This is a rare treat. Mike Madrid generously sent me a copy of this catalog for the archive. I knew it would be duotone printed on newsprint paper, but I was really surprised that it was not trimmed like a standard BR catalog. It’s an inch taller than usual and the edges along the top and side were perforated but not separated. So you had to separate the pages when you got it to open it. The pages were still attached so I took some photos of them before I opened it. I debated long and hard about opening it, let me tell you…
The cover of the 1982 Holiday catalog is a pencil drawing by Patricia Ziegler (That would be colored for the 1984 Holiday Catalog and then re-imagined for the holiday 1986 Update). It’s a real masterpiece of the BR dream, a cozy domestic scene with the New Yorker, The Wall St. Journal, some wine by the typewriter, and Livingstone Zebra asleep at your feet along with a cat and an artistic monkey. The BR Xmas tree has been decorated. I wish they had sold that tree topper in the catalogs. I can totally picture a nice hand painted tin Star and Banana ornament…
Staff artist Kevin Sarki shared these thoughts on the 1982 Holiday Cover:
The 1982 Gift Catalogue cover illustration was pure Patricia. It became the model for all my drawings. The Summer 1983 cover clearly shows that pedigree.
Patricia’s style of rendering was playful yet sufficiently descriptive. The lack of pretense was endearing. Consider the placement of the elephant figures that flank the title. They resemble Monopoly tokens put into service as parenthesis. Auspicious yet accessible.
That funky quality was diminished as the product was subjected to groupthink. Great illustrators would follow with evolving BR interpretations, but for me, that cover best represented the BR look and feel. Having Mel & Patricia model the comfy footwear is the cat’s meow!
Here we have Mel and Patricia’s manifesto (which many of you can still get behind today). Seeing this catalog after reading Wild Company is especially illuminating. This safari vest with it’s vintage warehouse-discovery alpaca lining and leather pockets sounds amazing. As for the BR Yukon shirt, I’d love to see an example of this from that era. The design lasted throughout the BR run, but it must have looked much different. At the book signing I asked Patricia what the clothing labels looked like way back then before they could afford the embroidered labels we are familiar with, but even she could not remember.
The frequent BR theme of the cozy, comfortable garment that inspires artist and writers is really compelling. I think it defined some of my earliest idea of what it means to be artistic. Years later I would learn that it takes more than a rustic sweater and a funky bookbag to be an artist, but hey, you gotta start somewhere. Note also the classic packing tip illustration at the bottom of the page.
The Safari Dress entry really exemplifies Patricia Ziegler’s knack for presenting the many ways a garment can by styled for maximum versatility. Much of what the catalog and stores did was coach people on how to think about clothing and how to stretch something in as many way possible. I wonder what the source was for the rain slicker.
Here’s the safari clothing spread from 1982. One of the things that the Wild Company book cleared up for me was that the Zieglers were not exactly safari experts when they founded the company…they were enthusiasts for a certain kind of clothing and attitude. I had always imagined that BR was a full-fledged safari outfitter at first before expanding into other kinds of clothing. It’s also unclear to me if they were manufacturing these safari clothes or if Kenya Safari Clothing was something they sourced and purchased.