptation, who created a crazy and bizarre commercial. Perhaps even too out there, so much so that after having aired only in some cities, the company decided to withdraw it. 

Recently the commercial made a comeback after Kanye West shared it on his Twitter account, sparking some curiosity about Ye's promotional strategies ahead of the launch of his YZY GAP line. Few confirmations and some clues, like some photos taken in the now-famous ranch in Wyoming together with Mercedes Maxwell, West's reference model already on the catwalk in Paris for Season 8. The male face chosen by Kanye should have been that of Shia LaBeouf, determined to give the hole at the last moment, giving life to Kanye's tweet "Shia is a cap". 


Keep It Simple, 2006

The commercial begins with a scene from Stanley Donen's Funny Face. Audrey Hepburn in a Parisian café says: "I rather feel like expressing myself now. And I could certainly use the release." Then she starts dancing wildly and after a few seconds, she reappears on a white background and continues her frantic dance to the tune of the AC/DC song Back in Black. Commenting on the video, Trey Laird, creative director of Gap, said: 

We wanted to do something really special to re-launch our skinny black pants and thought who better to showcase them than actress Audrey Hepburn—an iconic woman famous for dressing with sophistication and classic style. 


Dress Normal, 2014

Anjelica Huston sipping a coffee at the bar. Zosia Mamet from the TV series Girls, in bed wearing shoes, but also Elisabeth Moss from Mad Men, Michael K. Williams from Boardwalk Empire and Jena Malone from The Hunger Games, all portrayed in their everyday life. The Dress Normal campaign, completed with four 50-second spots shot by David Fincher, was such a fiasco that Gap was forced to put the entire collection on sale. This was the moment that marked the beginning of the crisis for the company. 


I Am Gap, 2017

Tyrone Lebon, first, and Valerio Spada for the second part, shot I am Gap. Portrait of an American Summer, with a cast of common people who express themselves by wearing the brand's clothes. 


Bridging the Gap, 2017

Edward Enninful directs a cast of people who embody contemporary American culture, such as Wiz Khalifa, Priyanka Chopra, Alek Wek and Adwoa Aboah. Together, all dressed in jeans and white tees, they sing Sunny by Boney M.