Co-founded by Don Fisher, BS 50, the clothing retailer celebrates 50 years of style
The late real estate developer Don Fisher, BS 50, and his wife, Doris, opened the first Gap store in 1969, ultimately becoming one of the largest specialty apparel retailers in the world. At first selling Levi’s jeans and records to young people ages 12 to 25, Gap morphed into selling its own label exclusively and made basics, such as plain T-shirts, turtlenecks, and khakis, fashion must-haves. A series of iconic ad campaigns propelled Gap into the cultural zeitgeist of the 80s and 90s, while the latest campaign, which celebrates the brand’s 50th anniversary this fall, targets a new generation with nods to the past. Here, a look at Gap’s journey through marketing.
Gap debuts its “Fall into The Gap” jingle and offers “three tons of Levi’s” at low prices.
The Individuals of Style campaign features cultural luminaries like Spike Lee, Whoopi Goldberg, and Joan Didion selling a lifestyle, not just jeans and basics. It’s the brand’s first turnaround.
The Who Wore Khakis campaign shows historical figures like Ernest Hemingway, Amelia Earhart, and Miles Davis wearing khakis (albeit not Gap’s). The phrase “so-and-so wore khakis” shows up in “Doonesbury” and New Yorker cartoons, making khakis and Gap practically synonymous.
The Khakis campaign aims to reinvent the pants, with commercials set to distinct music genres: rock, funk, 60s-inspired, soul, country, and swing. The latter, set to Louis Prima’s “Jump, Jive an’ Wail,” wins awards and instant popularity—contemporizing the Gap brand with crossgenerational appeal.
The For Every Generation campaign targets a broader audience with celebrities to solidify Gap’s classic, cool brand reputation. Spokespersons— including Willie Nelson, Salma Hayek, and Marianne Faithfull—dress in their own Gap clothes to reflect authentic style.
The It’s Our Denim Now campaign, launched this summer, targets a younger generation with ads championing diversity and unity but also individuality. To celebrate 50 years, Gap also releases a limited-edition capsule comprised of iconic styles from the 70s, 80s, and 90s updated with modern details.