Bay, who developed and launched the COS brand at the Swedish fast-fashion retail chain H&M, will be responsible for products sold online and in the nearly 1,600 stores in 42 countries in which Gap's namesake brand operates, according to a statement issued Monday.
She fills the spot vacated by Patrick Robinson who was ousted in May 2011. He had been design director for the Gap chain.
Bay will report to Gap North America president Art Peck and Gap International President Stephen Sunnucks. "We've taken the time to identify the right creative leader for Gap and we've found that in Rebekka," said Sunnucks in a statement. "We're confident that Rebekka's approach to design, along with her considerable international experience, will allow her to help us build upon the momentum we're delivering in the business today."
Gap Inc. also operates stores under Old Navy, Banana Republic as well as under Piperlime.
Bay conceptualized, developed and launched the COS brand for Hennes & Mauritz —H&M— starting in 2006. The COS brand is now successful across Europe, Asia, and the Middle East. Since 2011, Bay served as creative director at Bruuns Bazaar, overseeing the designer of women's and men's apparel.
Bay is signing up with Gap at a time when the clothing chain is showing evidence of a turnaround. It reported in mid-August a 29 per cent increase in second-quarter net income, as the fashion retailer's moves to liven up its clothing with brightly colored trendy looks are winning over shoppers.
Gap also raised its full-year profit guidance for the second time since May.
At her new job at Gap, Bay will be based in New York, managing design teams there and at the 1969 Gap jeans brand office in Los Angeles and will work closely with Pam Wallack, who leads the Gap Global Creative Center. Tracy Gardner will continue in her role as Creative Adviser to Gap.
Bay is one of several key appointments that Gap Inc. has been making to fortify its business.
Last week, the company said that Michael Francis, the former J.C. Penney president and chief marketing officer at Target Corp., will become the company's marketing creative adviser starting Monday. He is expected to provide guidance to the company's marketing teams across the company.
Francis will be spending two weeks a month at Gap's San Francisco offices, working closely with CEO and Chairman Glenn Murphy and the company's brand leaders.
In April, the company named Stef Larsson, former head of global sales for H&M, as president of the Old Navy brand. He'll start by the end of October, replacing Tom Wyatt, who resigned in February.
In February 2011, a management shake-up ended with a new president for the Gap brand, and in May 2011 Robinson was fired, as his designs were not catching on shoppers, with some exceptions. Gap also established a Global Creative Center and consolidated its marketing in New York.
Shares of Gap Inc. gained 19 cents to $35.39 in afternoon trading. The stock has traded between $15.64 and $36.60 in the past 52 weeks.