The case for: Gap is straight up jacking Threadless's indie credentials
The retailer your mom used to drag you to has been flailing lately. First, there was a huge rebranding mishap last February, a la New Coke, which made the execs look out of touch. Six months later, the company announced it was closing one of every five of its US stores. I know I don't need to tell you, stylish Bleader reader, that big companies are out and thrifty/vintage/seapunk/etc are in right now. So by putting a well-known indie brand like Threadless front and center of its spring collection, Gap gets to look hip again for the small costs of art and the rights to use Threadless's brand. Now Gap can refer to its new shirts as "Ts by people like you," which looks gross up on gap.com. Moreover, the Gap T-shirts are more expensive—a Threadless T is $20-$25; a Gap+Threadless T is $30. Not cool! Remember when Kanye interned at the Gap? A fat lot of good that did him. It could happen to Threadless, too.
It could be a lot worse. Threadless could be a wholly owned subsidiary of Gap right now. It could have bumped up its T-shirt prices. It's not doing that. Threadless's mission is to get great art out into the world, and it's partnered with other brands before: You can find Threadless Thermoses, Threadless iPhone cases, and Threadless Dells. They all have unique designs that, presumably, brought a chunk of change and recognition to artists the Threadless community vetted. "Our artists are just so excited to get their work out on different platforms," said Threadless spokesperson Bethany Allen. If Threadless is still kicking after teaming up with a PC company, it must have a resilient brand. Plus, Allen told me at a Gap event last night that the Chicago company hasn't gotten any negative feedback yet. "We weren't expecting that," she said. Since it's still cheaper to buy from Threadless, this expansion can't be targeted at the existing community—something Allen confirmed—meaning the 53 stores currently selling the new Ts are meant to introduce Threadless to a whole new group of people. That couldn't hurt, could it? Meanwhile, Threadless is running a competition for the next batch of Gap+Threadless T-shirts, set to roll out in stores and on gap.com in May.