September 21, 2021
Last week marked two big milestone moments for Gap Inc. The first moment was when Refinitiv announced us as the #1 company on their Diversity and Inclusion Index—one that has been 52 years in the making for us. Refinitiv assesses thousands of public companies for key factors, including diversity of our teams, inclusion practices and programs, and people development and engagement. To be ranked as a leader in this index is all thanks to our employees and collective efforts to become the most inclusive company in the world.
What made this accolade even more remarkable was that at the same time we received this news, we were executing a very meaningful week for the company in New York City. Long before launching our 2025 Commitments, we have been working to make the fashion industry more inclusive and provide opportunities to emerging designers, creators of color and the differently abled community.
To kick off New York’s Fashion Week, we partnered with Harlem’s Fashion Row to sponsor their annual HFR Fashion Show & Style Awards. This year’s theme was Renaissance Forever and the first hybrid in-person and virtual experience in the 14-year history of the showcase.
Banana Republic served as the title sponsor and showcased an amazing collaboration with Charles Harbison as it gets ready to launch in-stores and online October 14. The bright colors for suits, dresses and jackets captured the audience and got many excited to want to get their hands on this limited-edition capsule.
Before Charles took over the runway, our very own Ra’mon-Lawrence Radeke, Head of Women’s Design, Banana Republic spoke at the event, sharing: “I understand all too readily the journey many of the designers in this room are on and the challenges they face, but I also have a deep connection with the desires, creative spirit, and hopes each one of them bring to the work they create. It is that vital force which has brought us all here to celebrate … Banana Republic aims to encourage and support BIPOC designers through its ongoing partnerships with Harlem’s Fashion Row, providing them with a platform through which to further the design careers.” Click here to watch Ra’mon’s whole speech. The Harbison x Banana Republic collection is a shining example of our approach to embedding sustainability and diversity in our business practices.
And the night also included another epic moment for Banana Republic as Liya Kebede, who is partnering with Banana to mentor emerging designers selected by BR and HFR, received the ICON 360 award. Liya’s philanthropic work through her Liya Kebede Foundation, whose mission is to reduce maternal, newborn and child mortality in Ethiopia and around the world, is one of the many reasons why she was recognized that evening.
When we learned this year’s Met Gala theme was, “In America: A Lexicon of Fashion,” we jumped at the chance to express our story and define what it means to be in fashion today. Gap is synonymous with American Fashion – modern American style made for everyone. It’s a brand that bridges generations and ages, one that millions of customers around the world proudly wear across their chest. With that in mind, Jane Pattinson, Head of Design for Gap, and her team collaborated with Aurora James, founder of Brother Vellies and the The Fifteen Percent Pledge, to design a modern take on Gap’s iconic white shirt and classic khakis for a special Gap x Brother Vellies look worn by Sonia Syngal.
“Since 1969, Gap has embodied the best of American fashion designed to let individual style shine through,” remarked Jane Pattinson.
The red carpet hosted a mix of players across fashion, culture and business. Sonia stepped out with two special guests, our Athleta partners Simone Biles and Allyson Felix, to celebrate a year of breaking boundaries and culture-shifting conversation. Athleta stands for women lifting up women - helping women and girls reach their full potential and take on the world.
Athleta’s Chief Brand Officer Kyle Andrew said, “Our presence at the Met Gala is particularly symbolic, as the evening gives our athlete partners, Simone Biles and Allyson Felix, a bold platform to further inspire and connect with women and girls everywhere. We are honored to support our incredible athlete partners beyond the athletic arena and empower the next generation to feel confident in any room.”
Sonia, Allyson and Simone each opted to work with designers, stylists and make-up artists of color for their Met Gala debuts, and the result was a stunning tribute to American fashion.
Simone wore a custom three-piece look co-designed by Area and Athleta, featuring a gorgeous, sparkling train only fit for the GOAT herself (the whole outfit totaled 88 pounds, talk about strength!). Allyson stunned in an all-white Fendi gown, adorned with 240,000 ostrich feathers and crystal beads, showing off that post-Olympics glow.
And because this night is about so much more than fashion, Athleta celebrated by donating $50,000 to The Power of She Fund, empowering women and girls.
Closing out the week’s festivities was the inaugural Power of the Collective lunch—hosted by the Gap Inc. Equality & Belonging (E&B) team. This event was thoughtfully designed to be a refreshing change to the hectic pace of fashion week and provide an opportunity for the company to personally thank the community partners, designers and change-makers who have helped bring the E&B work to life by amplifying Black and Brown voices in the creative space and influencing long-lasting change.
Design collaborators and community partners were welcomed by Gap Inc. leaders Sonia Syngal, Mark Breitbard, MB Laughton, members of the Gap Inc. Equality and Belonging leadership team and representatives from the family of Gap Inc. brands. In attendance were inclusion strategist, Amber Cabral, special guests from our artist collaboration series Lindsay Adams, Manuela Guillén, as well as Charles Harbison, Aurora James, founder of the Fifteen Percent Pledge and Gap’s Fall campaign feature, The Dope Educator. The Power of the Collective Lunch also underscored the depth of the company’s community reach with organizations such as CFDA Black Advisory Board, Harlem’s Fashion Row, the Door, Lower East Side Girls Club, Fifteen Percent Pledge and ICON 360 in attendance. This capstone event celebrated the power of connection and partnerships in the quest for change and reminds us that we are stronger together.
And as Mark said during the luncheon, “this is a powerhouse room!” And it sure did feel that way. We wrapped up the event with closing remarks by Kisha Modica, Head of Equality and Belonging "my hope is that we will unlock and harness the power of this collective for a brighter, more colorful future for all." Thanks to the efforts made by everyone present, and a collective belief in breaking barriers, we've been able to come together to make real change—not only for our employees, but for our customers and the global communities that we serve.