Holy Cultural Appropriation, Gap!

Have you heard about this sassy little upstart company from Mexico? Cruising around with their denim and tacos? Oh. Wait. I’m thinking of The Gap. One of the 500 great American companies.

They are quintessentially American, right? They seem to be insofar as:

On August 21, 1969, Donald and Doris Fisher opened the first Gap store on Ocean Avenue in San Francisco. The store’s merchandise consisted of Levi’s and LPs. The Fishers had raised $63,000 to open the store,[7] and in one year, Gap’s sales had reached $2 million. In 1970, Gap opened its second store, in San Jose, California, and established its first corporate headquarters in Burlingame, California with just four employees. Gap grew rapidly. By 1973, it had more than 25 stores, including areas outside California—entering the East Coast market with a store in Voorhees, New Jersey. In 1974, Gap began to sell private-label merchandise.

That sounds very much like a company with no special ties whatsoever to Mexico.

It’s also a brand which has had no particularly memorable campaign since the 1990′s. Even the Grey Lady makes unladylike fun of them, remarking,

Remember  when Gap advertising was entertaining and effective, when everyone talked about Gap campaigns like “Khakis swing”? Yes, and remember the Clinton presidency?

So Gap is working to come up with a campaign that will appeal to today’s youth in the way Khaki’s swing appealed to… the old youth.

But surely no one would just assume that appropriating another culture’s language and foodstuffs would make them “hip?” right? This campaign can’t be based on that. To be fair,  I know we all threw around some Fashion Magazine Latin in casual conversation when we were 15, but then we grew up and just realized that we needed to fac ut vivas.

So how did they land on the whole Pico de Gap, thing? Was it to commemorate the fact that they were say, opening up in Mexico? They did do a deal to expand their line of Mexican stores in 2008 (according to Reuters) so that’s… irrelevant. It was in 2008. That’s like 4 billion years ago if you’re bad at math. Well! It was a fun fact, though. Gap also sells in Jordan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and everyplace else. All the places! Really, the Gap is just global. Global, but dishing out tacos because that spring break in Cabo was TEH. BEZT. EVR!

No, I’m sorry, really, there has to be a reason they zeroed in on this, other than Mexico is “quirky” and “quaint” with their “little large hats.”

Perhaps it was a personal choice to reflect the values of the employees? Seth Farbman, the Gap’s Chief Marketing Officer told The New York Daily News “The idea of Pico de Gap … came about one night when I was having dinner with our 1969 design team in downtown L.A. It’s these types of everyday moments that shape who we are as people and inspire the product we design for our customers. We thought it would be an unexpected, engaging way to share a little more about ourselves.”

Are you sharing about your Mexican ancestry, Seth Farbman? Huh! You live in New York and Richmond, Virginia. What are you sharing? That you like tacos? We all like tacos, Seth. That’s like sharing your heartfelt desire to live forever and willingness to become a vampire if you could (that’s just me? Moving on. I’d miss tacos, though).

Well, okay, but you have some sort of Mexican chef doing the menu right? Oh, you have Katie Lee! She says, “Mexican culture gets my creative juices flowing.” She is best known for her marriage to one of our most notable American musicians.

Great. Remember that the idea is to make younger people love the brand. Younger people figured out that “arbitrarily theming things after different countries” wasn’t really cool or interesting 10 minutes after their high school prom (‘A Night In Nanking.’)

Seth Farbman says that the key to re-branding the is, ““to explain why Gap is relevant for today,” he added, because “this is not a world where you can allow people to guess what you’re for and against.”

So, they are for the existence of Spanish speaking countries. That is a load off my tired mind.

Just a friendly note from your 朋友 at TheGloss!

(UPDATE: your 朋友 at TheGloss just noticed there is a Gap ad running prominently on the site. If you could therefore read only the part of this post that refers to loving tacos, that would be appreciated).

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    • ummm

      lol since when do you guys care about cultural appropriation? usually i see you defending things like this or saying it’s not a big deal.

    • Natalie Zutter

      Mandarin ftw.