Gap used to have sauce
Before Kanye and Demna there was ... Lorraine Bracco and Bryan Ferry?? A deep dive, plus more unbeatable recon.
Two words that come consistently to mind when we think about earth’s most significant contemporary fashion designer, Balenciaga’s Demna Gvasalia, are fascinating and depressing. He’s staged grody, bondage-themed runway shows at the New York Stock Exchange; “skinned” Crocs and turned their petrochemical hides into high-heels, boots and handbags; grotesqued the Bernie 2016 logo into an undead status-symbol mockery of itself; sent models trudging thru amazing wind-tunnel snowstorms while lugging $1800 leather totes crafted to mimic Hefty Cinch-Sak trashbags…
It’s a harsh-vibed vision of jawnz that scrambles the line not only between the rarefied and the déclassé but also between the clever, hollow, condemnatory, funny, celebratory, and cynical. Demna’s talent feels both vast and perverse: he’s somehow extremely good at creating clothes and — more meaningfully? — creating images of clothes that feel seductive to the same degree that they also feel repellent.
He strikes me (Jonah) as an heir to Jeff Koons, but operating in a more openly hostile and queasy register. His clothes can share the bright colors, shiny surfaces, and amphetamine cheer of Koons’s art, but they’re just as often leached of color, severely distressed, and otherwise degraded: the sordid contents of a mall dumpster, re-cast as luxury goods.
If yr feeling generous you can read a sly criticality into both artists’s projects, but it’s a criticality too smoothly absorbed by their putative targets — hyper-inflated art-market vapidity for Koons, hypertrophied end-of-empire consumerism for Demna — to get very excited about or feel very inspired by.
Kanye West meanwhile is a vexingly, unquestionably brilliant artist, and in his mutual-muse relationship with Demna, each reinforces the other’s love for sweeping, scandalizing dystopian / accelerationist gestures … Case in point: Last week’s in-store roll-out of a new batch of Yeezy x Gap x Balenciaga clothes, where customers were invited to rummage through bags heaped with disorganized clothes (above) in a queasy retail-theater pantomime of … Dealseekers at Goodwill bins? Trash-pickers at dumps? Disaster refugees at FEMA camps?
Like we said, fascinating and depressing, and not always in equal measure. Or, put another way: This s**t is cool & it also sucks!!
BUT ON THE SUBJECT OF POTENT GAP-RELATED IMAGERY —
It’s hard to believe, but there was a time long ago when Gap didn’t need a major sauce transfusion from outside superstars.
A Spyfriend tipped us off to a vast archive of Gap print-ads stretching back decades, and it is both a vibey time-capsule and deep trove of fire “fit inspiration” … We dug through it on the lookout for instances of “dopeness,” and today we’re gonna surface some slappers for YOU, Spy Nation…
Also in today’s sletter we’ve got:
-Cool cheap fisherman sandals
-A spicy jawn for the home & car that no one is checking for
Let’s get to it — Jonah & Erin
The ad archive in question starts in the ‘70s. (See the black & white ads below, which co-opted Marxism & Haight-Ashbury counterculture to sell jeans back when Gap still marketed itself as a purveyor of “over 4 tons of Levi’s. 14,000 pair. 4,000 sizes.” ) But for our purposes things really kick into gear in the mid-’80s, as captured above. Mocknecks. Slouchy sweaters. Beautiful color palettes. And??