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Jean Therapy

With a whole new demin line, Gap fashion bigwig Patrick Robinson is slinging the blues.

Author Sarah Horne

PATRICK ROBINSON, the Gap’s executive vice president of design, has classic casual down pat. “I’m an authentic, straight guy,” he says. He’s referring to his straight-leg pants, of course—a salient point given that he recently unveiled his brainchild, 1969 Premium Jeans, a line of denim a year and a half in the making that execs hope will breathe new life into the brand.

The designer, who earned his fashion stripes at Giorgio Armani and Perry Ellis, has brought new cred to what had become an increasingly out-of-touch label. “People know Gap the way they know Coca-Cola,” he says, sitting in his Chelsea office, clad in a flannel shirt and dark jeans with a strategically placed hole above the knee. “My job has been to make the brand relevant again, to channel that affection people have and to get them in the stores.”

To that end, Robinson has gotten back to basics. “I don’t say, ‘This season it’s about robots,’ or fairy wings or Morocco.” Instead, he finds his inspiration closer to home. “There are these little neighborhoods all over America, in San Francisco or Minneapolis. Young people starting little businesses and building communities—doing things with purpose. This is not the one percent of the one percent who are buying couture.” Making Gap meaningful to these people, says Robinson, is all about keeping his eyes open. “How does America want to dress now?” The answer, it seems, is for $69 or less. As with most things Gap, the new look is basic, the denim soft, the rivets copper (and one blue one on each pair of pants, but that’s about as wild as it gets).

Reviving a storied public company comes with a lot of pressure, and Robinson, who has overseen Gap’s design since 2007, concedes that “starting from scratch with the denim is complicated.” Picking his own wardrobe? Not so much. “I’ve worn Gap every day since I’ve started this job,” he laughs. “Even weekends! Everything on my body, even the socks and the underwear, are Gap. If there’s one person who thinks the brand is cool,” says Robinson, “it should be me.”

SARAH HORNE has vivid memories of trying to master the perfect peg-legged cuffon her first pair of Gap jeans (circa 1989).

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