Banana Republic Sets an ‘Elevated’ Image in SoHo

Banana Republic is sporting a new look at its cast iron SoHo flagship in Manhattan.

Located at 552 Broadway, between Prince and Spring streets, the two-level, 17,000-square-foot space has been redesigned in collaboration with architect and interior designer Noa Santos of Nainoa and creative adviser Jacqueline Schnabel. Designer Zac Posen, who earlier this year joined Gap Inc. as creative director, was also involved in the project.

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“Throughout the space you’ll see a beautiful narrative of compelling merchandise, surrounded by art, books and sculpture that conveys the persona of Banana Republic as a premium lifestyle brand,” Richard Dickson, Gap Inc.’s president and chief executive officer, told WWD.

The SoHo store reopened Thursday after a months-long renovation that sets a more elevated and interesting presentation for the retailer, elements of which have begun to be rolled out to other of its stores around the country. Dickson said the renovation brings an “elevated aesthetic rooted in rich storytelling and exploration.”

The look is enhanced with a generous use of luxe materials like travertine, brass and Venetian plaster, and an array of art, including an installation by Mexico-based artist Angela Damman, known for using sustainable handmade textiles made from regenerative native plant fibers. Throughout the store there’s a variety of other artworks that will be rotated seasonally in partnership with Schnabel — the first of which includes a bespoke chair, wall hanging artwork, and a hammock displayed amid lush greenery in the entry area and in the windows.

New to the SoHo store is the addition of the BR Home assortment, including furniture, lighting and other merchandise. Previously, for the SoHo crowd, the brand’s home assortment was housed in a temporary BR location nearby.

Of course, Banana Republic’s upscale women’s and men’s ready-to-wear and accessories, from sustainably sourced cashmere to European flax linen and vintage pieces from the Banana Republic archives, as well as denim, are also sold at the SoHo flagship.

In addition, the site is laden with services designed to enhance the shopping experience, from custom tailoring to personalized concierge and styling.

The setting includes a suiting shop with on-site tailoring. It also features the BR Home Penthouse Apartment, a three-room space that serves as the first BR home showroom in New York City. There’s also the BR Home Design Studio, an interior design styling service led by stylists from Banana Republic’s home team. They’re available by appointment. Dickson said that in the home studio, experts work with customers on interior decorating and customizing furnishings.

Then there’s the Banana Republic Bespoke Services for styling, tailoring and alterations, gift boxing, and local delivery, among other services. Customers can also book a VIP room for special events. The SoHo flagship has on-site product embroidery to customize garments with a monogram, message or motif.

Asked why Banana Republic SoHo was the first to undergo and complete a renovation, Dickson said, “It’s a key location in the city, and a beautiful building in the heart of SoHo, and ultimately it was a great opportunity for us to really start to story-tell…A flagship of this magnitude represents the best of the brand.”

As the company monitors the changes and how customers react to them, various of the new elements will be rolled out to other stores in the fleet, Dickson said. “The flagship will be the leading indication of how the rest of our stores will start to look and feel, aesthetically and directionally.”

Asked about Posen’s role in the project, Dickson said, “He helped unlock creativity. He had a very intimate hand in helping create the experience, from the merchandising to the art and sculpture.”

In a statement, Posen said, “It was a special experience to collaborate with Noa Santos, Jacqueline Schnabel and the in-house Banana Republic team to curate an incredible SoHo Flagship experience that celebrates the brand’s heritage with a modern point of view through immersive experiences across fashion, art, global culture and more.”

For several years Banana Republic has been in the doldrums, and trying to recapture the status and popularity it had decades ago. However, according to Dickson, last quarter Banana Republic saw “nice improvement” from previous quarters through a “reinforcement” of classic styles and emphasizing the “finest fabrics,” particularly leather and suede. Banana Republic’s first-quarter net sales of $440 million were up 2 percent compared to last year. Comparable sales rose 1 percent. It’s been awhile since BR saw sales gains.

Last month Sandra Stangl, president and CEO of Banana Republic, left the company, triggering a search for a successor. Asked if candidates have been identified, Dickson replied that there are “incredible qualified people” who would be considered. “We are in the search process. Sandra and I agreed that it was an opportune time for a transition.”

Banana Republic in SoHo.
Banana Republic in SoHo.
The two-level Banana Republic in SoHo.
The two-level Banana Republic in SoHo.

The first floor showcases women’s collections and accessories, including sportswear styles in linen, cashmere, denim, as well as occasionwear, suitings, and soft dressing from day to night. Additionally, the floor features art, and artisan products from around the world.

Among other special features in the store:

  • A range of exclusive Banana Republic vintage surplus offerings from the ’80s and ’90s. They’re priced from $55 to $1,200.

  • A BR Classics Cashmere section, where guests can learn about Banana’s sustainability efforts.

  • A rotunda designed by Angela Damman, punctuated by a chandelier.

Banana Republic’s bedding presentation.
Banana Republic’s bedding presentation.

Also featured through the store and available for purchase:

  • Books on travel, food, art, music, architecture and interior design, handpicked by Jacqueline Schnabel.

  • Côté Bougie scented candles from Morocco.

  • Hand-carved wood sculptures by Chuck Manion and Jonathan Shlafer; sculptures by Alexandra Posen, Vince Skelly and Jinsik Yoo.

  • Photography by McDermott & McGough and Jessica Craig-Martin.

  • Ceramics by Brooklyn artist Jane Yang D’Haen inspired by her Korean heritage.

  • Paintings by Roland Allmeyer, Nobuyoshi Araki, Michael Campbell, Jesse Edwards and several other artists.

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