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Book Review: “Wild Company: The Untold Story of Banana Republic”

By Mindi Chen

Here at northeasternfashion.com we not only try to keep you beautiful from the outside, but from the inside as well. This autobiography of one successful couple will be an enjoyable read for anyone interested in fashion and retail.

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Wild Company is a heartwarming and inspirational tale of a young free-spirited couple, Mel and Patricia Ziegler, who left their jobs as a journalist and artist to set off on a retail adventure. Told in a dual-voiced narrative, Mel and Patricia give alternating first person accounts of their journey founding Banana Republic relying on their resourcefulness, skills, and innovative thinking.

Motivated by their deep desire to live a life of adventure and free from convention, the couple founded Banana Republic in 1978 with $1500 and no business experience. The two self-proclaimed “professional amateurs” journey into unknown territory of fashion retail. They break all the rules of direct marketing, set up shop on a dark street far from the retail center of Mill Valley, California, and reinvented army surplus clothing into a safari-inspired apparel line. Their innovative retail practices and unique clothing that exudes “character, charisma, and class” captured the attention of Don Fischer, the founder of Gap. Under Gap, Don acquired Banana Republic and gave Mel and Patricia an open checkbook to run Banana Republic autonomously. Led by the couple’s vision and creativity, Banana Republic continually broke record sales and opened stores all over the country. After years of growing success, Banana Republic ultimately fell under control of “corporate honchos” that stripped the company of its original playfulness and individuality. Mel and Patricia left Banana Republic when they no longer had the freedom that they originally sought in life a decade earlier. The couple carried their entrepreneurial spirit with them and created new ventures that allowed them to live on their own terms. Through their time building Banana Republic, ignoring business conventions and moving through a fog of ambiguity and risk, they learn the power of out-of-the-box thinking and perseverance.

A business adventure and a story of love and passion wrapped in one, Wild Company inspires readers to break away from the hyperformulatic world in which we live to create a life of passion, happiness, and meaning – on their own terms.

Wild Company would appeal to creative individuals who resist a life of convention and are looking for a new beginning.

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