Walk into any Banana Republic, and you'll find a variety of timeless classics, unique prints, beautiful embellishments and flattering fits. But these polished pieces didn't all start out that way.
Each shirt, pant, dress, sweater has a story — traveling through multiple iterations of seams, trims, fits and sometimes even fabrics before the product's transformation is complete, and finally adopted into the BR line.
A few short months ago, these pieces were patterns and ideas — only just being shaped into early cloth prototypes.
To review what were then the early clothing samples for Banana Republic Summer 2016, BR's San Francisco- and New York-based design, merchandising, tech design and production teams traveled 13½ hours to the opposite side of the world.
Camping in conference rooms, common spaces and large offices within Gap Inc.'s Global Sourcing offices in Hong Kong, BR teams studied each early sample — comparing sketches, fabric and print swatches with the early prototypes in front of them. Designers, merchants and production felt fabric, inspected trims and tags, flipped clothing inside out, and tried on pieces — evaluating hand-feel and fit from every angle.
But as with every season, fitting sessions were where the real transformation happened. How a garment looks in a sketch, and even how it appears in a flat sample is entirely transformed once placed on a human body. Designers then become aware of constricting collars, questionable lengths, and all of those important details that can make or break a design. Even the colors of a knit blend can read differently once stretched around a human form.
Fit and quality were at the forefront of all product discussions for Summer 2016. As each team pores over the details of every piece, each fitting session became a conduit for teams to build off of their initial designs — editing and reimagining the pieces with wearability in mind, while refining all of those little details that make a garment special.
In women's knits, an extra centimeter in a turtleneck was the difference between elegant and unappealing. In men's pants, the placement of a cargo short pocket affected print as much as function.
A garment that was initially a star on the rack — but proved lackluster on the body — was pinned, cut, tucked, given a new fabric, and transformed into a brighter star.
Along with other Gap Inc. teams, the Banana Republic team frequently travels to Hong Kong — the epicenter of clothing manufacturing — so that they can closely collaborate with sourcing teams and vendors, who work to source the materials and construct the clothing that the BR teams design, fit, buy, produce and ultimately sell.
Each vendor is vetted by Gap Inc. to ensure their factories implement wastewater management programs and comply with Gap Inc.'s other strict sustainability standards.
In addition to scrutinizing fit and construction for the Summer line, the team examined how fabric and color choices fit with the season. Ongoing discussions and debates about the balance of printed and muted pieces, as well as the balance of fabrics, were key factors in deciding how to move pieces forward for Summer.
Behind every decision was the customer: how she or he will wear each item, when they'll wear it, and what details will make them fall in love with it.
Take a look behind the scenes with Banana Republic, and see the team working to craft the brand's Summer 2016 offerings — in stores now.