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Banana Republic Recruits Narciso Rodriguez

The designer will assume an advisory role on Aug. 20, working alongside Simon Kneen, executive vice president and creative director.

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Banana Republic has recruited Narciso Rodriguez to rev up its fashion offering.

The specialty retailer, owned by Gap Inc., on Tuesday said Rodriguez will assume an advisory role on Aug. 20, working alongside Simon Kneen, executive vice president and creative director. The first collection bearing the imprint of the Rodriguez-Banana Republic partnership will launch for fall 2013.

“At Banana Republic, we are committed to delivering modern, stylish workwear to our customers,” said Jack Calhoun, president of Banana Republic. “Narciso’s expertise will be a great complement to Simon’s strengths and to our incredible design team.”

Rodriguez is expected to add a fresh perspective to further Banana Republic’s positioning, Calhoun said. Banana Republic has partnered with Trina Turk for a capsule collection, as well as the costume designers for AMC’s “Mad Men” and the upcoming film “Anna Karenina.” “Man Men” has been credited with helping Banana Republic post $622 million in sales, its best first quarter ever, and a 7.4 percent increase over last year’s quarter. Gap Inc. chairman and chief executive officer Glenn Murphy called the collection “the cool factor, that edgy factor, those special products that Banana Republic is known for.”

While the position of adviser is new to Banana Republic, it’s familiar to other Gap Inc. brands. Sources close to the company said the idea of hiring seasoned talent in advisory roles was the brainchild of Murphy. The need for talent arose during the protracted search for a replacement for Patrick Robinson, head of Gap Adult design, who was forced out. A replacement has not yet been named. In January, Tracy Gardner, former president of J. Crew Group Inc., took an advisory role at Gap’s Global Creative Center. Jill Stanton, who was vice president of global apparel at Nike Inc., in February became a creative adviser for Old Navy. “[Rodriguez] is going to function in a similar role,” the source said. “There are still in-house teams. Gap Inc. is trying to give the product teams additional creative support and help them collaborate.”

Rodriguez is known for architectural, modern silhouettes. His collection has twice won the Council of Fashion Designers of America award for best women’s wear designer. His line was recently expanded to include shoes and Rodriguez is launching in the fall a limited-edition collection at Kohl’s Corp. inspired by Istanbul.

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