This is no surface-level makeover; Banana Republic has gone back to its heritage roots to amplify its brand. No longer merely a mall brand, Banana Republic has become a heavy lifter for its parent company, retail conglomerate Gap Inc, under the leadership of CEO Sandra Stangl who joined the brand in December 2020. Shortly after his appointment, Gap Inc reported a US$16 million net loss in the fourth quarter of 2020, with Banana Republic’s sales dropping two per cent from 2019 levels. Banana Re
Banana Republic was losing market share to brands that offered similar clothing lines that had a similar masstige appeal, including competitors like Abercrombie and Fitch and J. Crew. While the typeface might not have changed, over the past three years, Banana Republic has successfully evolved into a fashion brand for the modern social media era. BR has entered the fashion scene After recognising its current formula was no longer resonating with its customer base or fashion enthusiasts, it got nostalgic for its origin story. Banana Republic wasn’t always a bland brand consisting of chinos and blouses. When it was founded by Mel and Patricia Ziegler in 1978, it was originally called Banana Republic Travel and Safari Clothing Company. The early Banana Republic product catalogues included hand-drawn images, fictional explorer stories and garments designed for adventure. The Zieglers sold the brand to Gap Inc in 1983 and lost creative control a few years later but now its brand identity has done a 360. “Reflecting Banana Republic as it was originally conceived – a fictitious territory – we’re building on our heritage and reinventing it for today in the form of democratic, approachable and inclusive luxury,” Stangl said in a statement in 2021, before the launch of the brand’s debut rebrand collection, ‘The New Look’. Banana Republic’s chief brand officer Ana Andjelic was hired in early 2021 to execute the rebrand and return the label to its travel-inspired roots. “Call it post-genre fashion. Or call it post-fashion altogether: The New Look is less about fashion and more about living. To get there, we mixed the mythical American look, San Francisco imagination, and the late 1990s,” said Andjelic in a statement. “Keywords are utilitarian chic and modern casual wear. Safari meets tuxedo, formalwear meets casualwear, menswear meets womenswear, vintage meets tailoring, functionality meets imagination.” Banana Republic has called back to its brand DNA of adventurous and elevated designs to distinguish itself from its competitors and separate itself from its former brand identity. Following up premium prices with premium services Banana Republic’s rebrand included elevating every customer touchpoint from the product’s quality and design to the advertorial content on social media, to the in-store experience. “Changing the brand creative without changing the underlying marketing, business, and operational approach is just putting lipstick on a pig,” Andjelic told Business of Fashion. The store design was modernised and upgraded to reflect the new brand identity by adding styling services, elevated merchandising, and hospitality training for staff. This investment in experiential retail has seen Banana Republic become a shopping destination with in-store styling services in every location and tailoring options in five. Banana Republic, particularly its San Francisco flagship, is now being held up by the fashion industry as a strong example of the luxury shopping experience. The new store concept, together with the rebrand and new collection, has positioned Banana Republic as a legacy fashion retailer instead of a generic mall brand. Building a legacy with a lifestyle brand Now, Banana Republic is diversifying its portfolio with other product segments beyond apparel and accessories. Last September, Banana Republic launched its latest venture, ‘BR Home’. “We are driven by a desire for discovery and self-expression, representing a new way to outfit yourself and your home,” shared Stangl in a statement last year. BR Home’s product range includes a full suite of bedroom, living and dining furniture along with lighting and decorative accents. The homewares industry may be cluttered and competitive but Banana Republic’s edge is its ability to integrate its home and apparel collections across shoots, catalogues, stores and advertisements – positioning Banana Republic not just as a retailer but as a lifestyle brand. The move to include furniture in its portfolio of products is designed to help solidify Banana Republic in this space. Following the rebrand’s success, now Banana Republic’s focus is on resonating and building loyalty with both old and new consumers.