In the late '90s, stores like Old Navy were mobbed by throngs of the old and young. But that was when visor-wearing twentysomethings still had strands of puka shells permanently knotted around their necks.
Oh, you remember those dudes. The sensitive college-frat guys. The ones who listen(ed) to Ben Folds. And love(d) the Dave Matthews Band. The ones who wore the checkered flannel button-ups under their sweat shirts from their university of choice. Those were the kind of guys (and the girls who dated them) who enjoyed shopping at Old Navy.
But that was also when Old Navy could get away with TV spots spoofing Family Feud while simultaneously slinging really bad fleece zip-ups for the entire family and convince America they needed a Performance Fleece vest in powder blue.
Times have changed. And thankfully, so have commercials.
The other day, a new kind of Old Navy advert came on television. A cute white girl in minimally decorated white loft space with perfectly fringed haircut tries on various outfits: cropped jackets, pencil skirts, rompers, safari-themed shirt dresses. She runs around snapping photos of herself with an old Leica while "February Air" by Lights plays overhead—which sort of has that whimsical, Feist-y, airy sound people are fawning over right now. You know: adult contemporary by a hipster.
Which kind of encapsulates Old Navy's new mantra with their Urban Explorer line.
The whole thing looked more like an Urban Outfitters ad, just grown up a bit. It was enough to pique my interest, enough for me to trudge out of my way to my local Old Navy.
Verdict? Not bad. While I walked right past the flimsy-looking shorts and cropped jacket sets and wrinkly rompers, it was the dresses that caught my attention the most. There were simple sleeveless linen shifts available in both solid colors and a green-and-earth-tone leopard pattern that could easily replace your favorite LBD for the summer. But my favorite was the printed belt dress in a red-and-black leopard print, pictured here. It'd work on any Urban Outfitters-loving gal with an Old Navy budget.
It's all part of new creative director Todd Oldham's vision for the line. You know Oldham for his vibrant, quirky designs, or maybe even from his days hosting MTV's House of Style. Oldham then moved on to working with such big names as Vera Wang and Isaac Mizrahi.
Gap Inc., Old Navy's parent, has been suffering from slumping sales for some years now, and Oldham's updated intuition seems to be a step in the right direction. Old Navy might one day even be able to compete with the H&Ms, Forever 21s and Zaras of the cheapo fashion world. Move fast, though: The Urban Explorer line is quickly on its way out of stores and will soon be replaced by their colorful Palm Beach collection, full of patterned shorts, full-length printed sundresses and T-strap footwear.
Still can't envision yourself shopping at Old Navy? Be grateful, anyway—you'll probably never have to see another commercial with Morgan Fairchild and that dog ever again.