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How our Gap guy almost won Project Runway: Under the Gunn

We first wrote about Sam Donovan back in February, around the time Project Runway: Under the Gunn aired on Lifetime.

Here’s what we knew then: That at 23, he would be the season’s youngest designer; that he worked (and still works!) at a Gap store in Natick, Mass., and that he’s incredibly talented.

We didn’t know he would almost win.

A clear favorite (his fans broke Twitter, people!), Sam beat out 13 other contestants to come in second. After the show ended April 10, we caught up with him, and here’s what he had to say about the show, his beautiful clothes, and why he still loves working for Gap.

Tanya Hart: So many people picked you to win. What has the reaction been like?

Sam Donovan: I love that I can talk about the finale, because now everyone’s seen it! Finally I can talk about the fact that I came in second, and it was super awesome. The best responses have been from those who say it doesn’t matter that I didn’t win, because they loved my work.

TH: And you’re still working at your Gap store?

SD: I’m still at the store, and people do come in sometimes and say, “Are you Sam?” I love it.

TH: Would you say that Gap has influenced your designs in any way?

SD: Absolutely. Gap has that kind of aspirational clothing, but it’s not at a crazy price. I’ve always felt that clothing shouldn’t be exclusive. I began by wanting to create something beautiful and affordable for a lot of body types. People say to me, “I’m not a size 2, but I can see myself wearing your clothes,” and that is what I want to hear as a designer.

I think in the end, the judges were a little annoyed with me because they wanted me to be a bit more high-fashion, but then it’s like, why am I designing? So I can be on TV? That’s not me.

TH: You wore an awful lot of denim on the show. Gap?

SD: The denim, the sweatshirts, most of the clothes I wore — 80 percent of it was Gap. People were asking me about a sweatshirt I wore — it was part of the GQ collaboration, and is sold out now, but I got a lot of questions about it.

TH: There was a huge moment on the show were you talked about being bullied as a kid, and you were very emotional. What has the response been like?

SD: Oh, I can’t even put it into words — so many people have reached out to me. Even the other day at Starbucks, a barista started telling me about something that had happened to her. There’s this aspect of reluctance to talk about such things, and I think that’s where a lot of the damage comes from — but why not just put it out there? I didn’t expect to cry on stage in front of the judges; it just happened. In the end, it’s been a blessing. I’ve gotten to know people — even in the fitting rooms at the store — who have told me their own stories and by the time we’re done talking, it’s like we’re old friends.

And then you have Gap, a company that talks about these things. It’s such an all-American company, at the head of all these progressive efforts, and I’ve always thought that is so great. It’s part of a national conversation.

TH: What’s next for you?

SD: Well, I am looking to work as a designer in San Francisco — that’s my goal. I would love to live there. I’m working on it, so we’ll see. I’ve grown so much from the show, and I hope to continue friendships with (fellow contestant) Asha and (mentor) Mondo.

I never really thought I could win the show, and maybe once I was up there at the end, I thought, ‘Oh my God, I might win,’ for like two seconds. But most of the time, my energy was on creating something beautiful.

Follow #DesigerSam on Twitter and Instagram.


Sam and his mentor, Mondo Guerra



Clean water for all 

Around the world, women and girls spend 200 million hours collecting water each day.  That’s enough time to build 28 Empire State Buildings.  Every day. 

The roughly 1 billion people living in slums around the world often pay 5-10 times more for water than those in the U.S. and other advanced economies.  And did you know that 3.5 million people die each year from water-related illness?  That’s more than four times the population of San Francisco.

From drought-stricken California to the developing countries where our clothes are made, water is absolutely critical to our daily lives and livelihoods.  That’s why Gap Inc. is doing more to help address some of these challenges.

Everyone deserves access to clean and safe water. So we are working to help ensure the women who work in the factories that make our clothes have the support they need to access healthy water sources. To achieve this goal, we plan to build on the foundation of the Gap Inc. P.A.C.E. program, which teaches women factory workers life and work skills, and has already helped more than 25,000 women across seven countries. Our efforts will help workers and their families live healthier, more productive lives.

Of course none of this matters much if the water isn’t available in the first place.

Environmental experts predict global demand for water could exceed supply by 40 percent within the next two decades.  Through partners like the Sustainable Apparel Coalition, we are also working with factories to reduce the amount of water they use to manufacture our products.  And through our Water Quality Program, the denim laundries that wash our jeans are treating the water they discharge to help protect the quality of water in those communities.

We’re exploring even more water conservation and management opportunities in the communities where we live and work. We look forward to sharing more as our programs continue to develop and expand.  Please let us know your thoughts in the comments below. 


ICYMI: Highlights from the @GapInc Investor Day

On April 16, we hosted our annual Investor Day, where Gap Inc. leaders outlined our advances in omni-channel retailing, global growth and supply chain. We live-tweeted the event, and in case you missed it, here's a recap.





Our mission comes to life

Every day, we’re taking more steps toward achieving our mission to be the world’s favorite for American style. Here’s a look at some of our latest global growth and omni-channel achievements.

This video was shown at our 2014 Investor Day. Learn more about the event.


Helping garment workers

By Sasha Radovich, Social & Environmental Responsibility

It had been four years since I last set foot in Dhaka. 

I used to fly to Bangladesh every few months in my former role, working alongside key organizations to improve business practices within the garment industry.   Today I’m doing the same kind of work as a Gap Inc. employee.  

I recently returned to participate in the first-ever fire and building safety expo in the country’s history.  I saw first-hand how Gap Inc.’s own fire and structural safety efforts are impacting every factory we work with in Bangladesh and it left me feeling hopeful like never before.

Everyone who has worked in Bangladesh knows that it is challenging. Despite the garment industry’s significant growth here, the government has made little investment in raising and enforcing factory standards.  Social unrest is common, particularly among factory workers. The impact of poverty on people’s health and lack of education is startling. And the complexities of doing business in a country that has frequent disruptions due to strikes and port closures is, to say the least, difficult.

Yet the livelihood of more than two million workers in Bangladesh, most of whom are women, depends on its garment industry. 

Gap Inc. launched its 4-point fire and building safety program in 2012. But we knew our impact needed to extend beyond the factories we worked with.  It’s why we played an integral role in founding the Alliance for Bangladesh Worker Safety following the 2013 Rana Plaza factory collapse. That tragedy underscored the need for all global retailers to take action to improve the lives of these workers; regardless of the fact that Gap Inc. did not make clothes there.  Along with the Alliance’s 25 North American apparel companies, we are working to implement new standards across the industry to build sustainable changes. 

Nearly every one of the factories we work with has made significant progress, including simple yet life-saving changes like adding hand-rails on staircases and fire detection systems. We’re also seeing bigger investments across the board, such as purchasing and importing fire safety doors and sprinkler systems. 

I’m optimistic that our efforts will have a long-lasting impact on garment workers here. And, I am proud to be a part of this progress.