Banana Republic

October 19, 2021

Today, fashion designer Charles Harbison launched his BR x Harbison women’s collection, sold exclusively in BR stores and online. Harbison was the winner of Banana Republic’s competition in partnership with Harlem’s Fashion Row (HFR) and is known for his sustainable and inclusive luxury designs. 

We had the opportunity to sit down with Charles to learn more about his background, his inspiration for this collection and what he’s most excited to see customers wear.

When did you know you wanted to be a fashion designer?

Charles: I initially studied architecture, receiving a bachelor’s degree in Fiber Arts and Textile Science from North Carolina State University before shifting to fashion. Making the transition from architect to fashion designer had everything to do with my need for a more tactile process. I love materials, and fashion design, for me, starts with materials. But one thing I love more than design is people. So, with fashion, I get to combine the two, touching my customer’s lives through materials.

What inspires you?

Charles: I’m literally inspired by the world. I’ve traveled the world and have found beauty in every group of people I’ve encountered. But the first person I found beauty in was a brown-skinned, curvy woman—my mom. I’m never not thinking about every shape, size and shade when I’m designing.

How can the fashion industry better advocate for its diverse community?

Charles: Inclusivity is inherent to my process, and it’s how the best of us approach design. A sense of joy, optimism, and aspirationalism is always important for me. And I think it is particularly important to see those sentiments reflected in Black and POC representation today. That, for me, is how my clothes relate to racial justice and equity.

The industry needs to make a conscious effort to support and highlight beautiful products that reflect the vast array of people that make up the fashion machine. Every person that invests labor, talent, or intelligence deserves to see themselves reflected in the product our industry heralds.

How does sustainability play a role in your design process?

Charles: Our goal has always been to move the needle forward and to be a sustainability change-driver with this collaboration. We concentrated on sustainable sourcing and making sure our factory partners were not only ecologically but humanly responsible.

What excites you most about this partnership with Banana Republic?

Charles: Working with BR has been great because we have important product design sensibilities in common: easy luxury, forever design, and a nod to modernity. This collaboration allows my design perspective access to a much wider market, which has been elusive for me in the past. It’s a dream to see my pieces in stores nationwide, particularly where my family can shop. I’m most excited for customers to see more color, and to walk away feeling hopeful and excited.

Shop the collection here.

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