Q&A: Michael Anderson, Banana Republic’s SVP of Design

We caught up with Michael Anderson, Banana Republic’s head of design, at their 20th Anniversary soiree in Toronto last week to chat about the brand’s style evolution. While Banana Republic was originally founded in 1978, Gap Inc. acquired the brand 20 years ago and transformed it into the upscale retailer we know now. Anderson joined the team 11 years ago and is responsible for the brand’s iconic contemporary chic look.

Keep reading to learn more about the brand’s design challenges, new innovations and Anderson’s must have winter pieces:

29Secrets: How has Banana Republic evolved throughout the years while still staying true to its signature style?

Michael Anderson: One of the biggest things that we really try to evolve into is a brand that is about lifestyle. And I think it’s served the brand well. We used to be known for “work only” apparel, but I think work has evolved for everybody, and so has the customers’ needs. It’s more exciting for the design team as well. We’ve kind of grown up along with our customer, and as her needs have evolved, we’re hoping so have ours.

29: When your customer has come to expect something very specific from you, like “work only” apparel, is it hard to change it up or take chances with design?

A: The challenge is to balance the assortment. So there’s enough of those basics that she can buy into effortlessly every season, but also there’s enough to challenge her as well.

29: What is the key piece from the winter collection?

A: I love the pink coat. I love the idea of getting back to this beautiful sort of sculpted tailoring which is very kind of traditional, but then in a beautiful pink wool with a great texture to it.

Pink jacket grey wools

29: In terms of fabrics, are there any new innovations we can expect in 2016?

A: I think the way that we’re sort of looking at our wools and the technology that is enabling us to do these beautiful lightweight wools, or these wools that are so clean you can wear them without a lining, or reversible wools. It’s about that everyday ease of wear that I think our customer really responds to, like washable wools. Things that have a luxe appearance, but they’re easy to care for. Those sorts of things I think are really cool for the brand.

29: In your time with the company has there been an iconic piece that’s stood out to you?

A: That’s a really good question. I would probably say the utility jacket. There are different ways of updating it and we do that each season but utility, and the idea of that sort of versatility is really important to the brand. So whether it’s a field jacket with multiple pockets, so something more tailored with a little lapel. That to me, speaks to the brand I think.

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