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Do Fashion and Politics Mix? Gap’s Bipartisan Blunder Says Maybe Not

Fashion players seldom weigh in on political issues. And when they do, the risk rarely pays off.

Embattled basics brand Gap learned that lesson the hard way just days ago after an ill-advised social media missive on Wednesday morning, following a tense Election Day that left many Americans feeling uncertain and adrift.

The San Francisco-based apparel giant tweeted a photo of a hybridized red and blue hoodie featuring its signature logo, accompanied by the message, “The one thing we know, is that together, we can move forward.” Followed by corresponding red and blue heart emojis, the sugary sweet sentiment landed with a thud.

Twitter users came out en masse to ridicule Gap’s efforts to mend the nation’s ever-widening ideological gap (pun intended) with what they branded a marketing ploy. After one of the most harrowing years in U.S. history—and arguably, one of the most contentious election cycles on record—wading into the fray with a nebulous platitude seemed particularly tone deaf.

Twitter user @itsalexberg summed up the internet’s reaction with the simple tweet, “@Gap wow, thank you for solving our country’s political crisis with this sweatshirt. courageous.” Model and cookbook author Chrissy Teigen joked, “yay, we can just walk sideways depending on the city we’re in.”

Within less than two hours, Gap deleted the tweet from its feed, but its indelible imprint on the internet remained. “The intention of our social media post, that featured a red and blue hoodie, was to show the power of unity,” the company said in a statement obtained by the New York Times.

“It was just too soon for this message,” Gap added. “We remain optimistic that our country will come together to drive positive change for all.”

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Gap has also managed to wade, perhaps unknowingly, into turbulent waters with its recent partnership with presidential also-ran and cultural iconoclast Kanye West. The struggling all-American mall brand found itself need of invigoration amid multiple seasons of flagging sales and shuttered stores, and no star burns brighter than an artist who often compares himself to Jesus or Steve Jobs.

But it may have bitten off more than it could chew with the Yeezy creative director, who has railed against the normcore label as well as footwear partner Adidas in recent months for not offering him a seat on their boards.

West’s all-caps threats to leave labels high and dry have a real ability to spook shareholders, as evidenced by Gap’s six-percentage-point stock dip in July following the mogul and maverick’s inaugural campaign rally, where he told onlookers he was prepared to “walk away” unless the brand acquiesced to his demands. He doubled down on the threat with a tweet two months later.

What’s more, as a de facto Gap spokesperson with a decade-long contract with the brand, West’s words—not just as a public figure, but as a political one—carry weight. And while the artist launched his presidential bid a month after signing with the brand, his outspoken stance on myriad issues has already demonstrated the ability to polarize.

The current cultural landscape has provided nothing but rough terrain for brands to navigate, to be sure. Amazon recently released plans to double Black leaders throughout the company at the director level and above, and to do so again in 2021. Special programs for developing minority employees have been given hefty infusions of cash, while the company has also pledged to remove non-inclusive language, like the words “master” and “slave” from its software and documentation internally.

But despite its progressive internal stance, the massive marketplace has little control over the products that its shoppers prefer, or the ones that its network of third-party sellers chooses to offer. And according to new insights from Helium 10, a data firm that deals in data from Amazon sellers, President Donald Trump merch is winning out over former Vice President Joe Biden swag on the platform.

Numbers reviewed by Fox Business showed more than two million Trump-related product searches over the past 30 days, compared with about 800,000 searches for products related to his democratic challenger. Trump is besting Biden in estimated search volume, with 322,191 searches for the keyword “Trump”—a massive lead over the 40,204 searches for the keyword “Biden.”

The top three Trump-related product searches over the past month were “Trump hat,” with 126,018 searches, “Trump shirt,” with 116,191 searches, and “Trump 2020,” with 104,474 searches. Biden fans, on the other hand, gravitated toward a slightly different subset of items. “Biden Harris 2020 yard sign” generated 67,845 searches, while “Biden Harris Shirt” saw 36,444 searches and “Biden Harris Flag” inspired 30,786 searches.

But the president’s lead on Amazon hadn’t not translated to the polls, where both the popular and Electoral College vote ultimately clinched a contentious White House race for Biden.