Stop and think for a minute about how many items you use without knowing where they actually came from. Now stop and think of all of the brands you are very comfortable with. Think of brands that have become mainstream and household names. Do you know where or how those brands originated? Chances are you don’t. I did not know how Banana Republic began and Wild Company: The Untold Story of Banana Republic by Mel and Patricia Ziegler told me in a lively, engaging way that will make me look at the brand in a new way forever now. In their charming book, they discuss how they went from broke to discovering an accidental dream, to helping run the major corporation/brand we know today. The path was not always easy for the Zieglers and they not only do not gloss over that fact, they embrace how their struggles helped them get to where they are today.
Mel and Patricia began their careers as a writer and an artist respectively. While both were employed and living a comfortable, yet sparse life, the couple knew that working for someone else was not for them forever. Their goal ultimately was just to figure out how they could continue enjoying their lives and each other, having enough money to pay their bills and ample travel time. Almost by accident, through the purchase of a surplus military jacket in Australia, Banana Republic began to slowly take shape. Mel and Patricia began to see what else they could construct from surplus garments and thus a mail order catalog and a storefront were soon born. The pair was not without growing pains however; there were thefts by employees, little to no interest in their garments, an overabundance of menswear and trying to find suppliers who would allow the couple to buy on credit. Eventually the bumps were worked out and Banana Republic was soon requested to be purchased by the GAP.
After the purchase of their enterprise, Mel and Patricia reigned free under the corporate giant and the expansion of Banana Republic boomed. New stores were popping up everywhere and the ideas were flowing/selling very well. Things would take a turn economically in the late 1980’s and finally the freedom and the creative control that the Zieglers had would begin to wane. The couple walked away from their multi-million dollar company as a result of constrictions and corporate strings that were being pulled and have not looked back since.
Wild Company describes what the pair did without Banana Republic, how they failed at some new ventures and how they succeeded at others. Ultimately, while money is nice, the Zieglers stress that life, happiness and passion are more important.
Lauren Cannavino is a graduate student, freelance writer, wine lover, and avid reader. Random musings can be found over at www.goldiesays.com.
Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Simon & Schuster. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.