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  • Writer's pictureRich Honiball

Today in Brand History: The Gap

Updated: Aug 27, 2023

The original Gap Store
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On August 22nd, 1969, a significant chapter in retail history began with the founding of The Gap by Donald and Doris Fisher. This iconic American brand has since become synonymous with casual, classic fashion that resonates with generations of consumers.

Donald and Doris Fisher, founders of The Gap
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The Origins of The Gap: Donald and Doris Fisher

The Gap was founded by Donald Fisher, an entrepreneur with a background in real estate, and his wife, Doris F. Fisher. The story of The Gap's creation can be traced back to a specific shopping experience that Donald Fisher had in 1969. He was frustrated by his personal experience of not being able to find all the Levi's products and sizes he wanted in one location, especially when shopping in department stores. This frustration led to the idea of creating a dedicated retail space that would focus solely on providing a wide variety of Levi's products in one convenient location.

Inspired by this realization, Donald Fisher and his wife, Doris, decided to take matters into their own hands. Armed with a $63,000 investment and the determination to provide a superior shopping experience, the Fishers embarked on a journey that would transform the retail landscape. Fisher's vision was to establish a store that offered a broad assortment of sizes and styles, ensuring that customers could easily find the perfect pair of jeans that fit well and suited their preferences. By focusing exclusively on denim apparel, Fisher aimed to provide a unique and specialized shopping experience that was not readily available in traditional department stores at the time. This approach resonated with customers who shared similar frustrations and preferences for denim products.

original Gap ad featuring Levis
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The Role of Walter Haas Jr.: A Crucial Partnership

A key figure in The Gap's early success was Walter Haas Jr., who was not only a friend of the Fishers but also the President of Levi Strauss & Co. The partnership with Levi Strauss & Co. proved to be instrumental in shaping The Gap's trajectory. Haas provided essential guidance, support, and expertise to the Fishers, who were navigating the complexities of the retail industry.

Walter Haas Jr.'s connection to Levi Strauss & Co. was especially significant due to the close relationship between denim and The Gap's core products. With Haas's help, The Gap secured a deal to purchase Levi's jeans directly from the manufacturer, ensuring a consistent supply of high-quality denim products for their customers. This collaboration set the stage for The Gap's commitment to offering well-crafted, durable denim apparel.

Gap ad 2021
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Key Milestones in The Gap's Evolution

The Gap quickly gained momentum and established a unique identity in the retail landscape. A significant milestone in the brand's evolution came in 1974 when the company adopted the name "The Gap," inspired by the generation gap that was prevalent at the time. The name not only resonated with customers but also captured the essence of the brand's mission to bridge the gap between fashion and everyday comfort.

In the late 1970s and early 1980s, The Gap embarked on an ambitious expansion strategy, opening multiple stores across the United States. The brand's distinctive logo, featuring a blue square, became a recognizable symbol of The Gap's commitment to quality and style. This period also marked the introduction of private label merchandise, allowing The Gap to offer exclusive products that were not available anywhere else.

By the 1990s, The Gap had solidified its status as a global fashion powerhouse. The company's innovative advertising campaigns, featuring memorable slogans such as "Fall into the Gap" and "Mellow Yellow," resonated with consumers and contributed to the brand's cultural impact. The Gap's commitment to diversity and inclusivity was also reflected in its advertising, showcasing a wide range of models and personalities.

The cast of Glee performing at The Gap
The cast of Glee performing at The Gap || photo credit:

Did You Know?

  1. Early Specialty: While jeans and denim apparel became The Gap's hallmark, the store's original focus was on music and denim. Donald Fisher had initially aimed to create a music store, but the focus shifted to jeans due to their popularity.

  2. Customer-Centric Approach: The Gap's emphasis on customer feedback and preferences played a pivotal role in shaping its product offerings. This approach allowed the brand to stay attuned to evolving trends and consumer preferences.

  3. Introduction of Private Label: In the early 1970s, The Gap began to offer its own line of clothing, which included basic, affordable, and stylish items such as T-shirts, sweaters, and jeans. The introduction of its private label allowed The Gap to offer a distinct and consistent brand identity to customers, setting it apart from other retailers.

  4. Global Reach: The Gap's success led to international expansion, with stores opening in Canada, Europe, Asia, and other regions, making it a truly global brand.

  5. Innovative Store Design: The Gap's store design incorporated modern elements, such as open layouts and bright lighting, creating a welcoming and easy-to-navigate shopping environment.

  6. Philanthropic Efforts: The Gap Foundation focuses on supporting education and equality initiatives, reflecting the brand's commitment to making a positive impact in communities.

  7. Pop Culture Influence: The Gap's clothing and logos have appeared in various movies and television shows, solidifying its presence in popular culture. In the TV Series "Friends", Rachel worked at the Gap, the cast of Glee performed a musical number at a Gap store, while in "The Social Network", Mark Zuckerberg refers to the Gap as a potential advertiser.

  8. Iconic Campaigns: The Gap's memorable advertising campaigns have featured notable figures and celebrities, including Madonna, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Lenny Kravitz.


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