By  on May 18, 2009

SAN FRANCISCO — Banana Republic is testing a spin-off of its affordable-luxury niche with a stand-alone women’s accessories boutique. The prototype bowed Friday in the Westfield San Francisco Centre.

Called Edition by Banana Republic, the 1,200-square-foot space was designed with an urban town house-art gallery motif and looks like a luxury store. However, 80 percent of the merchandise is priced at less than $100. About 40 percent of the mix is exclusive to Edition — some items are limited editions of 100 — and the balance can be found at Banana Republic stores.

“We wanted to showcase our accessories with a high level of service,” said Jack Calhoun, Banana Republic president.

Edition was conceived before the recession, but the weakened economy plays to its favor, said Calhoun, who is hopeful that Edition will roll out in other markets.

Handbags, scarves and shoes are artfully displayed on bookshelves and tables in three rooms that branch off an ivory jewelry bar extending the store’s length. There’s a salon desk instead of a cash register counter. The store, located a floor below a Banana Republic in the Westfield San Francisco Centre, has a streetscape facade of New Mexico limestone, a vaulted ceiling and exhibits local art.

“It’s more of a shopping spa instead of a shopping store,” said Simon Kneen, Banana Republic’s creative director, delighting in Edition’s high style and low prices, like $16 to $18 silver bracelets, $22 to $49 cocktail rings and $150 leather shoulder bags.

The priciest item is a $995 woven patent-leather Italian handbag.

Edition is being marketed through local Banana Republic stores and its best customers, as well as private parties in the store and social events in the Bay Area.

“The marketing is more personal, in keeping with the intimate store,” Calhoun said.

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