Fashion & Beauty

Banana Republic’s “New Look”

Banana Republic’s fall 2021 collection blends nostalgia and contemporary. A long suede dress looks back to the brand’s safari days.

By Janet Kelly

I FONDLY remember the Paratrooper Canvas Messenger Bag I bought from Banana Republic— decades ago. I loved the army green color and the red embroidered insignia. As my mother would say, “It had a look.” So did the BR clothing in the ‘80s and ‘90s—safari-inspired khaki shirts, suede jackets and multi-pocket vests for the globe-trotting photojournalist.

Banana Republic’s canvas messenger bag from the late ’80s.

The stores themselves evoked a spirit of adventure, propped with elephant tusks and open-top jeeps by husband-and-wife team Mel and Patricia Ziegler, the design and marketing brains who founded the company in 1978. (They sold to The Gap in 1983).

For at least the past 20 years, though, the brand has been better known for its mostly conservative, not-so-imaginative workwear.

Something had to give; the label’s years of declining sales spurred the charge for reinvention, along with the hiring of a new CEO in 2020 —Sonia Syngal—and a chief brand officer —Ana Andjelic—in 2021. A campaign updating the styles of the brand’s heyday launched in early September with the theme “The New Look.”

The fall collection focuses on old favorites, especially suede and leather but also brings back the materials Banana was known for—Italian merino wool, silk and cashmere. As Anjelic has said, the clothes take the best of the past and use it to make the DNA for the future.

LEFT: In hopes of reinventing the past, rather than repeating it, BR’s High-Rise Cargo Pant ($119) is slimmed down and instead of just khaki, it’s available in blush and cream and in petite, as well as regular, sizes.

RIGHT: This Merino Cashmere Sweater (a blend of 70% merino and 30% cashmere, ) nods to the oversize knit trend. Details like slits in the hem, a funnel neck and wide cuffs add to its contemporary look. It sells for $249 and comes in navy, too.

LEFT: A mid-shaft Slouchy Boot ( 3-inch stacked heel) in suede looks luxe and with a cushioned insole should feel that way. Pair with slim jeans, cargo pants or midi skirts. Also available in taupe and black. It’s $239. A similar pair from Manolo Blahnik is $965.

RIGHT: An in-between seasons essential in a cotton-linen blend, but you can also layer BR’s Cargo Jacket ($149) under a winter coat. It has the look of a safari jacket but with tweaks, such as the shawl collar, armhole grommets and camo-green shade.

LEFT: A throwback to Banana Republic in the ’90s but without the bulky aviator look. Unfortunately, this suede jacket is sold out, but note how it’s styled—with a chunky cable knit turtleneck over a leopard-print slip dress.

RIGHT: Again, inspired by former BR styles, but more refined with quilting on the sleeve and in pebbled leather. The semi-fitted, above-hip-length moto jacket ($598) looks even more hip when worn with wide-leg wool pants.


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9 thoughts on “Banana Republic’s “New Look”

  1. Andie says:

    I love their new line. It’s more luxe and stylish. I’ve definitely purchased a few items this fall.

  2. beth rosner says:

    BR did get boring and the quality of the clothing went down too. However, I love the new line- it is better made and has more style. I bought a new wool turtleneck a week ago. Glad to see they relaunched.

    1. Janet Kelly says:

      They have upped the ante for sure.

  3. Candy says:

    Janet — Very interesting. BR has been boring for a while, so this is good news. I still wear BR jeans and sweaters I bought years ago, but lately I’ve found more useful pieces from Gap.

    1. Janet Kelly says:

      I have a taupe cardigan from forever ago that I still wear. Also a cashmere T-shirt in charcoal.

  4. Nancy G says:

    I’m in the same place as Carol. For at least 10 years Banana Republic has just been boring, although the quality of their tee shirts was always good. Glad to see they’re upping their game. I especially like that oversized sweater.

  5. Really great looking collection. Love those boots!

  6. cynthia tilson says:

    Love your walk back through the history of a favorite brand. Glad to see BR remake themselves for the future, by returning to their origins. There has to be a metaphor for life in there somewhere!

  7. Carol says:

    You know, I used to (preCovid) stop in a BR store and turn around and walk out as was nothing to see there. But I do remember back in the 80’s liking the stuff when shopping with my teenage daughter, of course she did too ! I may have to try again although my trips to a mall are few and far between these days… really like those cargo pants!

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