SAN FRANCISCO, United States — In 1994, Old Navy opened its first store in the US. Today, the company operates over 1,100 stores worldwide, opening more than 70 company-owned stores across the US, Canada and Mexico last year alone. Earlier this year, Old Navy’s parent company Gap Inc. announced that it would spin out Old Navy following its consistently strong performance. In 2018, Old Navy generated $7.9 billion in revenue.
As the company embarks on its next chapter, Old Navy is more committed than ever to the philanthropic and socially conscious activities that have become a fundamental part of its identity both internally and externally. Through its cause platform ONward!, Old Navy partners with non-profits like Boys & Girls Clubs of America and programmes like This Way Ahead to empower the next generation with real-world skills, training and job opportunities to make a difference in its communities.
Old Navy has built a company culture oriented around giving back, cultivating creativity and inspiring personal and professional growth. Despite its size, the company is committed to empowering its workforce as individuals with unique creative talents. Now, BoF sits down with three employees to discuss how Old Navy has nurtured their development.
Mikey Ramiro — Senior Graphic Designer for Boys Apparel — joined Old Navy in 2012
“We celebrate big wins together and that culture makes you feel at home.”
How has the company nurtured your professional development?
When I was younger, I joined a breakdance crew and became really inspired by the graffiti at breakdance competitions. I was exposed to colour and content and amazing art, which led to me making graphics for our breakdance crew and later studying womenswear design. One of my first jobs out of college was the menswear design intern at Old Navy.
A couple months into the job, the brand’s senior graphic designer found my portfolio, saw potential in me and took me under his wing. He mentored me and taught me how to make my first apparel graphic. Seven years later, I’m now the senior graphic designer for the boy’s division and I’m responsible for all the art that comes out of the graphic teams and the fleece categories.
I’ve learned so much from my managers — from making graphics to learning the business. I always want to keep growing and learning in my career, and Old Navy supports that. They put on art classes in the office so we can keep learning and expanding our drawing techniques, which is pretty amazing that we have the ability to do so. We get to travel for inspiration trips as well.
How are you empowered to be autonomous in your work?
My managers have always been open to my creative freedom and not micromanaged. It is such an empowering feeling that they trust me on that level. It really feels like a family. We celebrate big wins together and that culture makes you feel at home. I’m passing that down to my team as well, which allows amazing conversations to happen and great graphics to be created — the vibe that comes from it is incredible.
How do you develop others?
I always try to see potential in new recruits. My company has invested in places like the Creative Academy, which is a programme where we recruit new creatives. A lot of these illustrators don’t have backgrounds in apparel graphics but when you see their ability to draw and passion to create amazing things — if they can do that, they can really expand here on the technical side of making graphics.
How has Old Navy evolved during your time at the company?
The conversations we’ve had around sustainability have inspired me to be more sustainable in my day-to-day. Having our leaders talk about it and having these conversations with my peers in the building and during our design process — I’ve seen a real change.
By 2022, Old Navy aims to source 100 percent of our cotton sustainably and 100 percent of our denim will be made with water-saving techniques. Our philosophy is that everyone has the power to make a difference, which also focuses on future generations.
Erin Bailey — Senior Manager, Digital Engagement — joined Old Navy in 2014
“I’ve been able to take on a lot more than I thought possible.”
How does the company culture impact your career at Old Navy?
It goes back to our brand values. We stand for fashion, fun and family, and I feel like everyone in this building works incredibly hard. Everyone has a very level head, knowing that we’re here to do the best we can, to deliver the best marketing or creative, but everyone also has a life outside of this and I feel like they honour that. In a creative environment, you need the space to clear your head and talk to people outside of this building to help inspire you.
My role in social is that magic mix of the left and the right brain — analysing the data and drawing connections to what’s going on but marrying it with the creative so we can make informed decisions. That is a part of my job that I love and I would never want to be solely focused on data or creative ideation.
How has your career evolved at Old Navy?
I’ve been at Gap Inc since 2011. I actually started at Piperlime, which was a small retail brand owned by Gap Inc. It was such a wonderful experience, I got to do all sorts of marketing, PR, working with influencers and celebrities. It was like a marketing bootcamp 101. I moved over to Old Navy in 2014 to focus on brand partnerships and influencer marketing. Then, as social media started to gain momentum, I moved over to the social side and I’m now on the brand engagement team. I have the same manager since when I started, which has been incredible.
What they do best is foster my own passions. My role is always evolving and Old Navy has been super supportive in me wanting to take on more. I’ve been able to take on a lot more than I thought possible. The brand provides a lot of training and I have a team that’s showed me how to take on more and to do it successfully.
How would you describe the leadership culture at Old Navy?
We have an incredibly transparent leadership team and I have a clear understanding of how my role directly ties to our goals of the business. If we’re working on something that is not a part of our goals, we’re encouraged to ask why or raise our hand because we want to be efficient with our time and stay focused. That’s created an honest culture.
How do teams and individuals interact at Old Navy?
We have a collaborative culture. It has to be, especially in my role as so much of the social content storytelling is tied to creative, to media, so we are lockstep with them. All day every day, we’re collaborating with cross-functional teams and using their expertise to do the best marketing we can. Every project and initiative is different and it requires different players internally and externally. That’s what’s kept us on our toes in a good way.
Sam Enz — Director of Creative at Old Navy — joined Old Navy in 2018
“They were really interested in new ways of thinking and what I had to bring to the table to reach our goals."
What is it like to live and work in San Francisco?
San Francisco has a history of doing things differently. That still exists as an everyday part of life here — and is also a part of Old Navy’s culture. We have a cause platform here called ONward! that focuses on how we can give back to our communities and support non-profits like Boys & Girls Clubs. That is just one of the ways that we’re directly affecting the next generation. It doesn’t have to be just people within our walls or on our block — it’s the community at large that we like to support. It’s great to be a part of a large company that has a soul and it’s expressed in a philanthropic way to the community.
How did your career trajectory lead you to Old Navy?
I spent 5 and a half years at Target, then explored agency life for a while with clients like Converse and Harley Davidson. I returned to Target for another 5 and half years, working on their style divisions as a creative director. But I got the itch to move to New York and ended up working at Pepsi in their design and innovation centre. I bumped into a recruiter at Old Navy and as I started to talk to the team here and understand what they do and how they do it, I couldn’t resist. I couldn’t say no. I moved about a year ago.
What was it that you couldn’t resist?
It was the people. They were really interested in new ways of thinking and what I had to bring to the table to reach our goals. They were interested in how I was going to approach the work. It wasn’t, “Hey, come in here and just conform to how we’re doing things.” Instead, it was making sure that I had a clear understanding philosophically of where we want the brand to go and understanding our business objectives. Then, I act as a brand guardian as I filter that into understanding how that philosophical direction translates into creative solutions and concepts.
How do you empower your team to have the same level of trust and autonomy?
For me, mentorship is a really big deal. It’s important for me to be in a position where I can mentor but also be mentored. I’ve had a lot of great leaders in the past and I’ve had some challenging leaders in the past — I’ve learned a lot from all of them. It’s about taking those lessons and applying them to how I act around my team.
I’ve always thought the best way to mentor is through action rather than words, so I try to be the best role model I can and empower them to know that they’re capable of making their own decisions. If they’re stuck, I’m there and always available for them, but I also make sure they know they have the power to make decisions and that taking a risk is a good thing. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose, but you learn a lot from taking a risk. That’s the philosophy I like to impart on my team.
This is a sponsored feature paid for by Old Navy as part of a BoF Careers partnership. To explore careers at Old Navy, please click here.