Five Questions with Mary Alderete, Chief Marketing Officer at Gap

View from the inside

Is fashion week still an important ‘moment in time’? In an “always on” world, what does Fashion Week mean to the industry? What are the most valuable ways you have found to build your brand and stay relevant?   

The way we experience Fashion Week has changed, but the idea of forecasting trends and looking forward to future seasons certainly continues to play an important role within the industry as a whole and for us as a retailer. Gap is built on classic styles that evoke modern American optimism – our product crosses generations and we use our creative to tell that story in a new and relevant way each season. Our new spring campaign is a great example of that, tapping a collective of unique individuals, it’s about shaping the future and forging a positive and inclusive path for people and the planet. Our product story has evolved to a new ease, an effortless style based in elemental pieces that reflect the uniqueness of each individual.

Also agree that we are living in an “always on” digital world and that is also a source of inspiration for our design and marketing teams. Seeing trends accelerate on social media, with consumers and influencers fueling the resurgence of the 90s classic Gap hoodie on Tik Tok, has certainly inspired us to bring energy to this iconic, elemental piece by reinventing it in new proportions, colors and fabrics.

Gap just launched Generation Good, a campaign that aims to amplify the voices of unique individuals acting on the shared values of inclusion, diversity, sustainability and community. What’s the inspiration and objective of this initiative?

Gap was founded with the mission to do more than sell clothes. GENERATION GOOD reflects this ideal that we can all be our true selves and move things forward by being a force for good. It takes a collective to change the world and this campaign features a multi-generational group of culture shapers and makers who are having an impact. GENERATION GOOD is a group of unique individuals taking action – they are groundbreakers that are changing the paradigm, propelling a real shift in how we show up, represent, listen and learn across generations. This GENERATION GOOD inspires the good in all of us, working together for a brighter future.

We looked to cast a collective of unique individuals taking action. Acting on the shared values of inclusion, diversity, sustainability and community, these ground breakers are changing the paradigm, propelling a real shift in how we show up, represent, listen and learn across generations. Gap Adult culture shapers cultivate community and create with audacity to break barriers for themselves and the generations who follow.

Some GENERATION GOOD icons include: Aurora James, creative director and founder of Brother Vellies, founder of the 15 Percent Pledge and activist; Dr. Woo, choice tattoo artist; Evan Mock, skater and creator; Mikhail Baryshnikov, performer, artistic director for Baryshnikov Arts Center; Kimberly Drew, curator, advocate, and co-editor of Black Futures; Dizzy Fae, musician; Melissa King, award-winning chef, entrepreneur & TV personality and Kayo & Bombette Martin, skaters and Olympic hopefuls.

Sustainability is now at the forefront of fashion brands, it has changed the way they think about products, technologies, processes, and business models. How are you planning to make the business more sustainable?

We are constantly evolving to do better by our planet, and this continues to be at the forefront of our brand ethos. In 2016, we launched  and dedicated ourselves to use less water, more sustainable materials and to give back. For example, our denim is part of Gap’s water-saving Washwell™ program, which uses 20% less water compared to conventional wash methods; a program that has saved millions of liters of water since its inception. We have been increasing our use of organic cotton and recycled materials in our tees, outerwear and fleece. We are committed to the goals set and making bold progress against them.

This Spring, we are taking our sustainability commitment to the next level with our Generation Good namesake collection, featuring Gap’s most sustainable essentials to-date across Adult, Teen, Kids and Baby. Made of organic and recycled fabrications, Generation Good redefines new product icons that check all the boxes on Gap’s Good List: less waste, less water, lower emissions, better materials, and support for workers. Launching on World Water Day, March 22, the collection promotes environmentally conscious product while reducing impact on the planet.  

The pandemic redefined the shopping experience for consumers at every single level, forcing brands to rethink their retail and online channel approaches. What are some of the most interesting customer insights have you gathered this past year? How have you innovated around these new needs? 

The pandemic has certainly shifted everything across the way we live, work, dress, and shop. To make an impact with consumers in today’s “always on” hyper-connected world, our approach is a fully integrated brand experience across every consumer touchpoint – a seamless digital to store experience. Consumers are using online more to pre-shop and also to order online and pick up in store or at curbside.  This convenience is a true benefit that we’ll continue to focus on because it has become a permanent part of the way consumers engage with our brand, especially time starved parents who are busy juggling work and learning from home along with the pressures from the pandemic.

Our creative approach also shifted in 2020. It’s rare to have all marketing 100% created by one internal team that is the heart and soul of the brand. We’re living Gap all day, every day, and that soul pours out through every piece of marketing – wrapping your arms around each marketing touchpoint that’s a synchronous beat, informing a consistent, cohesive experience. The other insight is that consumers are looking to fewer, more reliable and trusted brands which has allowed us to differentiate GAP brand and grow share of market in our key categories of fleece, active, denim and with our kids, baby and new Teen business.  

In a challenging retail environment – what are your key growth priorities for 2021 and beyond?

We will continue to build momentum in our key businesses and keep our focus on innovating with responsible practices and materials as part of our long-term sustainability commitments. Sustainability is integral to the brand, knowing we have impact and carry that responsibility to people and the planet. 

We look forward to continuing to empower and encourage our greater community through vehicles such as our P.A.C.E and pipeline programs that help equip participants with the right tools, knowledge, and experience to not only grow but succeed in their field.

We will continue to use our platform for good and amplify voices who may not always be heard, though have a strong message for the world to hear. Inclusivity and diversity are integral to our concept of Individuality—each person authentically unique but part of something bigger than themselves that can be a force for good that drives change toward a better tomorrow for all generations.