The warmly inspiring account of how a journalist and an artist stumbled into business and founded Banana Republic, one of the most successful clothing chains in retail history.
In 1978, tired of working dead-end jobs, Mel and Patricia Ziegler decided to take the $1,500 they had between them and create “a lifetime free of never having to work for anyone other than [themselves] again.” With no previous business experience to guide them, they began with the idea to sell safari-style clothing purchased from military-surplus warehouses. And so they embarked on their retail adventure, relying on luck, resourcefulness and their respective skills as a storyteller and a visual artist. They created a mail-order catalog that broke all the rules of direct marketing, bluffed their way into getting the merchandise they couldn't pay for and started their first shop in an almost invisible location "on the dark side of a side street two long blocks from the edge of the retail center of Mill Valley.” Thanks to unexpected media exposure, however, their tiny store was soon filled with customers looking for distinctive quality clothing that conveyed "character, charisma, and class.” By 1982, Banana Republic had grown large enough that it attracted the attention of Gap founder Don Fisher, who bought the company but kept the Zieglers in charge. The company continued to break sales records, but as it did, Fisher's desire to make Banana Republic into a money-making mega-chain devoid of its trademark playfulness and individuality eventually forced the Zieglers to walk away. Told as a dual-voiced narrative that alternates between Mel’s and Patricia's points of view and illustrated throughout with sketches and images featured in the early catalogs, the story offers refreshing insight into the possibilities of achieving success and maintaining personal integrity in a hyperformulaic world.
An unabashedly free-spirited celebration of the power of outside-the-box thinking.