It was 1969, the year of Woodstock, and Neil Armstrong's giant leap for humankind. People were expressing themselves like never before.
At that same time, on Ocean Avenue in San Francisco, Doris and Don Fisher were opening a single store stocked with Levi’s, records and tapes – they never expected to transform retail, but they did, creating a whole new specialty category.
Forty five years, six brands and almost 140,000 employees later, Gap Inc. continues to try new things, to be brave, while holding onto a belief that people can be different, and yet remain fundamentally connected to each other. It’s a brand ethos, and yet this echoes within the company’s values as well.
Doris and Don wanted their company to be a different kind of business, and that fundamental belief – that we care about the communities where we live and work, that we do more than sell clothes – continues.
As we celebrate this birthday, we wanted to have employees across the company share their favorite Gap Inc. moments. Here’s what they said.
Emily started as a Gap store associate at 16, and 24 years later, she is working as a Banana Republic marketer. She met her friends here, as well as her husband. She took time off to have kids, and like so many do, she came back.
Here’s her favorite Gap Inc. moment:
“About 15 years ago, I went to Honduras with Gap Inc. to build houses with Habitat for Humanity. There was this whole crew of Gap people from all over the world working side by side with these families. Some of the families were so poor; they were living in these shanties and didn’t have proper clothes or shoes. As we were leaving, one of the guys on our team took his shoes off and gave them to one of the men. And then everyone else did the same thing, so there we were walking to the bus, to leave, with no shoes on. I will never forget it, and I’ll forever feel connected to these people.”
Catrina Lee started off as a store associate at 19, 26 years ago, and worked her way up to her position as an HR executive.
She remembers, like it was yesterday, the debut of babyGap.
“I was part of the store team that launched babyGap at Laurel Village in San Francisco. You can imagine the fanfare – we were the first retailer to go after baby clothes in a big way, and there was a ton of excitement around it. So Don Fisher drives up in his wood-paneled station wagon, and it was like a rock star arrived, with him taking pictures with everyone. I was witnessing history with the launching of this new brand. Nothing energized me more than that kind of excitement, and I still have such a deep affinity for the stores.”
Of Old Navy’s 20 years, Kim Tarantino has been with the brand half of that time, in communications.
Her favorite moment? When Old Navy made Scott Rowe, a war veteran and single dad, became an overnight millionaire as part of a holiday contest.
“We thought, this is awesome, so we brought him and his mom and daughters to one of our employee meetings, so people could meet him and I’m telling you, there wasn’t a dry eye in the house. No matter what kind of a day you were having that day, you left feeling so, so proud. We still keep in touch with him – he didn’t have to go back to the Middle East, and he graduated from the police academy. This really and truly changed his life.”
Jose Davila, a 9-year Gap veteran who works as a VP, Gap International, has attended store manager conferences around the world for Gap.
Sometimes it’s a family affair.
“I remember this one time in Japan, my wife and kids participated in a fashion show that was part of a store manager conference. The kids were 6 and 2 years old at the time, and my 2-year-old started screaming her lungs out and I had to get up on the catwalk and get her. Even with that, it was a fond memory for me because my family was there and able to take part in an important company moment with me.
“Both kids ended up on holiday posters on backroom walls in every store in the country. We still have that poster.”
Sheila Peters, a Senior Vice President in Human Resources, started at Gap at a time when it wasn’t a well-known brand.
“I remember the day Gap went public. That was massive. But then I also think about things like when we decided to offer same-sex benefits. It was the easiest thing in the world to do; there was no press on it, no reason to do it other than that we wanted to. That was really major. I remember the company announcing it and I was really, really proud.”
Connie Hopkins has been here, and only here, since 1973 – that’s 41 years, as Gap Inc.’s longest tenured employee.
She started out as a cash audit clerk, and transitioned job titles over the decades with the times—from paper ledgers and adding machines to automated accounts and laptops—and she’s now a senior business systems analyst in the IT Department.
”I’ve never been bored. There’s always something new to work on,” she said. “I always seem to have something on my to-do list that I say, ‘I still want to do this.’ There are things that I want to accomplish here and ways that I can contribute.”
David Ard, Global Head of Talent Acquisition, has been with Old Navy for 10 years, but almost didn’t take the job.
“Looking back, I was concerned that I wouldn’t fit in, because I was uninformed about what made the brand tick. As a recruiter, you have to believe in the brand you’re representing.
“Fortunately, the person I would come to work for helped me to see how I could grow from the experience of stepping into something that was at the time uncomfortable and unknown. I took the leap. Within a few weeks, the thing I was most certain of was that I had found my people and a place where I could thrive. There’s something powerful and quite electric about Old Navy - the brand, the talent who bring it to life and the culture. My life lesson here: there are people who know what’s best for you. Find them, and do what they say.”
MJ Jackson has been with the company for 15 years, and works in corporate security.
“A recent trip to India last year afforded me the opportunity to see and meet women in the P.A.C.E. program. Not understanding any of their words, but as they were translated and the level of emotion felt through the way they told their stories (all very different and unique) moved me. I felt proud to work for a company that truly made a difference, that not only improves business results, but literally changes the lives of how people think about themselves.”
Sachiko Amagai started in stores in Japan 15 years ago, and worked her way to the translation team at Japan headquarters.
“In Japan, it is rare to get a promotion if you are a woman, or if you are young, but I was promoted to store manager in the second year of my career, right out of college. You’ll see that in Japan, we have a far higher number of women working at our company compared to other companies. My first store manager was also young, and taught me how to become credible quickly and continuously."