The first Banana Republic store was opened in San Francisco in 1978 by Mel and Patricia Ziegler. Originally, the outfitter primarily sold modern safari-themed apparel from exotic places. In addition to its retail sales, the brand also sold clothes through its unique, travel-oriented catalog--which it called a "travelogue." Sensing something special in Banana Republic's quirky collections and clientele, Gap, Inc., acquired the company in 1983 and incorporated it into its constantly-growing portfolio of retailers. Under new ownership, the brand began expanding across the country. Though Banana Republic was able to retain its unique identity for several years, it began floundering in the late 1980s.
Looking for a way to keep the brand afloat, Gap, Inc., worked to rebrand Banana Republic as an upscale alternative to some of its other ventures. The safari theme gave way to more streamlined designs that accentuated professionalism and elegance. By the mid-'90s, the brand had once again become a major moneymaker for its parent company, though it lost almost all of its quirky character in the process. Today, Banana Republic claims to offer apparel for individuals on "the modern journey of life." Its clothes are sold at more than 600 stores across the country, and the brand also has a strong ecommerce presence online.
The Banana Republic women's line includes apparel in basically every major category. Relaxed tops include tanks, t-shirts, graphic tees, crop tops, and camis. You'll also find blouses, tunics, and button-down shirts that are a little less casual. Sweaters include pullovers, cardigans, and more. Outerwear options like vests and jackets meld style with function. The brand's collection of dresses is, by far, its most extensive. The category is divided into sub-categories that include casual, party, day-to-night, and LBD. Casual dresses include shirtdresses, trapeze dresses, popover dresses, and utility dresses. Options for party dresses are mostly fit-and-flare and sheath styles. Versatile day-to-night dresses include rompers, cutout dresses, patio dresses, and more. And while the "little black dress" is iconic, the brand still manages to feature several different versions.
In bottoms, Banana Republic features formalwear options like chinos and trousers in addition to fashionable culottes, ankle pants, and leggings. The brand's premium denim is available in a number of cuts, including skinny, skinny ankle, and boyfriend. Skirts range from mini to midi to maxi, and shorts vary in length, fabric, and style. Banana Republic strives to cater to professional women, so it has a relatively large selection of suits and blazers. On the other side of the spectrum, the brand offers plenty of comfortable loungewear, including pajama sets, robes, camis, shorts, and more. Shoes are available in styles like pumps, flats, boots, booties, sandals, and sneakers, and you'll also find a range of jewelry and accessories.
If Old Navy and Gap are generally regarded as the bottom and middle tiers on the Gap, Inc., ladder, then Banana Republic is the manufacturer's top-of-the-line brand. Clothes echo stylistic trends, but they are generally very muted and serious. The vast majority of the garments offered by Banana Republic would fit in at any office because they project an air of professionalism. Since the brand is more luxurious than others manufactured and sold by the parent company, clothes are on pricier side. Outfits typically range from $50 to $200, though the retailer changes out its designs often enough it frequently puts garments on sale. Because the brand is known for its consistently high quality, we give Banana Republic 4.5 stars out of 5.
- Established 1978
- Luxury apparel
- Sold at:
- Banana Republic stores and online
- Types of items:
- Blouses, tunics, tees, tanks, crop tops, cardigans, pullovers, casual dresses, party dresses, day-to-night dresses, little black dresses, skirts, shorts, chinos, trousers, denim, suits, blazers, jackets, loungewear, swimwear, shoes, jewelry, accessories
- Related brands:
- Gap, Old Navy, Piperlime, Athleta