Gap 'Masstige' Project More Prestige Than Mass?

Most designers these days moonlight for a mass retail chain at one point or another: Roberto Cavalli and Marimekko for H&M, Vera Wang for Kohl’s, Alexander Wang for Uniqlo, and seemingly everyone else for Target. But the Gap, in the interest of novelty or crowd control, employs haute designers only to rethink its basic white shirts. Today the store rolled out its second collection of white shirts by CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund finalists.

We stopped by our local Gap on lower Fifth Ave. at 3 p.m., looking for good old New York retail madness, but alas: This was a subtler affair than Mr. Cavalli’s November debut at H&M, which featured the designer himself pulling up to the chain’s Fifth Avenue store in a chauffeured car with model Jessica Stam to smoke a cigar with crazed fans from New Jersey. A lone woman perused Western-inspired white shirts by menswear designer Michael Bastian. “Why are the women’s 20 dollars more than the men’s?” she asked. ($78 for women’s shirts; $58 for men’s). She hadn’t made a special trip to gobble up low-priced designer fashions, she said. “I just came in to use the bathroom!”

A salesgirl, Monika, explained that there had been a rush earlier, around 10:15 a.m., featuring now-familiar “masstige” sights such as women grabbing 5 or 6 shirts at once. Resultingly, two designs—a longer, belted white shirt by Band of Outsiders and a white mini-dress by threeASFOUR—had already sold out. Everything else was selling swiftly, she said, though the store had ordered fewer items this year, and in smaller sizes, to ensure sell-through (last year, excess had arrived back in New York from less aggressively fashionable places like Michigan).

Yesterday, the three designers of arty downtown label threeASFOUR—Gabi Asfour, Adi Gil, and Angela Donhauser—were giddy about their Gap debut when we called them up.

“I think it’s going to be a big P.R. boon, because in the end a lot of people don’t really know our name yet,” said Ms. Donhauser. “When it comes to, for instance, Midwest America.”

“We want to think that the dress will be sold out, because it’s the only dress,” she added (success!).

“They had Andy Warhol in the window a few months ago—I don’t know how they got their hands to those prints, but it was quite amazing—and now they have us,” said Ms. Gil of her label’s unlikely benefactor.

Notably absent among the “It” designers at the Gap was the 2007 Fashion Fund winner and fashion eco-warrior Rogan.

“He had a line for Target,” explained Mr. Asfour.

Gap 'Masstige' Project More Prestige Than Mass?