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Tonight, Banana Republic presented at New York Fashion Week for the first time. With this, it joins the trend of mall brands showing seasonal collections—fellow Gap Inc.-owned brand Athleta showed last fashion week, and J.Crew has been a staple on the schedule since 2011. Its fall 2015 collection was designed under the auspices of new creative director Marissa Webb, who joined the company late April 2014. Banana Republic under Webb was presented to the press once before, off the fashion week schedule, as a of preview summer 2015, which will arrive in stores beginning this April.
The fall showing was... fine. The clothes look perfectly suitable for a company trying to modernize its look without freaking out its customer base. This version of Banana Republic will appear completely current in a mall hallway dotted with any of the refreshed Ann Taylor brands (Loft, Lou & Grey), a J.Crew, a Kate Spade. There's nothing offensive about these clothes, but they're a little underwhelming. Banana Republic hired up but didn't shoot up—they just looked next door.
Much of what was shown for women was gray, sometimes paired with black-and-white prints or a medium-wash denim. There were a few experiments in tonal dressing (a Jenna Lyons styling hallmark, though she usually throws in one hue from across the color wheel to break it up) including singular hunter green, sea foam, hot pink, and red looks. Burgundy appeared more than once in the kind of role navy usually plays (not black, but as non-confrontational as black) and there were a few pieces in a safe purple-blue hue.
Blazer coats, a long moto jacket, and a handful of calf-length toppers helped make outerwear one of the strongest categories, followed by knits, which included a good variety of turtlenecks. Denim didn't stand out, nor did the slim trousers or the infrequent dresses. Shoes ranged from a pair of black-and-white oxfords that recall Saint Laurent on the cuter side to a pair of unfortunate camo-lace-up-pointed-toe-shooties (too many adjectives does not a good shoe make). Bags were not as strong as the summer 2015 showing, where they were a highlight. Tonight we saw a nude tote with the word "beautiful" debossed on it, a black clutch reading "quote me" (including the quotation marks), and a camo bowler bag with a sunflower yellow stripe down the center.
Banana Republic is up to speed, but isn't leading the pack. That's never been BR's reputation, so we can't say we're let down, but we were hoping Marissa's impact would have felt a little more special. Let us know in the comments your take on "the new BR."