Let's get this out of the way: It would be impossible not to compare Banana Republic's fashion week debut on Saturday night to its retail competitor J.Crew.
For one, Banana Republic creative director Marissa Webb played an instrumental role in J.Crew's rise to popularity. Then, the models' beauty look instantly recalled J.Crew, which has rather famously owned that "slightly-disheveled-hair-paired-with-a-red-lip" look for ages now. Plus, the decision to venture into fashion week invites comparison to Webb's former employer, but for her, this was the logical next move in her overhaul of the brand.
"People will see a shift from what Banana Republic was versus what [it will be] - you'll see it through color, you'll see it through styling, you'll see it through the atmosphere," Webb said Saturday night. "I feel like Banana Republic has so much more to offer than we have been recently; it's not just a cookie cutter corporation without creative people involved, so it's important to get that across and to be a part of fashion week."
Fortunately (and smartly) this isn't Webb's attempt at J.Crew: The Sequel. J.Crew has recently faced blowback from core customers who felt alienated by the fashion-forward offerings and stingingly-high price tags, which has cost the retailer profits. So far, Banana Republic should be able to avoid that: Dismantle the "cool" styling at Saturday's presentation, and the brand's classic, accessible elements were still there, with plenty of clean, sharp shapes in a mostly subdued color palette.
Still, Webb and her team presented the right distillation of elements that more fashion-conscious customers will appreciate: the accessories, like tasseled loafer heels and quirky-cute bags, were an especially nice touch and a good way for the Banana Republic customer to add a sense of play to her wardrobe without straying too far from her comfort zone.
Though she works with a creative team, Webb clearly has her hand in everything. She could be seen styling looks and helping shoot the look book minutes before the presentation. Her guiding hand has given the brand a much-needed sense of direction and a clearer — and, frankly, cooler — voice on the market.