There are few decisions in life that we can easily acknowledge as life-changing. Getting married, having children, and starting a business are some of these decisions that can straightaway alter the course of life. But what if all these things happen all together at once? Will it answer the proverbial warning of not marrying your business partner or will it become an opportunity for greater success, both in marriage and in work?
Business ventures are oftentimes tricky, and marriages are not always made out of romance novel books. Needless to say, running a business while making a marriage work may not afford the best opportunities and may even pose difficulties. However, there are success stories that can prove to us that marriage does not hinder you from establishing an internationally acclaimed business—just like the partnership of Mel and Patricia Ziegler, the founders of Banana Republic, a leading American apparel brand that is now owned by multinational company, Gap Inc.
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Teamwork makes the dream work
Banana Republic storefront in Bayview Village Shopping Centre. Toronto, Canada. Photo: JHVEPhoto
Don’t get us wrong, co-founders and husband-and-wife, Mel and Patricia have had a number of challenges while they launched and handled Banana Republic, just like any other business partners. The only great thing was that, as a couple, they were a team of two who each complements the other, helping them create and develop a fashion empire.
Despite having no money nor experience in retail, Mel and Patricia decided to launch the then Banana Republic Travel and Safari Clothing Company in Mill Valley, California in 1978. The brand, featuring a safari-inspired style, became a hit to those who have a passion for travel and fun expeditions. What made the company even more of a success was its travel-oriented catalogue, known as travelogue, which consisted of hand-drawn arts of clothing items made by Patricia herself, plus fictional travel stories that suit the advertised merchandise.
After five years of being an independent store, Gap Inc. acquired and renamed the brand to Banana Republic in 1983, turning the clothing store into a global name that offers an array of classics and modern style that endures.
First of its kind
Photo: Getty / Antonio de Moraes Barros Filho
In a myriad of retail stores offering seemingly indistinguishable merchandise from the others, Banana Republic stood out from the very beginning. As a concept store that was one of its kind during its time, Mel and Patricia found inspiration from a surplus of military apparel from the war during one of their travels in Australia. Think character, wildlife, and adventure.
The clothing store started from reselling stylish military surplus to expanding into their own collection of well-tailored clothing made from high-quality fabric. Notable pieces from Banana Republic during that time were women’s expedition cloth flight suits, short-sleeved paratrooper shirts, Mediterranean shorts, and army bush hats.
As creatives themselves, the Banana Republic co-founders also put their creativity to work in their clothing line, as they strived to stick to the theme with every new product they release. They also added character into their retail stores by furnishing their interiors with palm trees, animal prints, elephant tusks, and even a crashed airplane next to the racks of clothing. Such is a testament to Banana Republic’s promise to provide its customers a theater-like shopping adventure every time they come visit.
Mannequin display at Banana Republic. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Photo: Nata Sha
Due to the decreased market for military surplus, jetsetter-ready clothing, and wildlife-inspired pieces – unless of course when the need arises, say, for a costume party – Banana Republic started designing and manufacturing a collection of clothing line that is more attractive to a larger market.
Today, Banana Republic is one of the most reliable shopping destination for working men and women. It now offers an array of collection of fashion-forward pieces that are up-to-date with the current trends in fashion. Despite such modern take on fashion, it still hasn’t lose sight of where the company truly began. The all-time favorite casual shirts that come in plaid, stripes, print, or solid colors are still in stock, ready to be tucked into slacks for work or worn with a pair of shorts for a beach trip. You may not have access now to the Army Air Corps jackets that Banana Republic used to offer before, but you can still have one that resembles them—the moto jackets that come in leather and suede.
Apart from all of these, Banana Republic still upholds its reputation for having a complete assortment of sartorial wear-for-work pieces, which keeps its customers (both old and new) drawn to its collections..
The success continues
Banana Republic Outlet in Singapore. Photo: Sorbis
The success of Banana Republic is a testament of how a perfect teamwork, accompanied by an undying passion and commitment to work, delivers. From its humble beginnings in Mill Valley, California, the brand now has more than 600 stores worldwide, as well as a fully functioning and easy to use online retail website, bananarepublic.com, accessible to anyone from around the world. With the whole world set to be conquered, Banana Republic continues to see life a little differently to bring you the style you deserve—quality outfits with thoughtful design and impeccable craftsmanship.