Journal: News & Comment

Thursday, August 29, 2002
# 11:44:00 AM:

Catalogues and magazines

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Ryan's link to the Globe and Mail article about Martha Stewart and L.L. Bean reminded me of a time twenty years ago when I loved a particular mail-order catalogue.

Banana Republic, like Abercrombie & Fitch, started out as a very different clothing company from its current incarnation, which is as the high-end outlet for Gap, Inc. (or, in Abercrombie's case, a sexed-up sweats & jeans retailer). Both BR and A&F were originally more like outfitters, with practical, non-stylish British Empire-type safari clothes and similar outdoorsy equipment. (Consequently, their names made more sense then.) I bought a pair of zip-off-leg cargo pants from Banana Republic in La Jolla, California years before that design existed anywhere else, for instance. Before the Gap transmogrified it, the store was most similar to Canada's Tilley Endurables, but without the dreaded "older traveller" connotations.

The best part of the old Banana Republic was the free, booklet-sized mail-order catalogue, which was much like the J. Peterman catalogue so often satirized on Seinfeld, but with better illustrations and less stuffiness. I dreamed of owning the lushly described items in it, even if they included a belt I could just as easily buy at Sears for half the price and without paying shipping and U.S. exchange. But the catalogue was expensive to produce, and eventually they stopped sending it. And I stopped buying. And then they became just another clothing store, years before an outlet appeared in Vancouver, where I live. I've never shopped there.


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