Style & Fashion

New York Fashion Week

New York Fashion Week show reviews: Banana Republic

The Daily Beast

February 14, 2016

There were macaroons in many colors and dainty, morsel-sized lemon squares. There was coffee, and those odd little cartons of water. People were smiling and chatting, the models were smiling and chatting. They talked to each other and the crowd.

As the bitter wind blasted villainously up, down, and around 14th Street Saturday afternoon, Banana Republic provided a cockle-warming refuge of Fashion Week perversity.

What about the usual models’ stony looks? The sitting on benches and observing? The rigid social stratification? We were in New York Fashion Week’s Twilight Zone.

This was Banana Republic’s Fashion Week event, but the friendliness, the fact that people were eating publicly, indicated that the mainstream designer wanted to make the most of its outsider status among the high fashion houses showing their wares at NYFW.

Loosened up and fun it was for sure–and by the look and feel of this very informal show you’d never have guessed that Banana Republic was having a rough time.

Earlier this week it was revealed that the store–where you kind of go in a hurry to when you urgently need a shirt and jacket for a job interview, but the size isn’t quite right but it will have to do–had suffered a 17 per cent drop in sales in January, compared to the year prior.

On Saturday, attendees to the store’s Fashion Week came in shivering off the street and were met by something very different to the gaze-upon glamor of the traditional runway.

Usually, you sit in serried ranks, gazing upon celebrities and hoopla, and the show begins 20-30 minutes late, and is over pretty smartish, and off you trot outside to watch oh-that’s-her-off-the-TV get papped.

In a Meatpacking District gallery space, the Banana Republic models stood in two casual lines on a raised stage, on two sides of a white wall, and wearing a selection of clothes, a few items of which were immediately available to buy.

There’s no waiting for the autumn for Banana Republic to sell these threads. Like other designers seeking to change the established order this season by forsaking the traditional runway and wait to buy what it shows, Banana Republic hopes that this new way of display and sales turns that minus 17 per cent into a happier figure.

The clothes on the cheery models were, almost uniformly, hits. Of course, on genetically blessed wearers like these young men and women, the clothes could only look good.

But still, each ensemble seemed as if it could transition to Banana Republic customers. The clothes certainly produced coos from an exceptionally attractive and cool group of fashion show attendees. Cameras on phones were trained on visitors as much as models.

For women, there were light caramel-colored, short, belted trench coats, a beautifully patterned long black dress, loose and dotted with a lilac petal pattern, longer fitted trench coats, a brown leather jacket, and a gorgeous mustard blazer. Women’s trousers were predominantly tapered and not full-length: pedal-pushers at their simplest and sweetest. There were fitted sweaters in burgundy and Breton-striped (a pattern shared with men), and warm-looking cardigans draped over short, ruffled dresses.

There were not overt flashes of extravagance or daring–bar a furry-looking wrap over one belted coat.

Instead, a short woolen jacket, with 1950s design echoes, a luxurious-looking cape, and navy pleated skirt cut beneath the knee stole the show more quietly.

Or choose a loose-fitting white chemise with dainty black pattern, a simple jersey topped with navy jacket, and then to finish off, a red skirt, blue sweater and green cardigan worn happily-sloppy together; and a sharp, muddy-orange trouser suit.

The Banana Republic man’s look is cutely conventional. There were trench coats and slim suits in grays, blues, and sometimes all-black. Leather and flying jackets looked both smooth and fitted, and the men’s Breton-striped tops added some whimsy.

The only men’s looks to lightly break with a familiar pattern were an olive-green blouson, and a black, fitted winter-coat with a neat vertical row of buttons, topped with a bright yellow beanie.

As for the crowd’s far showier fabulousness, notable were the woman in the black mohair coat with rainbow design; the man in the brown and cream coat-cape with feathered hat; the man in all black with blasts of shiny black patent leather; the under-the-arm suede purses; the men’s pointy suede shoes; the woman whose long black jacket came decorated with planets and stars.

“Treats anybody? Treats?” one waiter trilled as we visitors sauntered, and dish was exchanged over playtime the night before.

“We went to Hamilton,” one man said in a flat monotone to a friend. “We went backstage to meet Jonathan Groff, and then on to some party, oh, you know, someplace. You know how it is, blah blah blah.”

Note the tonal Fashion Week bases hit by this fellow. Unpacked: “I’ve been to all the right places, seen all the right people, and I’m totally over it. I was over it when I was there, probably even before I got there. What’s next? Meh, I’m probably over that too.”