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Banana Republic Gets The Royal Treatment
By: Maryann Fabian
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People can’t seem to get enough of Kate Middleton and her fashion sense. There are websites dedicated to What Kate Wore and Kate Middleton’s style. She was just named to Vanity Fair’s international best-dressed list. Even Tom Cruise’s seven-year-old daughter, Suri, likes to dress like Kate. Well, now you too can dress like the Duchess for a fraction of what she pays. Banana Republic has teamed up with one of Kate’s favorite designers, Issa London. The collection will include interpretations of some of the looks she made famous. For instance, for a mere $130, you can get a replica of the royal blue dress Kate wore when she announced her engagement to Prince William (versus the original $535 Issa price). Actress Naomi Watts has already been spotted by InStyle wearing a wrap dress from the new collection.

"We knew our customers would be thrilled to experience royal fashion at a Banana Republic price point," said Banana Republic creative director Simon Kneen.

It appears that BR is stealing a page from Target’s high-fashion partnership playbook. Their collaborations were mostly winners, with customers lining up outside Target stores and clogging the store’s website to get first dibs on chic Missoni and Zac Posen offerings. The collections sold out in days.

Then there was last holiday’s Target-Neiman Marcus team-up where Target strayed a bit. It tried to raise its average unit retail price by offering higher priced items. It was such a disappointment that Target execs huddled to reassess whether the high-low fashion partnerships should ever happen again. Fashion insiders opined that the days of getting designer duds cheap were coming to an end. “It’s become formulaic at this point,” said the editorial director of Paper. But Target tweaked things a bit, and the Prabal Gurung and Kate Young collections in the spring helped the chain bounce back. According to Business Insider, the Prabal Gurung collection sold out quickly. A pair of the designer’s sandals that retailed for $29.99 ended up on eBay for $200. So, for now, it looks like customers can enjoy more cheap chic. Target’s next designer line, a Phillip Lim collection, debuts on September 15.

So, why do some high-low branding collaborations connect with consumers and some fail? There’s an art to understanding the right product mix, the right price, the designer’s popularity, and the customer’s desire. They all have to collide at precisely the right time. In the Gap’s posse of brands, BR has always skewed older and more conservative, so Kate could be a good fit. BR also uses an "Insiders Panel” to consult with thousands of its customers beforehand. BR sends panelists pictures of future products and marketing collateral to get their perspective on upcoming campaigns before the goods actually hit the stores. BR last tried a Mad Men-inspired collection for spring, mostly centered around the character of Megan Draper (Don’s mod, young wife).

For now, we'll have to wait and see how well the Kate-inspired collection does. The 40-piece collection arrives at Banana Republic on August 8. You can take a sneak peek at a few of the pieces on their YouTube teaser.

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About the Author
Maryann Fabian is a copywriter who has crafted the voice of some of this country's best brands.
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