When Stefan Larsson, H&M's former global sales chief, left the fast fashion chain to take over Old Navy, he was tasked with turning around the tired, generic-looking brand. In his first interview since taking the position in 2012, Larrson revealed to the New York Times how his approach to the brand is paying off.
Notably, Larsson built a team of executives at Old Navy who had previously worked at higher-end brands and were focused on a design-driven aesthetic. Instead of focusing on basic staples, Old Navy has tried to go more trendy by revamping the design process. Jill Stanton, the former head of apparel at Nike, shortened up Old Navy's design and manufacturing process, and started testing out more fashion-forward looks in smaller batches to see if they would sell well. The new approach is working for the brand—even though Gap Inc. reported lower sales this year, Old Navy generated almost the same amount of sales as Gap and Banana Republic combined.
Larsson is confident that the new, design-driven approach is a better route for Old Navy. "If you were at Apple, nobody would say, ‘Let's relaunch the iPhone 6.' People would laugh, and say that's crazy. But that's what happens in the fashion industry," Larsson told NYT reporter Hiroko Tabuchi. "If you keep competing with generic products, and a higher and higher discount, you're going to lose. If Apple doesn't continuously refresh its products and make them current, they're dead. And that would happen here as well."