The San Francisco-based retailer announced Wednesday that Robinson has been named to oversee all elements of design for women's and men's apparel, accessories and intimates lines in North America. Robinson will start May 29 as executive vice president of design for Gap Adult and GapBody, succeeding Charlotte Neuville, who was among the executives exiting the company this year.
Robinson, 40, is joining Gap from Paco Rabanne in Paris, where he had been artistic director since 2005, as Gap seeks to turn around sagging growth and profits after the departure of chief executive officer Paul Pressler. Robinson was not available for comment.
"Patrick brings broad experience — from high-end fashion to mass market retail — demonstrating his versatility to interpret and create fresh, clean designs true to the Gap brand aesthetic,'' Marka Hansen, president of Gap North America, said in a statement. Robinson will report to Hansen and Gary Muto, president Gap Adult and GapBody. "We believe his skills and experience with some of the most respected apparel labels in the world will be great assets to the Gap brand,'' she said.
In 1995, Robinson was hired to be Anne Klein's head designer, succeeding Richard Tyler, after working at Giorgio Armani's Le Collezioni line. The designer then made a splash at Perry Ellis, with his cool collections of mismatched tweed separates. Over two years, Robinson clashed with the management of Public Clothing Co., the Perry Ellis licensee. Robinson was frustrated about how his work was watered down for department stores, and his third collection for Perry Ellis, amid disputes with the manufacturer, was never produced. Robinson quit in November 2004 and the women's line shuttered soon thereafter.
He was picked by Spain's Puig Group to reenergize the company's Paco Rabanne label. But his efforts were complicated by corporate restructuring, and Paco Rabanne failed to ship a fall-winter collection.
Given the uncertainty at Paco Rabanne, there were questions about Robinson and he partnered with Target's Go International designer program. By joining Gap, Robinson is returning to his roots in California, where he started his fashion career with a line of surfwear.
The Gap has blamed its financial struggles in part on mistakes in its product mix in a retail climate where fast fashion is booming and the concept of basics in a wardrobe (an idea the company helped invent) has somewhat fallen by the wayside.In March, Gap reported a 35 percent drop in earnings and a 7 percent decline in same-store store sales in the fourth quarter, and conveyed to investors that fiscal recovery would be a long road.
Robert Fisher, chairman of the company, stepped in as interim president and ceo in January after Pressler was pushed out. Fisher told WWD then: "There is no quick fix….For 2007, the teams are focused on improving fundamentals and stabilizing the business. New leaders in place are just now ramping up."
During a conference call after the announcement of the Gap's fourth-quarter results, Fisher said another top priority was retaining, developing and recruiting talent, including a new ceo. — With contributions from Marc Karimzadeh, New York