Banana Republic's CEO, Sandra Stangl, aims for the sartorial stars with a new vision for the brand and the introduction of BR Home.
Banana Republic CEO Sandra Stangl
A few weeks ago, I stood in Banana Republic’s (@bananarepublic, bananarepublic.gap.com) new flagship showroom and watched Sandra Stangl greet guests at a grand opening soiree and graciously accept praise for the transformation. “We have a great team,” she said repeatedly, pointing out that the evolution of the SF brand isn’t all about her.
But in a very real way, it is. Since Stangl took over three years ago, the brand has boldly evolved and reflects the CEO’s belief that the SF company can turn heads again. (Stangl spent 23 years at Williams Sonoma in leadership positions—she launched Pottery Barn Kids and Pottery Barn Teens—and was president of merchandising for RH.) Walk into the Geary Street showroom, and it’s clear this isn’t dipping toes into an ocean of change; it’s total immersion. We sat down with the CEO to chat about everything from the decision to embrace Union Square to the unveiling of BR Home (@brhome).
The brand's gorgeous new facade at its flagship store in Union Square
What excites you the most about Banana Republic’s evolution?
Playing a central part in Banana Republic’s journey as a premium lifestyle brand. Collaboration and shared vision are vital to any brand evolution. I work alongside the most inspiring people in every aspect, from strategists and creatives to our long-term vendor partners and dynamic store teams.
Why was it important to you and the brand’s leadership team to make a statement about opening a flagship store in Union Square?
San Francisco is the city we proudly call home. When we were presented with the opportunity to open a store in Union Square, which has been the site of many retailers’ exits, we felt this was the right time to make a long-term commitment to our hometown. Like many major urban centers, our city is under duress. But a collective effort is underway to bring about its comeback—one we believe will be successful—and we are here to be part of that revitalization.
What stands out the most in the new space?
When designing the new two-floor, 3,500-square-foot store, we wanted to retain and celebrate the existing building and materials, highlighting the original white brick, hardwood floors and staircase—bringing in warm, natural interior tones with natural greenery.
The Phoenix armoire from the new BR Home collection
What can patrons expect to see?
Our women’s apparel collection extends through the first floor, with men’s apparel placed upstairs and styling rooms on each level. We offer personal styling services for our Banana Republic Atelier clients; we have a room with seating and a private fitting room on the second floor. A curated assortment of furniture from our newly launched BR Home collection complements the apparel lines to empower self-expression in modern living. We’ve created a stunning light installation in the store’s foyer that goes up to the second floor and ties together the two levels.
BR Home will surprise people, yes?
Earlier this year, we launched several home categories, such as decor, bedding, pillows and throws. In September, we expanded our curated expressions for home with collections that include bedroom, living room, dining, lighting, textiles, art and decor. We see home as a natural extension of our brand ethos. Our high-quality and versatile wardrobe staples are designed for customers’ multifaceted lives that will be around for years. The same quality, style and design you see in our apparel collections is expanded beyond their closets and transported to these new territories.
The Banana Republic design team ensured the bones of the Union Square building remained, including gorgeous brick and hardwood flooring.
Do the materials match the BR ethos?
We couldn’t be more excited to invite our customers to come home to the world with our curated collections that utilize the highest-quality materials like French oak, marble and brass, and natural fabrics, such as fine European linen, plush cotton cashmere, and organic cotton, sourced and created by skilled artisans worldwide.
Banana Republic’s foundation has always been textiles, and our roots and resources in that world run deep. Now, whether in fashion or furnishings, we can continue to offer distinctively fine fabrics. Working with our established global network of designers and crafters led us to the new relationships we needed to produce an expansive home collection featuring similarly quality-minded materials.
[Consumers] want comfort, beauty, style and function, and Banana Republic’s legacy as travelers and explorers position us at the intersection of those elements, turning home design into discovery and self-expression.
A sleek leather goods display at the new Geary Street flagship store in SF's Union Square.
Do you have any BR Home favorites?
The Nova Collection features distinctive chandeliers crafted and rolled by hand and carries the fingerprints of the artisans who made them. Each piece is perfectly imperfect because of the unique story behind it. The materials are naturally sourced and completely handmade from start to finish by women living in South Africa.
BR Home also includes rugs hand-knotted by artisans in Morocco’s Middle Atlas Mountains. The community that makes these rugs is one of the largest ethnic groups with a strong history rooted in Northern Africa.
Our solid oak products, offered in the Marquis and Savannah collections, feature European white oak, also known as Quercus Alba, much of which is grown in the Burgundy region of France. A culture of sustainable forestry in France and other areas of Europe dates back centuries. Through these collections, we aim to communicate authenticity and create a sense of connection to the materials and people who made them.
I love the new capsule collection with fashion designer Peter Do. What can customers expect?
Banana Republic and Peter Do share the same design codes: timeless design, versatile yet sleek silhouettes, impeccable tailoring and fine craftsmanship. This authentic partnership was designed to resonate with audiences and to shift perceptions. We recognize how our brands share similar values and are each driven to find new and meaningful ways to connect with our communities by engaging with the places and verticals we know are important to them.
The 28-piece collection launched in early October and is widely celebrated across the fashion community. I’ve been thrilled seeing all the buzz surrounding collaboration, especially following our brand’s exclusive debut with Peter for his first-ever Paris Fashion Week runway show in September.
The brand is committed to the environment, with 97% of its cotton produced sustainably.
I’m curious who your audience is these days.
Whether they’re new to Banana Republic or longtime shoppers, we’re learning that our customers share an enthusiasm for exploring their style in fashion and at home. Although we’re a heritage company, our storied legacy—those early values of travel and exploration—is still in place for today’s customers As we develop a stronger design presence and get to know our customers better, they show us they’re interested in rethinking how they want to live and express curiosity about discovering what works for their unique personal style.
So many brands embrace sustainability right now How is this X factor part of Banana Republic’s mission? We aim to source 100% sustainable cotton by 2025 and are currently ahead of schedule at 97%, including cotton used in both Home and apparel collections. And with every design decision, we strive to be more sustainable with the materials we use in all our products. For our home textiles, we’re only using fibers that occur in nature, such as wool and linen, in their natural colors, avoiding dyeing wherever possible.
The Stinson sofa
What would our readers be most surprised to learn about Banana Republic?
Just how fascinating our archives are. And really, how our past moves into our present. We’re a brand fueled with heritage and a business that has been around for 45 years—almost half a century—you’ve seen it all and done most of it, and those archives prove how the style world around us has changed.
My two favorite [vintage] pictures of the early mall stores show decommissioned Jeeps parked in the center as part of the original expeditionary theme and the minimalist fashion of the ’90s, now reinterpreted as quiet luxury and very much what we love in our collaboration with Peter Do.
Your parting words?
It’s important to realize that evolving a business is not an instantaneous change. Instead, it’s a steady, considered process, and we prefer that even pace rather than rushing change just for the sake of it. What’s important to us is to listen to our customers, develop new design directions and interests and look for the right partners.
Photography by: COURTESY OF BANANA REPUBLIC; DREW ALTIZER; COURTESY OF BANANA REPUBLIC; DREW ALTIZER; DREW ALTIZER; DREW ALTIZER; COURTESY OF BANANA REPUBLIC