Banana Republic and textile company Piece & Co. have teamed to create a summer capsule that combines fashion and global impact, featuring handcrafted fabrics sustainably produced by female-led artisan groups in Ghana and South Africa.
The limited-edition Banana Republic x Piece & Co. Collection will launch Tuesday at Banana Republic stores in North America and Japan, and online at bananarepublic.com.
Interestingly, Banana Republic got its start in 1978 as a shop for people with a passion for safari and expeditionwear from faraway places.
For this project, Banana Republic worked with Piece & Co.’s network of artisans across the world to create a collection made of environmentally and socially responsible fabrics. In Ghana and George, South Africa, female artisans handcrafted the Banana Republic prints utilizing unique techniques local to the regions.
According to Michael Anderson, senior vice president of design at Banana Republic, the women utilized a sun-dying technique in South Africa, where they treated the silk fabric and laid it out in the fields and placed flowers and leaves on it, exposing it to the sunlight. “What it does it leave a blueprint negative on the actual fabric, and it’s all sustainable and organic,” he said. In Ghana, they used a batik technique on the fabric. He said that Piece & Co. actually instills in these artisan groups business training and technique development of raw materials that’s sustainable. “When they do move away to another community, they’ve actually set up these group in the countries so they can continue to work. It’s so empowering,” he said.
He said he hopes to work with them again. “We loved the idea of what they do. They are incredibly artisanal. As we live in a world that’s getting faster and faster and everything is about speed to market, this has a beautiful, handcrafted slowness to it that was really appealing and spoke to the quality,” said Anderson. The artisans created the fabric and the Banana Republic designers styled the garments and manufactured them.
The offering is a 20-piece limited-edition capsule of women and men’s clothing and accessories. The abstract floral prints are inspired by South African flora and fauna in the Western Cape and executed through the artisan’s proprietary sun dyeing technique. The saturated geometric prints from Ghana are handcrafted through the artisan’s wax-resistant batik dyeing process. The capsule has a palette of rich blue and purples with accents of gray and white.
The collection retails from $24 for a men’s leaf print pocket square to $348 for a women’s batik maxi shirtdress. Other items in the capsule include women’s one-shoulder tops ($128), sateen wedge shoes ($168), a spaghetti strap printed dress ($228), soft belted blazer ($248), a twist-front dress ($268) and men’s leaf double-pocket shirts ($128).
The women’s outfit and the men’s shirt are part of the Banana Republic x Piece & Co. collection.
Kathleen Wright, chief executive officer of Piece & Co., based in New York, said she launched the company five years ago to give businesses access to sustainable, ethical textiles. The company seeks to empower women and create sustainable employment opportunities for artisans and workers in the developing world. Wright works with cooperatives around the world and invests in training and development to make the best of these techniques and to adapt them to the Western marketplace.
“Each technique is indigenous to that part of the world,” she said. In the case of Banana Republic, Piece & Co.’s designers worked with Banana Republic to bring them one-of-a-kind fabrics. “We produce all the textiles and ship to [Banana Republic’s] factories. Wright said they shipped over 21,000 yards of fabrics, and the order took four months of the artisans’ work. “The consistent employment is hugely impactful,” she said, not only from a financial standpoint, but also because they knew where their work was coming from. “The women were so proud and there were huge orders,” she added.
Piece & Co. deals with a network of more than 5,000 artisans in 16 countries to develop their businesses and compete in the global marketplace. Piece & Co. works with a range of fashion and lifestyle brands including Nike, Tome, Mara Hoffman, Creatures of Comfort and Tory Burch.