Earlier this month, Banana Republic launched a demure Desk-to-Dinner apparel collection - but it wasn't a stand-alone venture. The Gap Inc. subsidiary paired up with Condé Nast's Bon Appétit magazine and Open Table (an online food reservation service), to promote the ultimate foodie clothing line. Although the collection will undoubtedly appeal to the fashion-conscious who keep an extra pair of heels under their desks, the collaboration reflects the innovation of those involved to expand the scope of their marketing strategies.
While Banana Republic has previously worked with magazines, this is the first time it has collaborated with a food publication. The idea was Pamela Drucker Mann's, Bon Appétit's publisher and vice-president. More than just ad pages, the collaboration aims to be an innovative strategy, designed to work for all parties - a solution for complementary brands to gain a little extra slice of the audience pie. Open Table's, vice president of consumer marketing, Scott Jampol, agrees that they are "three best-in-class brands" and when a message comes from three powerful brands it can be quite impactful.
Bon Appétit's editors will contribute restaurant reviews to Banana Republic's website, offering customers a taste of premier dining destinations. In addition, chefs will make appearances at special in-store shopping/dinner events in major cities, including Miami and Chicago. As for Open Table's role, it will offer Banana Republic's customers direct access to booking reservations. Even if folks are not living in one of the major cities, a link to Open Table's complete restaurant catalogue is currently available through Banana Republic's site.
The recently launched campaign, which is geared to 9-to-5-ers, will be promoted through media channels including print ads, direct mail, email, social media and Open Table's blog, Dining Check. In addition, the line will be featured prominently in the window displays of all 450 of Banana Republic's North American retail locations.
By taking a transformative approach to the design of the collection, Banana Republic is turning work wear into chic evening attire nearly instantaneously. The line's modern yet versatile separates, featuring punches of colour and graphic prints, make it easy to go from coffee to cocktails in style. For example, yellow satin cropped pants paired with an ivory silk shirt and a navy cardigan work well in the boardroom, but pair the pants with a graphic, black and white ruffled blouse, and the outfit is perfect for the dining room.
Some may question the Desk-to-Dinner line, finding it to be a conservative collection simply built on the brand's best-selling basics. But others might jump at the chance to learn a style lesson or two while browsing the racks or website. Whether you're swapping your pumps for sandals to have cocktails with colleagues, or losing the tie but donning a jacket for a dinner date, it's not only about reimagining your attire, but about rethinking your entire shopping experience. Rather than haphazardly selecting pieces that may or may not function with the rest of your current wardrobe, you'll become more aware of your choices.
Whether you're sipping a martini or sitting down for a five-course tasting menu, these days it seems that the entire restaurant experience is finely positioned at the intersection of food and fashion. "Restaurants, in general, put a tremendous amount of emphasis on the style and execution of the dining experience," shares Jampol. In recent years, restaurants have become trend havens that offer diners a taste of well-designed interiors that in many instances echo current fashions. At Houston's Reef, one of Open Table's featured restaurants involved in this promotion, the dining ambience, which includes mother-of-pearl tabletops, pays homage to a Mediterranean style.
Overall, dining out has become as much about the venue's style as it is about what other diners are wearing. When it comes to selecting where to dine, Jampol says that many of Open Table's clientele are not only foodies but are also fashion conscious. "How they look and feel when they go to restaurants is equally important," which makes the reservation service's collaboration with Banana Republic such a natural fit. In fact, Jampol believes that while shoppers are selecting their outfits, they are also envisioning where they will be when wearing them. Essentially, it's a collaborative effort that seems to be about offering customers the ease and convenience of pulling together a complete look, selecting a dining destination and booking a table, even before leaving the dressing room or the office.
Fashion-forward foodies wondering if the collaboration is a fleeting fad will be pleasantly surprised, as Druker Mann tells the New York Times that Bon Appéit intends to continue to deepen its involvement with fashion. Interestingly enough, Bon Appétit's current editor-in-chief, Adam Rapoport, was previously the style editor at GQ, a fitting example of food and fashion making a perfect pair.
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