Designers Ling Cheung (left) from Banana Republic and Megan Carlee (right) from Gap Outlet shared their perspective on world-renowned design forecaster Li Edelkoort’s most recent presentation for Gap Inc. product and marketing teams. If you’re in a creative role, if you enjoy learning how others turn inspo into action, or if you’re interested in how Gap Inc. is fueling creativity through its Create with Audacity programming, Ling and Megan’s insight is a can’t-miss.
Animism and design
Ling: This talk was an oasis that was both visually and mentally stimulating. The topic was Animism (the belief that all people, animals, objects, geographic features, and natural phenomena have a soul), and a link was made between the global pandemic, shutdown and supply chain delays to the collective reverence of nature. As a designer, I appreciate Li’s belief that every object around us should be respected and revered. Objects from the natural world like the pebble, a cloud and seed pods can all inspire our styles and influence our raw materials (texture, shine, felting), shapes (close to body, loose, protective) and colors. Most interestingly, she connected roots to people’s desire to discover ancestry. At Banana Republic, we’re very interested in our history, so her application of this object to design—old-world basket weaves and root textures applied to a serving spoon—stood out to me.
Megan: This was my favorite session with Li yet! As a childrenswear designer, I enjoyed the focus on Animism and was struck by her point that “kids are born animist.” I agree—I still have an extensive feather collection from when I was a girl (and my stuffed animals do have feelings of their own). Many of the objects that Li focused on translate so nicely into textiles. The textural elements of pebbles, roots, leaves and shells reimagined into chunky knitwear, textured wovens, quilted fabrics and ethereal pleating. As always, the way Li uses breathtaking imagery to draw parallels between the inspiration and the design gives me all the feels. In just 60 minutes, I felt nostalgia, whimsy, energy, passion and calm.
From inspiration to application
Ling: It’s valuable to see how our products can be influenced by the world at large—Li talks about this frequently, and it’s something I often think about in my own design process. For example, for Spring ‘22 at Banana Republic, I looked into our archives and designed a hoodie with pockets lifted from a 1989 River vest. It’s a piece of history, re-imagined in a new style and cut in a recycled sustainable fabric. As I start with Holiday ‘22, this idea of roots, Banana Republic’s roots—and what will take root in our customer’s closets and lives—will certainly stay with me through my design process.
Megan: Li’s sessions touch on current fashion and design trends, yes, but I always gain more abstract inspiration. Heading into Holiday ’22, I’ll remember the beauty of materials, as offering emotional items (in addition to our core basics) is important in the season of gift giving. And as a designer, her idea of “showing things in a new way” spoke to me, as all of us continue to innovate under pressure while facing unpresented hurdles in our industry. We’re mixing existing colors, textures and lengths to offer exciting and fresh products to our customers.
Finding value in Create with Audacity programming
Ling: Nestled between Cross Functional Team meetings, circle backs and business updates, these sessions are pockets of reflection with beautiful imagery and analysis of human psychology. It’s pure pleasure to step back and refocus on macro shifts, collective tendencies and to make the connection to how they shape our business and designs. I’m so grateful for these opportunities when they come up, and I encourage everyone to take full advantage and attend whenever possible.
Megan: Gap Inc.’s Create with Audacity programs—these Trend Union sessions included—offer invaluable opportunities to reflect and grow (I was also lucky enough to attend the International Folk Arts Market in Santa Fe this year). Through it all, I’m learning more about what it means to be an audacious and courageous creator, I’m connecting with like-minded talent across our brands to become a stronger designer, and I’m thinking about how we design in new and different ways.