It’s not farfetched to say that magic happens inside the new Banana Republic Design Studio at Gap Inc.’s San Francisco headquarters. Envisioned as a hub for inspiration, collaboration and hands-on work by our designers, it includes a cozy lounge/meeting space and state-of-the-art rooms for sewing, fitting, wash-and-wear testing and creating design concepts.
We recently talked with four members of the Banana Republic team about what inspired the studio … and the work that it’s inspiring as a result. Peter Alwast, Senior Manager of In-Store Experience, Nicole Wiesmann, Vice President of Men’s Design, Senior Director of Tech Design, Vanessa Allen, and recruiter Simon O’Mahony – all offered their perspectives on this very special space.
Q.: How did you envision the studio coming to life?
It started with a mood board that was all about elements of a comfortable, relaxed space where people could converse and be inspired. In the lounge/library area at the front of the studio, that means a mix of art and books and casual seating; modern yet refined, with a really homelike feel. We designed the lounge to catch your eye as you enter the lobby of the building: You glance through the double doors into that “living room” and can’t help but want to check it out.
We knew we wanted loads of space for working and hanging out, plus great light. Creating the studio was really a team effort among design, visual and facilities and planning — and all along the way, we’d share layouts with the designers who’d be working there, to get their feedback on how the studio could fit their needs.
Q. The lounge feels like the world’s coolest loft — it has a sectional sofa where people can hang out, a communal table for working or hosting meetings, and tons of books on design, architecture, fashion, textiles and art.
Karl Lagerfeld’s private library was an inspiration for the lounge; he has thousands and thousands of books stacked from floor to ceiling. We wanted a central location to house all our design books, to give people an almost endless source of inspiration. Some of my favorites on the shelves right now are a collection of Peter Beard photos and anything from the Vintage Showroom.
Q. How about the tech design work spaces — what are some of the tools designers get to use there?
We are thrilled with our sewing room! It has all the makings of a mini-factory, including an array of industrial sewing machines with every possible thread capability (single and double needle, lockstitch, bar tack, overlock, blind stitch, buttonholes) that our designers could ever want. The room is stocked with every possible color of buttons and threads, and with rolls of fabric from Rapid Movement to fun faux fur. We also have full press and steam stations to achieve a dry-cleaner quality finish on our samples. And we have industrial-size washer and dryers for testing durability and care instructions.
Q. What are some of your favorite design details throughout the space?
There are some really cool functional designs in the studio. For instance, our team custom-designed high tables on wheels with hanging bars underneath, to limit the number of rolling racks cluttering the floors.
I love the sewing-room cabinets that open up like closet doors (I’m actually stealing that idea for my own home remodel).
The space is really versatile — it’s easily transformed to accommodate different kinds of meetings, walkthroughs, etc. All designers have their own desks in the studio, in addition to the common working areas. It gives designers the room, light and space to be creative.
Q. What’s happening right now in the design concept room?
happens in the design concept room! It’s the most visually stimulating area of the studio, because it has color, images, fabrics, sketches and samples. It’s where everyone comes to discuss and share ideas. Design is wrapping up Spring 2019 prototype requests, starting to work on Summer 2019 prototypes and beginning to map out Fall 2019. I can’t say too much, but I’m seeing a lot of water-inspired themes in the works.
If the Banana Republic Design Studio sounds like the kind of place that would inspire you, check out our open jobs and follow us on LinkedIn to learn more about working here.