Banana Republic is quietly selling Chanel and Hermès bags. That is right. The Gap, Inc.-owned mall retailer currently boasts a lineup of bags, accessories, and some home goods (an Hermès clock, anyone?) from some of the market’s most coveted luxury brands. It turns out that for some time now, the retailer has been partnering with “high-end curators to select vintage bags and accessories just for you.” Currently on Banana Republic’s roster: What Goes Around Comes Around, the bicoastal retailer known for its vintage designer apparel and accessories.
When Banana Republic first began offering pre-owned luxury goods on its site, under the heading, Luxe Finds, TheStreet had some strong feelings about it. Writing for the American financial news and services site, Sarah Solomon stated, “Clearly the average [Banana Republic] shopper isn’t looking for a $550 vintage bottle opener or $750 porcelain catchall, but rather work wear or a cheaper polo they won’t hate themselves for throwing on to meet the parents.”
She continued on, “It was smart of the [Banana Republic] merchants to inject more expensive accessories and lifestyle elements (candles, Assouline coffee table books) into their offerings to elevate brand perception, but the Hermes and Chanel pieces … just seemed way off kilter – like finding a Kobe beef steak when all you wanted was a Shake Shack hamburger.”
And yet, over a year later, Banana Republic has not only continued to offer upscale pre-owned products but has bolstered it even further, in line with its desire to “understand how customers shop today so we can engage them,” as Anouar Alami, Banana Republic Sr. Director of Product Management said last year.
“Today, consumers shop by lifestyle,” she says. “And they mix and match their brands.”
This is not terribly unlike something Burberry CEO Marco Gobbetti’s said in recent statement. Nowadays, per Gobbetti, “Consumers prefer either luxury items or mass-market brands, mixing them together to create a look.” Gobbetti was echoing something that Vogue’s editor-in-chief Anna Wintour has been pioneering since her debut cover in November 1998, which featured model Michaela Bercu in a haute couture Christian Lacroix jacket and stonewashed Guess jeans. “It is about mixing high and low,” Wintour wrote in 2012, reflecting on the coverage and its relevance today.
It is here where Solomon may have missed the point a bit, particularly since the divide between high fashion and mass-market shoppers has likely never been smaller. It is also here that Banana Republic appears to be aiming to beat its most direct mass market competitors to the punch by pairing $118 Merino wool sweaters and $278 cashmere-blend ponchos with $3,700 quilted Chanel bags all in one place.