Banana Republic is repositioning itself


Banana Republic incorporates trends and styles from the past to create “a new genre”, starting this fall.

It’s at the heart of how the 43-year-old Banana Republic, which has long struggled to lose market share and relevance, is repositioning itself, modernizing itself and aiming for a better future. The fall 2021 campaign, on the theme “The New Look”, starts today.

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“We are reinventing every detail of the customer experience in the form of democratic, accessible and inclusive luxury,” said Sandra Stangl, president and CEO of the Banana Republic division of Gap Inc., in a statement.

“From immersive product stories seen in-store and on digital platforms to the up-to-date quality of product designs and fabrics, customers will see high experiences and detail at all touchpoints. “

In an interview last week, Ana Andjelic, Banana Brand Manager, explained that the essence of the new banana “is really the essence of the old. We are modernizing it in a way that combines three particular influences. We mixed the iconic American look, the imaginary of San Francisco and the late 90s. Just as punk and yuppie defined a decade, and grunge and metrosexual clashed in the same streets, The New Look scrambles dress codes. Call it post-genre fashion. Or call it utterly post-fashion.

Offering more details on Banana’s new fashion formula, she cited elements that include design influences from Bonnie Cashin and Claire McCardell who set style standards for America in the 50s and 60s with functionality. , the dividers and layering, and the materials that drape and allow movement as women begin to take on new roles in society.

The second source of inspiration is the “creative spirit” of San Francisco, home of the founders of Banana Republic, Mel and Patricia Ziegler. They developed the famous “safari look” using recycled military clothing that catapulted Banana into the 80s and 90s. The Zieglers originally called their business Banana Republic Travel & Safari Clothing Company.

Third, Banana’s blends in with the spirit of the late ’90s, a metrosexual look revolving around suits and skirts for a more work-friendly approach.

“By combining all of these three influences, you get the new look of Banana Republic,” said Andjelic. “There is a blur of the distinctions between luxury, street, evening and casual, obviously with a very clear point of view.”

“The New Look is less a question of style than of life,” added Andjelic. “The key words are utilitarian chic and modern casualwear. It’s safari meets tuxedo, evening wear meets casual wear, menswear meets womenswear, vintage meets couture, functionality meets imagination.

Andjelic said the repositioning was a work in progress, although from the start of the campaign several ‘hero’ looks – suede trench coat, suede trench coat, cargo pants, leather jacket, safari pants and white shirts – be in the foreground.

“The value of having a casual mix that can be dressed up, or something dressy that can be worn casual. This is the heart of the BR look, ”she said.

What is being shown for the first time this week “is not subtle,” she said. “It’s an unveiling for sure, but stay tuned for what we’re coming up with” in the near future.

Banana classics, i.e. cashmere, wool sweaters and chinos, are not abandoned, as the hope is to retain historical customers while attracting new ones. “We keep as many doors open as possible for the brand,” said Andjelic.

The banana has sometimes been quite promotional, sometimes even distributing discount coupons at the entrance of stores. The posture is changing, Andjelic suggested. “Our goal is to convey excellent value for money and to focus on building brand equity and protecting full prices. We are playing in the space of modern luxury, but it is also about the availability of buildings. We are a modern, democratic and inclusive luxury. Inclusiveness, she added, extends to age, gender, race and height.

The campaign emphasizes leather and suede, reworked in the form of BR’s familiar photojournalist vests and cargo pants, as well as “modernized” leather suits, suede shorts and separate blazers. The materials Banana has long been known for are back: soft sheep’s wool, feather-light Italian merino wool, silk and cashmere. Besides men’s and women’s clothing, Banana offers eyewear, jewelry, shoes, handbags and perfumes.

To continue the repositioning, the brand introduces on September 28 an “Imaginary Worlds” theme reflecting Banana Republic as it was originally conceived – a fictional, distant and unknown place to explore. The Banana Republic team sees this premise as “a stepping stone to redefine fashion, design, activism, sustainability and creativity”. The New Look and Imagined Worlds campaigns will be broadcast on digital, social and media channels.

Banana has reduced its fleet of stores. In 2020, it was revealed that 130 units will close by early 2024, but executives said last week that they are also modernizing stores, “thinking holistically” to improve customer experience, services hospitality and style to store design and merchandising.

Banana has what CEO Stangl called, “a very clear vision of what this iconic American company can be and what we need to do in terms of product quality and design, packaging and service, our experiences. digital and experiences in our stores, to bring that vision to life. This fall is just the beginning for Banana Republic. It has the potential to be an eternal brand, always relevant, always current, never not modern. “

Banana’s repositioning efforts are hardly surprising given that the team at the top are new and were created on purpose to reinvigorate a brand stuck with a staid image. Stangl, who was hired in November 2020, previously co-founded MINE, a pure-play home business. Previously, she was an executive at Williams Sonoma for 23 years and president of merchandising and business development for Restoration Hardware.

In February 2021, Stangl brought in Andjelic, who had previously worked at Mansur Gavriel and Rebecca Minkoff. The designers work under his supervision.

Sales at Banana Republic continued to decline, and the most recent quarter fell 15% from 2019, with permanent store closings contributing about 10% of that sales decline, and international closures related to COVID-19 resulting in 1% of that drop in two months. annual basis. Nonetheless, Sonia Syngal, CEO of Gap Inc., said she was “pleased with the creative progress and quarter-to-quarter momentum.”

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