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How Banana Republic and Olivia Palermo designed this summer’s ‘it’ dress

DesignDylan DeSimone, Gap Inc. bloggerComment

In 2016, Banana Republic named international style icon Olivia Palermo as the brand’s first-ever women’s global style ambassador. Since then, Olivia has appeared in the brand’s iconic ads, shared her favorite ways to style each season’s must-have pieces, curated her own pop-up stores…and so much more.

Now, she is taking her brand engagement to the next level. This September, Olivia Palermo and Banana Republic will debut a full, co-branded women’s collection. Just last week, fashion devotees got a sneak peek of the collection when Olivia wore one of the pieces from the anticipated line to the 2017 CFDA Awards in New York.

Omar Nobil, Senior Director of Women’s Design at Banana Republic, worked directly with Olivia to design the collection and this very special dress, which is currently sold out online but still available at the Soho location in New York. Here’s what he had to say about teaming up with Palermo, and the look everyone is talking about.

How did Olivia and the BR team work together to design and create this dress for the CFDA awards? Any insights into the process?

The process was highly collaborative and organic. It started conversationally about aspects of our Fall 2017 collection she was drawn to and we took it from there. We created a couple of concepts based on these conversations and Olivia shared images and ideas that she was inspired by. We did this via text message and a shared Pinterest page, as she was on her travels to the numerous fashion weeks. She shared anything from images of vintage dresses at Portobello Market (a popular street market in London) to a description of an idea for a detail.

The whole process was light and fun. Olivia was open-minded, but also decisive and very clear about what she liked, which was great.

Olivia shares our love for beautifully made timeless classics and she also loves fashion. She is very “switched on” about what is going on at every level of the fashion market, however, she remains very much grounded and true to her own personal style. She engages in trends that enhance her style and keep her looking relevant, without being a victim to fashion. This is what makes her such a perfect brand ambassador for Banana Republic, what we stand for and why she resonates so much with our customers.

Olivia Palermo Banana Republic dress 3

What was the inspiration behind the dress she debuted at the 2017 CFDA Awards?

The dress she wore to the CFDA was part of our “Twisted Classics” concept. The dress was inspired by deconstructing elements of a classic trench – an iconic item for BR – and re-imagining them.

Why was that particular dress chosen as the sneak peek over other items in the collection?

This was entirely Olivia’s choice. She was really feeling for rich, saturated colors which drew her to this piece. It’s called “Opulent Orange” and was specifically developed for our co-branded collection. There are some other more dramatic dresses in the collection, but Olivia knows how to pull off this sportier style, even for red carpet events. 

Was the dress designed with the CFDA Awards event in mind? 

No. It was simply designed as part of the collaboration, which is what makes it so versatile. You can dress it up like Olivia, or dress it down.


See other ways Gap Inc. is collaborating to boost product design.

See how Banana Republic designs men's prints and patterns.

Check out Olivia Palermo's curated pop-up shops at Banana Republic this Spring.