Design is in the details. And it takes obsession with detail to breathe life into that irresistible piece of clothing. These are the people behind the scenes at Gap Inc. — the dedicated professionals who push themselves every day to create clothing that resonates with the finesse of their trade. Get to know these heroes of their craft.
Jermaine Younger is never without his phone. He can't afford missing a photo op during that key moment creative types know well: a tremendous burst of inspiration.
“The best is when it hits more naturally," says Jermaine about that sudden moment of creative unlock. “I'll see something on the street and think, 'That would be super cool to wear.'"
On any given morning, Jermaine leaves his Greenwich Village apartment and sets out on his day with a enviable mindset: knowing that The Next Big Thing for the Gap customer to fall in love with is just waiting to be discovered on the next city block.
He will be walking down the New York City street, for example, and see a fascinating piece of graffiti — snap and send the photo to Gap design team. The result: a T-shirt design based on that photo.
He may pass a city garden and see an attractive color scheme — snap and send the photo to a potential vendor for a kids' clothing collaboration. The result: bright, optimistic prints beautifully styled on the mannequins at GapKids.
He might visit a museum and see a piece of art — snap and send the photo to the Gap store design team. The result: whimsical displays that invite customers to walk in and try on the product, right then and there.
Every day, Jermaine absorbs what is stimulating the world and figures out a way to turn those cultural trends into product and business partnerships. He's hunting for other brands in the world that will help bring an interesting twist to classic Gap looks. In other words, he is in a constant state of creative reconnaissance as the Director of Global Licensing and Partnerships for Gap.
"Every partnership and project is different; it's not just 'Do this jean on this table at this price point,'" Jermaine said. "You have to be scrappy and you have to be flexible. We're constantly analyzing every aspect — from the product, to the marketing, the social media posts; every single detail — in order to bring the product story to life."
Those stories include launching kids clothing collaborations, such as the Ellen DeGeneres GapKids x ED partnership, which empowers girls through product; or reintroducing beauty accessories to the Gap customer — the Gap flagship Birchbox launch, bringing skin and hair care products back to Gap customers for the first time in years.
The Gap store has, essentially, become Jermaine's laboratory. Through a variety of projects, he lives in a constant state of experimentation — testing what works, what doesn't, and striving to create a product and customer experience that people will remember.
“It's so exciting when the customer thinks they know what to expect from Gap and we get to surprise them," Jermaine said. “We get to create a reason for the customer to fall in love with Gap over and over and over and over again."
At a recent Birchbox partnership launch in Gap's San Francisco flagship store, for example, Jermaine stood in front of a large pink wall, filled with an array of beauty products ranging from hair spray to lipstick. The wall looks flawless — but that's all part of the plan.
“We spend months debating how the space will look," Jermaine said. “What are the right categories for us to sell? What is the right shade of pink? Do we want the boxes to be organized neatly in a line, or presented more artfully and at random?"
That agonizing, though, is all worth it when customers walk through the door and love what they see. As Jermaine moves through the store, he may as well be giving a tour of his own home. He walks with purpose and familiarity; while he speaks, his eyes dart from customer to customer, playing the role of busy party host wanting his guests to feel happy and satisfied.
“When the customer responds to things — in ways you hoped they would, or in ways that surprise you — it's just satisfying," he said.
Outside, Jermaine pauses to take out his phone — an ad on the sidewalk for a gallery showing, with bright colors and animals bounding across an interior landscape, could be a great kids' tee.