Gap’s utter retail dominance in the ‘90s came to be because of one powerful idea: there is a gap between the department store and the runway. This “gap” that the company was founded on was the generational divide between hippie-era San Francisco and the “greatest generation” who birthed them. The “gap” that eventually came to define the store was the cultural and financial gap filled by a generation of relatively affluent young people who wanted a distinctive look.

It’s clear that tapping into a—at the time—relatively underdeveloped market of “stylish basics” would turn the mall brand into a globally recognized fashion empire. We may not recognize it now in a world dominated by European-led fast-fashion juggernauts, but Gap’s vision in the 1990s didn’t simply center around dropping accessible clothing for every day wear, it’s equally accessible aesthetics and advertising helped define a decade.

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