- Gap launched its new menswear athletic brand, Hill City, in October.
- Described as stylish high-performance wear, Hill City’s clothing ranges from water-repellant everyday pants that cost $US128 to insulated puffer jackets for $US168.
- Noah Palmer, who heads up the brand, explained in an interview with Business Insider how Hill City is primed to capitalise on the continued boom in athletic wear, outdoorsy clothing, and more recently, men taking more of an interest in shopping.
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Gap is channeling a trendy, Scandinavian minimalist aesthetic in its new menswear brand.
Launched in October, Hill City promises to offer a mix of stylish high-performance wear for men. With an average price point that sits at around $US80, the clothing ranges from water-repellant chinos for $US128 to insulated puffer jackets for $US168. It is unlike anything consumers have seen from the company before.
This brand seems to perfectly encapsulate the intentions of Gap and its newly formed company, currently known as NewCo, which comprises its higher-priced, more sustainability-focused brands: Gap, Banana Republic, Intermix, Athleta, and, most recently, Hill City.
Meanwhile, its lower-cost brand, Old Navy, is going out on its own to appeal to a different set of customers.
Hill City is a more minimalist and trendy look from Gap
Noah Palmer, formerly head of men’s merchandising at Old Navy and currently the head of Hill City, told Businsess Insider that the new brand’s unique selling point lies in its ability to offer high-performance clothing that looks good, in the spirit of its tagline: “Men’s clothes that get you through all the activities of your day without having to change clothes.”
“There are a bunch of brands that are doing sport or high-performance really well, but, as a customer, I don’t think they look very cool,” he said. “The fabrics are really techy, slinky, and noisy.”
Outdoorsy brands have experienced a boom in recent years, and today, you’re as likely to see North Face’s extreme winter jackets or a Patagonia fleece gracing the streets of New York City as you are to find them on the backs of an explorer on the side of a mountain.
A spokesperson for Patagonia recently told Business Insider that sales have quadrupled in the past 10 years, but wouldn’t divulge exact figures because it’s a private company. According to The Guardian, the company had an estimated $US800 million in sales in 2016, which was twice as much as in 2010.
Similarly, The North Face, which is owned by VF Corp., parent company of Lee, Wrangler, and Vans, has seen growth in recent years as it has transitioned from being seen a purely practical brand to one that makes a fashion statement.
As it reported in its most recent earnings results, The North Face’s US revenue grew by 15% for the quarter and by 8% for the first nine months of 2018 on a constant-currency basis.
Palmer said that Hill City is bridging the gap between these high-performance brands that have been seen as more fashionable in recent years with more lifestyle-focused clothing.
He said that more lifestyle-focused competitors are lacking some of the technical elements in the clothing that Hill City provides. Take its chinos, for example, which look stylish enough to be worn for work but are completely water-repellant, or its bomber jackets that have lightweight and breathable insulation that promises to regulate body temperature whatever the weather.
But Hill City is entering the market at a time when athleisure powerhouse Lululemon is doubling down on its menswear offering.Recently, the company announced strong fourth-quarter and full-year sales results that sent its share price soaring and confirmed that it is on track to grow its newly formed menswear category into a $US1 billion business by 2020.
“Men’s is one of our largest and most exciting areas of future growth,” Lululemon CEO Calvin McDonald told investors in March.
Palmer doesn’t seem to be too fazed by this.
“There is a rising tide when you think about menswear, and everyone has a little bit of a different vantage point on it,” he said.
“From the beginning, we have seen our role in the market is pulling those two opposite ends in the spectrum [lifestyle and performance wear] closer together.”
While Gap does not divulge the financials of its smaller brands, group CEO Art Peck said in a recent earnings call that feedback for Hill City has been positive so far and that the company has been able to take advantage of the millions of customers that come to Gap’s main e-commerce platform to bring new eyes to the brand.
Menswear is the new womenswear
Palmer is perhaps most excited by a shift toward men generally spending more on clothes.
“Men are caring increasingly more about what they wear and what it says about them. They are willing to spend more of their disposable income on apparel,” he said.
Business-intelligence firm Gartner L2 estimated that in just two years, revenue growth of men’s clothing will surpass that of women’s clothing. This data is backed up by Euromonitor International, which estimated that men’s lines will outperform women’s over the next six years.
“Fashion has always been about women,” Lizzy Bowring, catwalk director at trend-forecasting agency WSGN, recently told Business Insider. “But men are finally having their time.”
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