The second BR Catalogue was produced for the Summer of 1979 and shows the new little company bursting at the seams with excitement and creativity.
One of the first things that jumps out about this early catalogue is how graphic it is. The cover is bold, with two contrasting colors and none of the drawings are rendered with extensive pencil shading that would come later. Everything is drawn (by Patricia Gwilliam) with very clean ink line and minimal cross-hatching and pops off the page.
Of the catalogues Abandoned Republic recently acquired, this one is in pristine condition (so much so that I did not scan it flat because I didn’t want to crack the spine!
It has a number of insert offers that are secured to the catalog with a bit of cello tape. There is the “No-Bonus” Linen Jacket coupon which offers the jacket at a $25 discount if you forgo the discounts offered at the back of the catalogue (I’m a little unclear how it works) with a deadline of August 31, 1979. There’s also a catalogue Update that adds a $25 British Surplus Bush Jacket, which seems like a no-brainer. Lastly there is a catalogue subscription form that’s promoted as hiring your own International Scout. The $1 catalogue subscription for customers who don’t buy merchandise is a lasting feature of the catalogues though-out the run.
The catalogue is powered by the Ziegler’s vision and inspiration, their belief in their clothing as an aesthetic and economic antidote to the malais of late seventies fashion. A mini “editorial” by Patricia advocates for “clothing with scruples” and honest clothes at honest prices. Later, there is an explanation of “How To Spot Quality” with drawings of fabric weaves and stitching features.
Patricia also illustrates the versatility of Banana Republic style, showing how a Safari Coat Dress can be functional and fashionable with the right accessories, truly going day to evening!
Banana is clearly a surplus reseller, busily hawking a global bazaar of Pakistani army saddlebags, goods from the Swiss, Italian, Spanish militaries as well as the standby British and American forces. Read the Wild Company memoir for more tales from the surplus trade.
They are, however, also busily re-fashioning and downright producing their own designs. The “Real Linen Jacket” is manufactured by Banana using linen from surplus Irish mattress covers and the “Parachute Bag” is quilted from black and white nylon parachutes. Firefighter jackets are turned into handbags, pant liners into vests. Throughout the catalog are mentions of importing piles of surplus materials, journeys through the Panama Canal. These people were working their asses off to create this product and bring it to their shop in Mill Valley.
Speaking of which, we are treated to a hand drawn map (under a 15″ brass bullhorn”) leading us from San Francisco to East Blithesdale in Mill Valley, through the famous rainbow tunnel (Now named after the late actor Robin Williams who was surely a Banana shopper).
This catalogue is a marvelous artifact of the founding of Banana Republic and one we had never seen before. Please enjoy!