Don’t wash your jeans often: Gap’s design director shares the secret to making denims last longer

Crystal Henricksen, Senior Director of Denim Design for Gap Speciality, talks about fashion trends, sustainability, and taking care of denims. She also takes us through the brand’s plan for the Indian market.

Don’t wash your jeans often: Gap’s design director shares the secret to making denims last longer

Saturday March 04, 2023,

6 min Read

Millennials in India who grew up watching Shah Rukh Khan’s movies will remember the iconic orange Gap hoodie which the actor sported in the film Kuch Kuch Hota Hai. A connection was made instantly with the brand from the West. And it has stuck ever since. 

Recently, through a partnership with Reliance Retail, Gap Inc entered the Indian market with its first store at Infiniti Mall, Malad, in Mumbai. The mid-premium American apparel brand unveiled its elevated basics, denims, multi-functional and versatile wear, and the Gap Icons collection (a line of essential classics designed to dress generations of culture shapers) at the store. 

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The Gap store in Mumbai's Infinity Mall

Earlier last year, Reliance Retail had entered into a partnership with Gap to bring the brand to India. So far, Gap was available in the country only through shop-in-shops, besides Ajio, Reliance Retail’s fashion ecommerce platform. 

The brand now plans to launch several free-standing stores in the country in the next one year.

Crystal Henricksen, Senior Director of Denim Design for Gap Speciality, who has been associated with the brand for 13 years, talks to YS Life about Gap’s plans for India, fashion trends, and sustainability. She also shares the secret to making jeans last longer!  

Edited excerpts from an email interview with Henricksen: 

YS Life (YSL): What made Gap expand its retail business in India at a time when the country seems obsessed with homegrown brands? 

Crystal Henricksen (CH): Gap has always had a loyal customer base in India. We believe that customers will be excited to re-engage with the brand through stronger products with better pricing. 

Gap India reintroduces cool, casual, comfortable and breathable classics and offers a wide array of wardrobe staples including 10 denim fits like the 90s loose, high-rise 70s flare, barrel and high-rise stride, alongside quintessential skinny, straight and vintage slim. Our brand is not just a trendsetter, but also a trend forecaster for the years to come.

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YSL: How do you plan to expand in India? 

CH: For now, we are focused on opening freestanding stores in key locations to offer our full assortment of iconic products to customers, increasing the overall accessibility of the brand in the market, and allowing customers to really engage with our products in-person. 

YSL: Are you launching any special collection for Indian buyers? 

CH: Gap is coming to India with a robust offering for the family across Gap Adult, Gap Kids and Gap Baby. In addition to Gap Icons, Gap’s Spring 2023 collection features Modern Bloom—replete with playful colours and prints, Icons Reinvented—classics from Gap with an eclectic twist, and All Things Denim—versatile styles crafted in denim for men, women and kids. 

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YSL: The Indian body type is very different from that of the West. And there has been several conversations around Western brands not being able to cater to the Indian buyer. Are you doing anything at Gap to fix that? 

CH: Our elevated basics across categories offer something for everyone and we’re looking forward to catering to the very diverse Indian audience. Whether it’s Gen Z who loves logos and throwbacks to Y2K (late 90s to early-mid 2000s) fashion, millennials who prefer casual basics and iconic silhouettes, or families looking for one destination to shop for the entire family, Gap is for everyone and we are excited to see how people in India style Gap Icons to best fit their lifestyle.

YSL: Could you share details of the design aesthetics at Gap? 

CH: Gap has been highlighting its icons that have defined the standards since 1969–designed to dress generations of culture. We love to go into our archives for inspiration. The idea of evolving Gap’s essential icons and making them new again with responsibly-made fabrics and fresh proportions is our superpower. 

We also listen to customer feedback. At the core (of design ethics), we have versatility and functionality.  Our customers want to wear Gap Icons their own way and embrace their individuality.

YSL: In fashion, the old is returning in a new avatar. Boot cuts and wide-leg pants are coming back, and many are shying away from skinny fits. What do you have to say about this trend? 

CH: Well, that’s what is fun about clothes and style trends, it’s cyclical. 

People like to experiment with their style, try new things, and find what feels best to them on any given day. It’s never going to be one style fits all; so skinny jeans and wide legs can both exist at the same time for different types of people. 

However, there is certainly a shift to more wide-leg and loose-fit jeans. The 90s style is back in a big way, and we are going to continue to see styles reinvented from that decade as well from the 2000s. People are really interested in pieces that offer versatility for their lives–dress up or dress down, wear to work, wear to play. 

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YSL: What are the steps adopted by Gap to ensure you move towards becoming a sustainable brand? 

CH: Our purpose is to create change that is sustainable, to enrich communities, and to be better for this generation and the next. We make every effort to make responsible decisions throughout our design process including using better materials, creating less waste, using less water, and empowering the women who produce our clothes.

One of our main programmes, Washwell, helps achieve at least 20% water savings, compared to conventional wash methods. By 2025, we wish to make 100% of our denim and woven bottoms using the Washwell technique. 

Additionally, we use responsible trims and have converted key products across the family to organic cotton or PCW (post-consumer waste) cotton.

YSL: Tell us about the key trends that will dominate the fashion industry. 

CH: This season we’re seeing the resurgence of Y2K and preppy fashion. It’s back and is bigger than ever. 

Driven by the height of the pop culture scene, today’s Y2K comeback isn’t only about celebrating nostalgia, but also leaving enough room to explore and express yourself through a variety of colours, rises, fabrics, and leg shapes.

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YSL: How often should one wash their denims to make them last longer? 

CH: Denim should only be washed when absolutely needed. 

Some may say to never wash your jeans, but at least waiting through a minimum of five to seven wears will help your jeans last much longer. Additionally, reducing how often you wash your jeans is a more responsible choice for the environment. The colour will remain darker and purer over time as well. 

When you do wash your jeans, turn them inside out, use delicate detergents, the delicate wash cycle, or just soak them and line dry. Keep them out of the sun to reduce fading.

Edited by Swetha Kannan