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Behind Banana Republic’s ‘New Look’

Don’t call it a mid-life crisis. Banana Republic is getting a whole new look and feel after more than 40 years of business.

This fall season, the Gap Inc.-owned label is launching a brand overhaul inspired by a desire to modernize and promote a “democratic, approachable, and inclusive luxury” fashion experience. From product designs to new material innovations, ad campaigns and digital and in-store activations, consumers will see different sides to Banana Republic depending on the touchpoint, the company said.

“We started with a very clear vision of what this iconic American company can be and what we need to do in terms of our product quality and design, packaging and service, our digital experiences, and experiences in our stores to bring this vision to life in a way that excites culture and moves our business,” Banana Republic president and CEO Sandra Stangl said.

The fall debut marks the beginning of a refresh for the brand, she added. “We embark on an adventure of our lifetimes, led by creativity, curiosity, and a newfound drive.” Gap Inc. aims to transform Banana Republic, founded in 1978, into a “forever brand,” Stangl said—“always relevant, always current, never not modern.”

The brand is launching a brand overhaul inspired by a desire to modernize and promote a “democratic, approachable, and inclusive luxury” fashion experience.

The fall 2021 campaign kicked off Wednesday with a collection dubbed The New Look. With a laser focus on supple leather and suede in the form of vests, cargo pants, leather jumpsuits, suede shorts and blazers, Banana Republic looks to revive its reputation for quality materials while showcasing updated silhouettes. Other hero looks like workwear, “expedition-ready” casual attire, and soft tailoring are brought to life with luxe materials like shearling, merino wool, silk and cashmere.

“Our goal is to create silhouettes and branding that is always nostalgic and simultaneously contemporary,” Ana Andjelic, Banana Republic’s chief brand officer, said of the line. “Just like punk and yuppie defined a decade and grunge and metrosexual clashed on the same streets, The New Look blurs sartorial codes.”

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Describing the brand’s new ethos as “post-genre fashion,” Andjelic said that The New Look is “less about fashion and more about living.” Bringing together traditional American styling, “San Francisco imagination” and influences from the late ‘90s, casual and utilitarian silhouettes star in the collection.

To promote its new vision, Banana Republic will launch a reimagined brand experience through digital, social and media channels on Sept. 28. The Imagined Worlds campaign “reflects Banana Republic as it was originally conceived—a fictitious territory—a far-away and unknown place that is part of explorers’ folklore and adventurers’ lore,” it said. This dreamlike concept will act as a springboard to redefine the company’s design, activism and sustainability profile, it added.

And as Banana Republic relaunches subsequent apparel collections, it will also augment its e-commerce experience, focusing on complementary imagery, videos and music meant to immerse shoppers in the new brand positioning. Store remodels, it added, will focus on hospitality, styling services and updated merchandising.

The announcement comes just one week after Gap Inc. reported positive earnings, highlighting its highest Q2 net sales in more than a decade, driven largely by e-commerce. The company reported that its Q2 digital sales grew 65 percent from the same period in 2019, representing 33 percent of the total business.

The growth was driven primarily by Athleta and Old Navy, however, as net sales at Banana Republic, long a go-to for office-going professionals, were down 15 percent from 2019. The company expects to close about 75 Gap and Banana Republic stores in North America throughout 2021 amid sales declines.