New York – With a premature wintry chill in the air and soggy umbrellas stacked in aluminum bins in the entryway to the Banana Republic runway show space, it was a stark contrast to the serene, orderly scene backstage where models in wrinkled chino and faded blue denim were dressed for an already forgotten summer day in the city.
"I'm sorry about the weather," Simon Kneen, Banana Republic's creative director and EVP of design apologized before the brand's men's and women's Spring 2010 show. "I wish we could do something about the cabs when this happens."
Just minutes before some 38 looks would be presented on Thursday afternoon, Oct. 15, Kneen wanted to talk about the sky. Not the grey, muddled mess of sloppy clouds that was outside at that particular moment, but the piercing blue skies of summer that inspired his latest effort for Banana Republic.
"We're feeling things get more relaxed, so we're reinventing denim," said Kneen. "Beautiful, gorgeous denim. There's this particular blue that's actually kind of bright, it's a denim that reminded me of blue skies, the American blue skies. And we're actually using an American denim that has a particular coloration to it. So blues are very important."
There were denim-on-denim looks, like a washed denim shirt paired with distressed jeans on both men and women, or a layering of various shades of blue, such as a navy chambray boyfriend blazer over a sky blue sweater.
The collection also went back to Banana Republic's chino sportswear heritage.
"A chino for everyday, not just for the weekend," explained Kneen, but also " using khaki as an inspiration. We're using a lot of metal in some of the women's chinos to keep the wrinkle in it, gives it that memory effect so that it has that constant worn-in look."
In other words, one can leave the iron at home because for Banana Republic next spring, it's about casual, on-the-go looks, the, "I slept in my clothes" school of dressing. This meant wrinkled khaki trench coats and shift dresses for women, and for men, rolled up navy chinos and easy v-neck sweaters or workwear utility shirts, as though pulled from their grandfather's closets.
Lest ones eyes glaze over from the sea of khaki and faded denim, however, Kneen included pops of "sun-kissed" colors like pink, kelly green and the kind of blue California skies are famous for and that Kneen, who spends a lot of time working in San Francisco where Banana Republic is headquartered, was particularly inspired by.
Tie-dye figured into the carefree collection as well. Tie-dyed scarves were loosely draped around many of the male models' necks, and a maxi dress with wave-like undulations of blue gave off a certain California bohemian sensibility that people like Rachel Zoe and Nicole Richie have finessed.
"It's really that whole hippie vibe coming through. I think it was that whole relaxed feeling, the skies and those beautiful cloud effects," said Kneen. "There's a blue sky there like no other."