What began in 1978 as a quirky safari-themed store by Mel and Patricia Ziegler who loved traveling and collecting unique products for retail.. was acquired by Gap Inc. in 1983 and transformed into a modern luxury retailer. Lately, the fashion brand has been re-envisioned with editorial campaigns that evoke luxury. The hand-drawn catalogue, the travelogues and the quirky tourist-oriented items have been phased out… today it is a global lifestyle luxury brand. However, the design team continues to mine the brand’s rich heritage as a travel brand to create a distinctive look that is rich in texture and style.
Banana Republic has an interesting history. The brand was founded in 1978 by Mel and Patricia Ziegler, who were renowned for acquiring interesting clothing during opportunities provided by their travel-related job at the San Francisco Chronicle. The couple enjoyed traveling and buying interesting clothing in little shops which led to opening a retail store in Mill Valley– Northern California. Shortly they were acclaimed for a hand-drawn catalogue of beautiful illustrations of the clothing alongside fictional travelogues in their safari-themed retail locations.
It is an inspiring entrepreneurial story where the couple pooled their savings of fifteen hundred dollars as investment to launch fashion brand: Banana Republic. The duo did everything themselves from writing the catalog and drawing illustrations to stapling it on their kitchen table. Together, they looked after marketing, accounting, editing the catalogue, designing, tailoring and managing the store.
Shortly, they hired creative employees, and as the premier travel and safari wear store from 1978-1983, the brand became a forerunner in specialty fashion. Shopping at Banana Republic was an experience, what with a themed store with changing rooms made of mud, straw and grass and vintage safari gear as décor. By 1983, Banana Republic had five stores in California and was making reportedly $10 million a year from ghurka shorts, madras shirts, paratrooper bags, photojournalist’s vests and khaki trousers. Two categories — BR Baby and BR Athletics — were launched later as part of what Sandra Stangl- Banana Republic’s president and chief executive officer- describes to WWD as the new vision for the business.
This attracted the attention of Gap Inc. which acquired Banana Republic in 1983, transforming the vibe of the chain into a sophisticated, contemporary sensibility and rebranding it as a luxury fashion retailer. The hand-drawn catalogue, the travelogues and the quirky tourist-oriented items were phased out… today it is a global lifestyle brand. However the design team continues to mine the brand’s rich heritage. “We’re lucky to have such a unique and rich history to lean on for both design and storytelling” Nicole Wiesmann, Banana Republic VP of Design told Refinery29. “We are leveraging our history as a travel brand to create a distinctive BR Look that is rich in texture and style. It’s all about high-quality, accessible luxury and timeless style with materials like cashmere, silk, leather, suede, and linen.”
Luxury fashion brand banana Republic believes in enriching the world’s communities through environmental management i.e. addressing climate, water and waste—issues where there is significant potential to positively impact people’s lives and enrich the world’s communities. The team take steps every day to achieve their goals including incorporating sustainable practices into product development and partnering with businesses- non-profits- governments and community organizations to do their part in building a thriving planet.
To create emotional connections with customers around the world through inspiring product design, unique store experiences, and competitive marketing.
“Strive to be bold, curious, innovative and inclusive to help build a better world for people and the planet.” Banana Republic was born from two California creatives fueled by their explorer spirits. Curious, connected and out in the world, they envisioned buying clothing from all over the world and retailing it at their quirky travel-themed store. Each season the couple travels worldwide in search of the finest materials and sustainability partners to ensure their products deliver style and substance.
Mel Ziegler, Patricia Ziegler (Founders)
Stranda Standl (President and CEO)
Marissa Webb (Creative Director)