My favorite things to collect are actual pieces from Banana Republic stores. The most interesting piece I have literally opens the door to my collection. These tusk shaped door handles were taken from a BR store when they transitioned away from the safari theme. I attached them to an Ikea display cabinet that houses my catalogs, artwork and other collectibles.
This remarkable photo was sent in by designer Louisa Voisine, who organized fashion shows in the mid-80s to promote BR to the entertainment industry at the Beverly Hills store, creating the BR Studio Services Department. The late model John Allen McClatchey III is posed with a Gamekeeper’s Bag.
The Gamekeeper’s Bag is a jute mesh bag perfect for stuffing a freshly killed pheasant or hare, or for for toting around some tomatoes and apples. Louisa remembers the great actor Jimmy Stewart using his BR Gamekeeper’s Bag for shopping at the Beverly Hills Farmer’s Market before reusable bags were in vogue.
Look for a new article on Abandoned Republic all about Louisa and the crucial role the Studio Services Department had in the growth of the safari era of Banana Republic.
A reader from our Facebook page sent in these photos of his Gamekeeper’s Bag, which I had never seen in outside of catalog drawings before. The distinctive mesh bag was sold in catalogs in 1984-85.
“Hi Scott! I’ve the day off so wanted to get these treasures to you ASAP. They sort of tell a story of a starving artist (me) negotiating the perilous deep waters of the business world in the big city of San Francisco during the early 80s. “
From the archives of staff artist Kevin Sarkki we are delighted to share this glimpse at the life of a young artist working for the rapidly growing company Banana Republic. Be sure and read Kevin’s earlier interview as well as Mike Madrid‘s recollections of life in the BR offices.
These artifacts really do tell the story of growth as the stationary and memos become more and more polished and sophisticated and the relationships more professionalo. The back and forth of salary negotiations is fantastic to witness.
Click through the images and commentary using the arrows below.
Kevin Sarkki emailed me out of the blue and said he’d found some exciting stuff in his archives for us. I told him I squealed like a little girl when I saw the photos of the Zieglers in their offices at Banana Republic. The photos are everything you’d want to see. Mel is in full regalia in command at his impressive, no-doubt antique desk, water buffalo (fake) mounted on the rustic wooden beams. Patricia is at an entirely more modern and stylish work table, fabric samples and inspiration hanging on the wall. Lots of framed vintage prints as you’d expect. The real kicker for Kevin was seeing his cover to the #12 Catalog on the wall behind Patricia.
The article is a pretty light affair, and tells stories we’ve heard before (Franco’s Short-Armed Paratroper Shirt), but it’s a fantastic look at the founders of Banana Republic in their prime.I think the best observation in the article is that Banana Republic owes it’s success to the Ziegler’s “integrity and awfully good taste”. True enough!
Keeping track of the various shirts BR made can be tricky. At first glance they often look the same. The key feature in the Expedition Shirt is the angled pocket flaps. These photos are from a May 2013 eBay listing.
The Pith Helmet was a staple of Banana Republic from the very beginning. While it was likely a popular novelty buy, the BR helmets were authentic Indian imports. They were also something that people seem to hang hung onto, as they are surprisingly common on eBay, where you will see a few variations in interior fabrics and labels. Most of them simply say “Made In India” and don’t have a BR label, but there was at least one that was manufactured with the circular parrot logo. See gallery below. The hat box was optional, I suspect.
Thanks to JT for pictures of his with the price tag still attached. The Parrot version is in my own collection.
The BR Ventilated Shirt was originally manufactured for the British Army for use in tropical outposts. The cotton shirt is soft and light with an intricate weave to allow breathability. Introduced in 1984 it was sold in both short and long sleeves until 1988. Interestingly, the earliest long-sleeved “Authetic British” version was made in the UK, while the short-sleeved version is imported from India. On Page 108 of Wild Company, Mel and Patricia mention contracting with the manufacturer during their first visit to the U.K. and that story is repeated in the catalog copy By 1985 the long-sleeved version is also being made in India. Toward the end of the run in 1988 they make no claims about origin, suggesting they might have gone to another, cheaper source.
The example below from my collection is one of these early U.K versions sold in 1984 . Note the large BR tag and the interesting additional yellow and pink tags in the collar.
If you enjoy the site and would like to show your support I have extra catalogs for sale. I will discount 10% on orders of 3 or more catalogs and a 20% discount on orders of 6 or more catalogs (refund applied after I receive the order).
Price includes shipping priority mail in the USA. Thanks! -Scott