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Banana Republic, London

After debuting on Regent Street, Gap’s sister chain is determined to live up to the hype surrounding its UK launch.

Banana Republic made its hotly anticipated European debut last week in a 17,000sq ft shop in the former Dickens & Jones department store building on London’s Regent Street.

The US chain, part of Gap Inc, is the final arrival in a new development on the street that includes H&M and Armani Exchange’s new flagship store.

Banana Republic’s store does not disappoint on the wow factor, with a luxurious, sophisticated and classic shopfit that bares little resemblance to sister chain Gap. Covering three floors, the shop showcases Banana Republic’s womenswear, menswear and accessories, which are pitched at more aspirational shoppers than its stablemate.

The store and the collections are essentially the same as the US concept, and the retailer has created a grand, grown-up feel to complement its mix of mainly formal daywear and businesswear, along with a scattering of more casual lifestyle and fashion ranges.

The original bronze columns and ceiling cornicing of the Dickens & Jones store have been retained, but with the lighting panels suspended. The cream floors are made from Italian marble tiles that contrast with dark wood fittings. Traditional elements are updated with modern chandelier-style lighting by UK designer Charles Edwards and photography curated by Michael Hoppen, owner of the eponymous London photographic gallery.

A multilingual concierge greets shoppers at a dedicated desk with leather chairs, where customers can request personal shopping advice and arrange deliveries, among a range of other services.

Upstairs are the women’s sports-casual and petite ranges, while the lower ground floor houses menswear. The ground floor’s focal point is a wide spiral staircase that winds around a suspended glass light column and features monochrome photos of British and American icons including John F Kennedy and Winston Churchill.

The fitting rooms are extremely spacious and have a plush feel, with high ceilings, large mirrors, soft lighting, and even a till point. Vintage furniture punctuates the merchandising throughout the store, while lounging mannequins show off the product.

The neutral colours of the classic store are complemented by the burnt oranges, yellows and 1960s styling of some of the product, albeit in toned-down, more sober colours alongside formal tailored jackets.

A spokeswoman says: “We have tried to make it feel like someone’s home, so we’ve included antique furniture and beautiful art.

“There’s a small premium on the prices here because the cost of doing business in London is greater than in the US. But the aim is to evoke the feeling of accessible luxury with easy wardrobe solutions for city living.”

Banana Republic 224 Regent Street, W1. Also see more inside shots of the news store by clicking here.

Essentials:
17,000sq ft:
Size of the Regent Street store
US$2.5bn: Banana Republic’s net global sales in 2007
570: Number of Banana Republic stores worldwide

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