Whatever you do, mind the Gap

An exciting series of designer collaborations looks set to put the high-street giant back on the menswear map, says Lee Holmes

Designer collaborations with high-street labels are nothing new – the womenswear market has plenty of them in recent years. But it's slightly different with menswear ranges, which are often not seen to have the same pulling power as their female counterparts.

Fortunately, this autumn, retail giant Gap has joined forces with American GQ in the magazine's search for the weighty title of Best New Menswear Designer in America. Each finalist has been asked to design pieces for the brand and, luckily for us, their take on American wardrobe staples have been shipped over the pond and will be available at selected Gap stores across the UK.

BLK DNM is, as the name hints, focused primarily on black denim. Designed by Johan Lindeberg, the man behind J Lindeberg, colours are muted, if not studiously ignored in the range of biker-inspired basics.

But if colour is your thing then look to Saturdays NYC, whose cornflower-blue chinos will set your pulse racing. This is perhaps the collection that mostly resembles Gap's own aesthetic and will appeal to its core customer: think Montauk surfer dude with a preppy twist.

Fashion leader Mark McNairy, who already has something of a cult following here thanks to his shoe line, has given classic white boxer shorts a new lease of life with a naive daisy print, while Todd Snyder – formerly of J Crew – brings European edge to his take on American classics. These will translate well over here.

All of this means that the collaboration with Gap is a very good thing. First off, the exposure these American designers get in the British market is invaluable for them. And secondly, projects like this allow customers to buy into the aesthetic of a designer without blowing their bank balance.

But perhaps most importantly, this partnership helps put Gap back on the map – after all, of late its menswear seems to have lost focus. Now, with basic staples given the kudos of a designer makeover, the brand is once again a go-to destination for clothing connoisseurs.