I guess it took a 30-year anniversary for Banana Republic to finally kick it into gear, but its fall line has outdone itself; winning my heart and threatening to hold my pocketbook hostage until I give in to its demands.
(The Web site is a poor shadow of the in-store experience: The fragrance of new clothes; the crisp, cool interior; the moody, beat-driven music and peacock-like flutter and fan of well-displayed apparel push this line.)
After several seasons (notably and unexpectedly Summer '08) of uninspiring, unflattering (please, no more maternity -- er, empire-waist -- tops) and dull designs, it's great to see that something -- the change of season? Three decades to get it right? The sputtering economy? -- has prompted BR to bring its focus back to feminine designs in irresistible colors to please women who have grown bored of its half-hearted overtures.
It's not just the colors that are doing it well. Though the first wave of fall fashions is a layer of neutrals -- standard ivory, obsidian, charcoal and mushroom -- studded with jewels of deep teal, maroon, indigo, grape, emerald and garnet -- what really catches the eye and tactile sense are the luxurious materials: Languid silks, fuzzy wools, creamy cashmeres and playful felts. The sheer -- literally, in some cases -- genius in the designs ice the cake. None of this boxy, frumpy, figure-concealing stuff we've been seeing of late. Well-constructed pieces with thoughtful and surprising details -- pintucks here, buttons there -- mark the collection. Sensual draping and ruffling (even a nod to this daring couture style) juxtapose with shaped, precise lines and pleats.
Whether BR realized women like to look pretty (shocker!) in clothes that accentuate their best physical features, or it dawned on them that in these times of financial stress, women want an escape and aren't going to keep buying whatever lackluster apparel is thrown together and put on the show floor, something finally got BR's designers to draw on its 30 years (remember Spring '04?!) and once again put out a line that makes one wander through the store, touching everything, loading an arm with possibilities and wishing that pesky salary would at least double.
Keep your eye on what this long-lost cornucopia will bring forth. BR has got it back, and as we go from fall into winter, I don't think they're going to let it go.