Last week, former Gap creative director Patrick Robinson announced that he was starting a new label. On Thursday, he was named the creative director of A/X Armani Exchange. He talks to Misty White Sidell about his new moves.
In 2011, Patrick Robinson, was suddenly let go as creative director of Gap after four years with the company. Since then, he's been lying low. But last week, news broke that Robinson is starting a new line called Paskho, a luxury sportswear brand that brings the consumer into the design process. Surprisingly, Robinson is raising money to fund the project on Kickstarter. Trumping expectations, Paskho (which derives its name from the ancient Greek word for ‘passion’) has already garnered $41,753 through 207 donors in a single week, nearly reaching its goal of $50,000—and there’s still 20 days of crowd sourcing left to go.
At the time of the launch, Robinson seemed singularly devoted to the concept of launching a new label. He told The New York Times that his experiences at Gap had helped him “learn a lot about running a big business,” but that he was now channeling his focus towards building a new brand.
So it came as a surprise when A/X Armani Exchange named Robinson as their creative director on Thursday afternoon, marking another major appointment in Robinson’s career (aside from Gap, he’s also served in lead roles at Anne Klein and Paco Rabanne).
“It wasn’t planned, it happened very quickly,” Robinson told The Daily Beast of his new appointment on Thursday. He was reluctant to share details of his new job, explaining: “I need to get in there and meet with the team and be a part of the brand before I really talk about it.”
I knew I needed to find out a way to have a dialogue with the consumer. It’s not me just making a bunch of clothes and pushing it out there.
Robinson does not see his new gig as a way to sideline his Paskho project, but rather as an opportunity to for it to flourish. “I think you have seen this before in the world where designers do two [labels] so they can support their passion in the world which is their brand," he says. "I’m giving Paskho everything that I can…It needs very thoughtful growth and this allows me to do that financially, and as a smart designer.”
After leaving Gap in 2011, Robinson took nearly a two-year hiatus from the industry to rediscover his passion for design. It was then that he formulated the basis for Paskho. “If you had asked me five years ago, I might have done it differently,” he says. “But the way the world is today, I knew I needed to find out a way to have a dialogue with the consumer. It’s not me just making a bunch of clothes and pushing it out there.”
In fact, Robinson has pledged that he is “not going to be a designer that just manages people again.” He’s looking for a hands-on experience that directly links him with a wide spectrum of consumers. His job at Gap had Robinson delegating designs rather than executing a sort of scratch-to-finish mentality. But Pashko's model works in opposition of corporate retail practice, where designs are pushed out on to the consumer to fare as they may. If shoppers don’t like something, items will typically end up on sale and are considered a financial loss.
Robinson's line, which offers sleek gear for urban athletes (cashmere-blend henleys, fluid pants, bomber jackets), is structured so that he only produces an item when it’s received a standardized level of satisfactory consumer response--the end goal being for an item to sell out.
If Paskho reaches its $50,000 mark on Kickstarter, Robinson will launch an e-commerce website. He’s taking care to make sure there is a “space where you can talk back and forth with me about the designs,” on each product’s individual landing page. He is also exploring the option of phone applications and further innovative tools.
It makes sense in today’s tech-y climate, where fashion enthusiasts share their daily outfits on Instagram – and trends often originate from the streets. It was only a matter of time before designers shifted to accommodate the modern affinity for discussion.
Today, Robinson finds himself spending a good portion of time responding to consumers’ email suggestions and monitoring online response, exerting a personalized approach that’s rare within the industry. “I’m basically living at my laptop, it’s my best friend,” he says. It’s not the way he grew up as a designer, but he enjoys the change. “I feel naked, you really have to bare yourself if you are doing what I’m doing—it’s almost like a social collaboration.”
His excitement for the project exudes an almost childlike wonder. “This is the new way,” he says. “This is the future and I want to be a part of it.”