NEW YORK — Banana Republic has collaborated with Milly designer Michelle Smith to produce a 60-plus item collection for men and women bowing in May at select Banana Republic locations worldwide and online.
The project involved a learning curve for Smith, who designed men’s wear for the first time.
Simon Kneen, Banana Republic’s creative director and executive vice president of design, said Smith was interested in how the retailer would interpret her unabashedly feminine style for men’s wear. “It was shrinking down the scale of her prints and working with a more muted palate,” Kneen said. “I don’t think Michelle thought her style could be translated into men’s wear. I was excited by the challenge and she was open to the idea. We’re turning the Milly brand into something interesting for our guys.” Kneen said he hopes Smith will launch men’s wear in her own business. “At this time, the Banana Republic Milly Collection is the only men’s wear I’ve designed, but I’m always open to new challenges,” Smith said.
Banana Republic has embraced hook-ups with designers, films and other examples of popular culture. Last year, the company introduced its second “Mad Men” collection; launched a capsule collection inspired by the film “Anna Karenina,” created a line with Trina Turk, and sold flight crew uniforms similar to those it designed for Virgin Airlines.
“[Collaborations] add a whole different layer,” said Kneen. “What really makes a good collaboration is the fact that there’s a really strong story to tell. In Milly’s case, she has a strong sense of color, while for ‘Mad Men,’ it was the iconic style of the Camelot period that got my antenna up. They’ve all been very successful and that’s why we’re interested in continuing them.”
Banana Republic collaborated with AMC on its third “Mad Men” collection, which will launch in select stores worldwide on March 1.
Smith came to mind when “we were looking for something very summery, inspired by the Hamptons summer feeling of great homes and beautiful beaches,” Kneen said. “The easy, breezy style of Milly and her Hamptons-chic style is a new take on aspirational summer dressing for our consumers.”
The collection, which incorporates a new print created for the capsule and six updated Milly prints, is priced from $45 to $175 for women’s apparel, $24.50 to $64.50 for men’s wear, and $39.50 to $130 for jewelry and accessories.
Kneen said the partnership will give Smith exposure she might not get otherwise. “Banana is a household name. We can take Michelle to places she’s never been before,” he said, referring to the an advertising campaign breaking in June.
“It’s a very positive, happy collection,’ Smith said. “The colors and patterns capture the modern spirit of summer.”