In the 1970s, Banana Republic started out by buying old military surplus clothing and washing, restoring, and selling them. Pretty clever plan, if it’s sold right, and it was done very well indeed – the catalogs felt like a less flowery J. Peterman crossed with a dash of Paul Bowles fanboy. Lots of fun. Eventually, Banana Republic starting buying surplus fabrics and making their own clothes…. one thing led to another and they were bought by the Gap in 1983. The quality held on for a while – Italian-made cotton fleece, English and Italian luggage, and even US-made Ventile safari jackets.
I was paid for a delightful day helping Matt at the Flea with a gorgeous English-made shoulder bag from the spring 1987 collection, found for $5 at a thrift store. Lesli is pretty sure that it was made by Chapman, given the material and webbing clues. Stating the obvious, it’s sad to compare this gorgeous bag with Banana Republic’s current made in China offering: