In the 80s, Banana Republic was an original adventure outfitter, offering pith helmets and photographer’s vests for intrepid explorers. The brand obviously took a very different direction in the years that followed, but enthusiasts haven’t forgotten that expedition heritage. Ana Andjelic, Banana Republic’s new Chief Brand Officer, is one such stalwart, and she’s bringing the past to life with the retailer’s inaugural “BR Vintage” line.
Deeply inspired by Banana Republic timeless catalogs out of timeAndjelic and a team of “suppliers” scoured the archives to select 225 unique vintage pieces from the 80s, 90s and early 2000s. Ranging from classic hunting jackets to graphic tees and caps, the BR Vintage selection is indicative of the worldly spirit that inspired the creation of Banana Republic.
“The Banana Republic was created as an imaginary territory on par with Narnia, Middle-earth or Wakanda,” Andjelic said. “Our archives are this chest of curiosities that takes us to another imaginary world… a caravan route in a desert, an abandoned campsite, a forgotten forest. We wanted to deliver to the modern client this imaginary world that all started with a distinctly modern vibe. Some things in our vintage store are so camp it’s cool and some are timeless streetwear.
Inspired by old school travel apparel and Ernest Hemingway’s Abercrombie & Fitch WardrobeMel and Patricia Ziegler launched two surplus “Banana Republic Travel & Safari Clothing Company” stores in 1978. Their runaway success inspired GAP to acquire and expand it five years later, sparking a widespread fad for explorers of the 80s. Interestingly, Hemingway – who never wore GAP or BR – left such an indelible influence that an old photo of him appeared in a GAP advertisement from the 90s long after both companies outpaced the safari trend.
The beginnings of BR Vintage come at a turning point for GAP. The parent company is moving away from malls in favor of digital distribution, driving customer growth with projects like YEEZY GAP. BR Vintage is one of Banana Republic’s first major initiatives to attract new buyers after a difficult year. “Banana certainly had unique Covid challenges, between second-hand and workwear,” GAP CEO Sonia Syngal noted recently.
150 BR Vintage parts are available on Banana Republic website, and 50 more are exclusive to its store in New York’s Flatiron District. These items are mostly seasonal (lightweight poplin and linen), and BR is planning additional BR Vintage cold weather drops later in the year. Considering that many unique items are already sold out online, the taste for safari clothing has clearly not waned.