My visit to the NYC Banana Republic Archive

This week I received an unexpected invitation from the Banana Republic Creative Team to visit the Banana Republic Archive in New York City. It turns out the team has loved following the Abandoned Republic blog and Instagram and they really wanted to meet me and share the archive. It was a whirlwind trip, and we only had an hour to spend in the archive, but it was the trip of a lifetime for me.

With the launch of their Fall 2021 New Look line Banana Republic is getting in touch with their roots, setting out to honor the style and vision of the original Travel & Safari Company with a decidedly modern take on it. Under the leadership of new Chief Brand Officer Ana Andjelic the team poured over the classic designs, drawing inspiration from the best of the Ziegler era. The result of this reinvention is a dramatic line of clothing and accessories intended to spark the imagination and rekindle a sense of exploration and adventure. The recent Vintage Event was part of this reinvention, reminding consumers of–and in many cases introducing them to–the glories of the company’s past.

Those of us here in the Abandoned Republic who live and die for the classic BR have a rough relationship with contemporary BR. The most common comment I get on the blog is some variation of “I miss the old BR/ it was so great before the GAP ruined it/ They don’t make it like they used to”. I always maintain that while the GAP eventually discarded the Travel & Safari concept, we wouldn’t have had the golden age of BR without the GAP in the first place. You don’t get nearly a hundred stores with elephants behind the cash register and jeeps in the windows of shopping malls without a massive corporation behind it. You can thank Don Fisher for that and then rightfully complain about how he pulled the plug.

I don’t know how many of us old-school loyalists will be converts to the new BR, but that’s not really the point, in my mind.

I’m just glad to know that the people in charge of the brand sincerely love and honor the history and aesthetic; so much so that they flew this humble fan to the Big Apple so we could get together and geek out on all this Travel & Safari goodness!

The archive covers the entirety of Banana Republic’s 40 years of product, with huge areas dedicated to the late 90s and 2000s. The section from the Ziegler/catalog era is a pretty good selection of the time, though not at all complete and not in mint condition as you might expect. A lot of it has been acquired from the after market over the years. With all humility, I’d say my personal collection (and maybe yours…) has many more rare pieces in it and in far better condition. This is a working archive though, used to study and inspire, filled with samples of Photojournalist Vests and Bushman coats, tons of shirts and skirts and accessories.

There is a second archive in San Francisco that is dedicated to the printed material, catalogs and advertising, etc. I hope to visit that soon!

I wish I’d had more time to take more pictures, but the visit was a bit of a whirlwind!

Yours truly modeling an Outback Bush Jacket, with a Fur-Felt Safari Hat and Grip Bag. (Teal Bombay shirt is mine).
The creative team.
Thanks, Doris and Don!
The archive staff laid out all these accessories for us to look at. Given more time I’d have wanted to dress each of these mannequins!
A Linea Viaggio Oversized Bag. The Pith Helmet did not have the “parrot label” but it retained the original price tag. Naturally, the Israeli Paratrooper bag was well-represented.
So many shirts!
Some well-worn Low-Profile Bags on an accessory shelf.
Linea Viaggio Duffel Bag and OF COURSE the wonderful Leather and Linen Traveling Boots.
More shirts in the archive.
Joseph delightedly going through the world’s largest Banana Republic closet.
We all agree these are fabulous and need to be re-issued!
Samuel Shler models a Photojournalist Vest (second version, aka The Outback Version)
Maddy really looks great in this post-Safari era fringe jacket. Who doesn’t love fringe?
They insisted I try on this third version of the Photojournalist Vest. Twist my arm!
Something from the post-catalog era, channeling the safari vibe with tongue-in-cheek.
I’m not sure which shirt this is. The lavender stripes in the neck lining don’t ring a bell.
We all feel like Cultural Attaches for Banana Republic!
A post-catalogue era Cowboy print scarf.
This is one of the few post-catalogue items I really love. It has removable sleeves, sort of like Kenya Convertibles meets the Photojournalist Vest.
The 1987 “Cape of Two Countries” is incredibly heavy. So dramatic.
The bag is the rarest thing I found in the archive, the Wakamba Bag. We all agreed the shoeboxes were wonderfully designed and spark the imagination.
This Outback Bushman’s Raincoat fit me so well I wanted to walk out with it! May have to track one down….I love this piece.

About The Author

Robyn Adams
Robyn's fascination with Banana Republic began in 1984 when her Alaskan adventurer father began buying the clothing and giving her the catalogs. She loved the clothes and as an artist she was drawn to the illustrations. She went on to study illustration at art college in BR's hometown of San Francisco and worked for years as a background artist for animation. She is now based in Oakland, CA as a graphic designer and illustrator with Secret Fan Base . She's been collecting and archiving at Abandoned Republic since 2011.

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