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Hello, my name is Helen and I am bananas about Banana Republic.
First of all, let me explain that is a recent love. I new-found love, if you will. Yes, it is possible I am in the honeymoon period, but oh, BR, how I misjudged you before!
Banana Republic is pretty big stateside and there are a few branches in London, including one in the shiny New Change shopping centre. Although I had sometimes looked in the window and thought 'oooh, that's nice', I'd never actually gone in a shop. Oh, don't get me wrong, with the simple but stylish clothing on display in the windows and the trendy lights and air of sophistication, it always looked like a good shop, but way to expensive and out of my league.
Yes, Banana Republic is an expensive shop. I wasn't wrong there. But it is certainly somewhere to check out during the sale periods. It was a couple of weeks ago that I mooched in out of curiousity during my lunch hour and I was really impressed.
First of all, the shop was laid out really nicely. It was big and airy, with good lighting and all the clothes nicely displayed. Unlike a lot of shops where the sale items are just rammed on a rack and fall off hangers, even the sale items were displayed nicely, in size order and just as much time had been taken over presentation of these as it had over the non-sale items.
Another plus point on display - often in shops, the sale items are all stuffed in a corner or in one place. In BR, they were spread out throughout the shop, meaning that none of the displays were overcrowded with people grabbing, like in other shops.
I spent a lot of time looking around and eventually made a bee-line for a gorgeous jacket on sale. It was a black, military style jacket with a flare at the back - perfect for smart or casual. I reached for the price-tag, expecting it to still be around £80; imagine my surprise when it was marked down to £19.99 from £110. Now THAT is a sale. The jacket seems to be high quality; the cut is flattering, the material is lovely and soft and buttons are tightly sewn on. No loose threads or frays - fantastic for such a cheap item of clothing.
I tried it on in a changing room - the changing rooms are also pretty good. There was no limit on items, the fitting room staff were helpful, the cubicles were roomy, with doors, not curtains and they also catered for their disabled customers, with a wheelchair friendly room. They were also clean - another plus point.
Speaking of the staff, I cannot praise the checkout staff enough. They were busy, yet quick and friendly and even commented on how they couldn't believe the price of my jacket.
A couple of days ago, I thought I'd check out their website, which was also easy to use. Once again, I found a couple of cheap items - a gorgeous dress marked down to £19.99 from over £100 and a skirt for £9.99 from nearly £50. I chose standard delivery and received an email saying that my order had been received and they would email again on dispatch. I received an email within hours saying that the expected delivery date would be 28th Jan. I received it the day after placing the order. Wow. Again, both items seem high quality and I especially love the cut of the skirt.
As BR are an American company, it's worth noting that they run in an American sizes. I'm normally about a 12 and I wear an 8 from BR - they fit perfectly. I think it's standard for American sizes to be two sizes down from your normal size, so this seems like they run to size quite well.
Yes, BR at full price are expensive, as you can easily expect to spend £50-70 on a skirt and at least £100 on a dress. But whilst their items are stylish, they are classically stylish, meaning that you can keep their items in the wardrobe for years. The quality seems high and for this reason, it may be worth splashing out a bit more on some high quality, classic wardrobe staples. And while they have such a great sale on, how can you not give them a go?
I'm a convert and I love them!
For anyone who has ever visited the US and gone shopping, they will more than likely have encountered the clothing chain Banana Republic - it is, after all, a store that tends to have a branch at almost every major shopping mall or street there.
I have been buying clothes for myself in Banana Republic since I first went to the US and have a soft spot for their clothing, even though I have to be honest and say that much of it is overpriced - however in the US there is a permanent Sale section which makes shopping there more accessible for those of us who don't have money to burn on clothes.
Banana Republic was founded in 1978 as a travel clothing store, specialising in safari wear but was acquired by Gap Inc in 1983 who changed the brand into a higher end chain clothing store, and in the ensuing period it has grown into one of the most widely recognised US clothing chains. There are now over 500 stores in the US with a growing number of stores around the world.
The company finally opened a UK store on London's Regent Street in 2008, and there are now three stores in the capital, with the other two on Long Acre in Covent Garden and in Brent Cross Shopping Centre.
The stores offer menswear and womenswear but don't expect high fashion here - the clothing is really aimed at an older audience - or a younger audience which appreciates classic clothing made from, by and large, quality fabrics.
Whilst the style isn't as preppy as fellow US retailer Brooks Brothers, there are crisp shirts and quality knits as well as well tailored jackets.
Silk is a favoured fabric in Banana Republic, and I must admit to having a weakness for this fabric. Having spent some time browsing both the Regent Street and Covent Garden stores, I was taken by many of the well designed silk tops instore for summer.
Instead of high fashion you get quality clothing with a bit of a fashion twist - for instance a grosgrain ribbon bow tie at the back of a top, silk trim on a short sleeved knitted cotton cardigan or ruffles around a neckline.
Banana Replublic stores are always very neatly laid out - and everything about them always strikes me as orderly and tidy. Clothes are arranged either on hangers or folded on shelves or desk areas on the floor. They are almost always laid out depending upon colours - so if you are looking for, say, a blue sweater,you will more likely than not find it beside a swathe of other blue items.
This colour co-ordination makes for reasonably easy shopping I find - as someone who rarely wears blue, I find I can easily skip that area altogether for instance.
The interiors are always stylish but sleek - the racks are gleaming chrome but good use of wood is used on floors, stairs, shelving and banisters. There are also lots of seats dotted around the stores, which is something I really appreciate as mother to a child who only tolerates shopping if it's being done for her.
Service is understated - which a word which sums up Banana Republic very well - the clothing is understated but stylish, the interiors are understated and so is the service you can expect to receive. Staff will approach you if you look bemused or look as if you are looking for something but mostly they leave you alone.
All stores have fitting rooms which are clean and spacious - a clean fitting room is something I really appreciate as so many high street stores seem to overlook the cleanliness of these areas and some are quite frankly a disgrace. There is a stool in each fitting room and ample hanging space for clothing.
I have used Banana Republic stores in the US for some time and have always been impressed with their clothing. My husband was a big fan of their clothing too, being particularly fond of their tailored menswear and chino trousers. My knowledge of their menswear is limited to the clothing he bought however so I cannot really effectively comment on menswear as a result.
Womenswear I have far more experience of however and have purchased many items over the years although most of what I have bought has been tops and t-shirts, with the odd accessory and pair of shoes thrown in.
I have always liked the little fashion twists Banana Republic add to their clothing, meaning a top from there rarely looked similar to something from another store, and over the years have purchased items of clothing which included pretty self tie belts, subtle smocking around necklines, silk detailing around sleeves and necklines and other details which other stores didn't seem so keen to try out on their clothing.
On my last trip to the US I was taken by a long line boyfriend style v-neck sweater in the store which was made of a blend of silk and cotton and instead of having a plunging v-neck had a higher one which also featured a slightly ruffled detail around the neckline. The fabric was absolutely divine - soft and comfortable and despite the label proclaiming it was hand wash only has been through several hand wash cycles in the washing machine with no ill-effect.
Pricewise this set me back $55 plus tax and I was curious to see how US prices would translate in the UK stores and was relieved to see the same jumper, albeit not in the colour I had purchased, for sale at £39.50, which although expensive, wasn't entirely unreasonable.
The cheapest things you can buy in Banana Republic are basic t-shirts, and vests, which will set you back between £10 and £15. For anything with the most basic of detailing you are looking at £20 but £29.50 is a bit nearer the mark. Silk summer tops are priced between £39.50 and £49.50 with dresses averaging around the £75 mark but jackets are closer to £100.
Quality wise it's pretty good - certainly basic cotton t-shirts are made of thick material, but some of their jersey items containing viscose are not quite so dense fabric wise. This is fine for a sheer jersey evening top but perhaps not quite so good if you are looking for something more substantial. Cotton is well used here as well silk you will find.
A lot of Banana Republic clothing is dry clean only so check the label before you buy if this might be a problem for you.
Sizes are similar to Gap with US sizes used for some dresses and for trousers and skirts, but XS-XL used on tops. There is also a small Petites section available for those who are 5 foot 2 inches and under. Generally if you are between a UK size 6 and UK 18 you will find something that fits you here.
I found the entire experience of shopping in Banana Republic to be enjoyable - I liked how well laid out the clothes were (although I did, as ever, struggle with some of the neatly folded piles of clothing as I rummaged in search of my size - so apologies to any sales staff who had to refold this!) and how I could shop without having my brain befuddled by blaring music, garish lighting and over enthusiastic sales staff.
Paying was a pleasant experience too - there wasn't a queue and the process was quick and done with a smile.
Items are given to you in a thick paper bag which is made from recycled paper, although I must admit the fabric handles are possibly not quite as "green" as the bags are.
One thing which I was delighted by is Banana Republic's refund policy - there is a very generous 90 day return period so if you change your mind you have plenty of time to return your unworn item - so long as you keep your receipt of course! If you do lose your receipt the store will give a credit note for the return of unworn and unwashed items to the store.
You cannot, however, return items you bought in Banana Republic stores outwith the UK so if you changed your mind about something you bought on a trip to the US you will still be stuck with it!
The only thing I was a bit disappointed about was the lack of a permanent sale section in the UK stores. I don't know how often Banana Republic have sales in these stores either so perhaps it might be best to assume they are merely bi-annual at the end of each season.
If you like understated but classic clothing then Banana Republic is possibly the place for you. High fashion it is not but the clothing you find there is perfect for office wear, evening wear or holiday wear, along with casual items too.
Prices are not particularly cheap - and overall you might find it cheaper to shop in their US stores if you visit - however they are not prohibitively expensive either and you will benefit from the fact clothing from there is genuinely different to much of the stuff available from UK chains.
The experience of shopping there is a pleasant one - the fact I was able to visit two branches with a very reluctant daughter who was actually quite happy to sit down and let me browse uninterrupted says something about how calming and well designed their stores are, with the emphasis on organised as opposed to the organised chaos you encounter so often in other stores.
It is unfortunate that at present there are only three stores in the UK but one can but hope that perhaps their London success will lead to more stores opening in major provincial cities in time.
For now, I would say if you are shopping in London it's worth popping in and checking out Banana Republic yourself.
Banana Republic is quite possibly my favorite place to shop for clothes. Owned by the same company that runs Gap and Old Navy, Banana Republic is the highest end of these three retailers. Their clothing is classic and smart, with a range of dress from casual to professional and cocktail attire. Although sometimes when purchased full price, items can be on the more expensive side, the quality of the garments is top-notch. Banana often runs sales and deals, though, so it is smart to wait a week or so until the full price drops and you can get what you want at a better price. I usually do this, and end up spending less than I would at a store like the Gap, but on much higher quality clothing.
They also offer a credit card system with reward points that translate into gift cards for you to use at a later date. I usually find myself with $10 or $20 to spend every couple of months, and use these to give myself a free shopping trip. There is no cost, and the points can be gained or used at Banana Republic, Gap and Old Navy.
For anyone who needs to dress smart at work, or enjoys a polished casual look, I suggest checking out a Banana Republic store.
I walked past Banana Republic pretty much every day on my way to the subway in the World tRade Center Mall. The clothes in the window looked good - great style and great quality, and it was a name I had heard, so I eventually made the effort to get in and actually have a look around. I have to say that I was very disappointed. the prices were astronomical ( and this in a city known for its' great shopping at reasonable prices) and actually the styles were limited to only a few things in a few colours, so you're pretty limited if the colours and styles they have don't appeal. Personally I wouldn't bother unless you have a lot of money to spend, and getting great value is not on your agenda. By all means look, some of the stuff has great style. I only saw the clothes for 2 seasons, and they may have branched out a little more this year....but really this store reminded me of a very upmarket GAP but without the huge range of colours. Nearly everything in the store last summer was khaki or grey, and only in a few styles. It's also one of those stores where you feel you have to be dressed a certain way to be spoken to by the salespeople as equals, and I felt very conspicious wandering around there in my tie-dyed dungaree shorts!
Why oh Why don't we have this store in the UK??? It is owned by the Gap and American's view it as a high end version of the Gap, (the low end version being Old Navy which is another quality store we are sadly lacking in the UK). However, New York being far cheaper than the UK the so called expensive Banana Republic is actualle about the same price as the UK Gap with far better quality clothing. The store is for Men and Women, often with separate branches for each and they also do home furnishings. You can see the influence of Gap designs but the items are often better quality with finer materials - a must for tourists if only to see what we are missing.