Simon Kneen -- world traveler and dashing creative director of Banana Republic -- is well versed in the nuances of urban chic. His philosophy? A wardrobe of versatile basics plus directional accents yields effortless style that is at once modern and affordable. By Amy Tara Koch
Banana Republic’s (BR) heritage is steeped in discovery. How does travel inspire your collections?
Travel and adventure have been in our DNA. We celebrate our heritage but redefine it in the form of modern, performance-savvy sportswear. Examples? Outerwear has pockets for iPods. Men’s suiting is designed with “high twist” yarn that can be packed without wrinkling. We offer noniron shirts for men and women on the go.
How has the current economy impacted the BR customer’s fashion choices?
Value is under the microscope. Our customer is looking for a “bargain” -- like affordable cashmere. The customer also wants multitasking garments that can be reworked into a number of looks.
What is the inspiration for fall/winter 2009?
Cocooning. Coming off the harshness of 2008 -- a freezing winter and bleak economy -- I wanted to create a collection that provides comfort from the elements and challenges of life. For women, we have cable-knit neck warmers, “cocoon” sweaters, and lush oversize scarves for layering. For men, we have supersoft cashmere sweaters and cable-knit scarves.
Accessories are an inexpensive way to punch up basics and modernize last season’s staples. What role do accessories play in BR’s business?
Each season, we offer accent pieces to make getting dressed easy. Jewelry is an easy way to bump up basics. [This year,] scarves are a huge trend and an approachable price point. Footwear is key. Men somehow look more authentic in worn shoes, but women need to invest in new heels and boots. Tired shoes can ruin a [woman’s] look.
What are your packing tips? What is always in your bag?
Packing is a challenge. My uniform is a white shirt, a blazer, pants that I can wear with a suit or alone, dark jeans, chinos, and shoes without laces -- easier to pass through security. And I love Kiehl’s mini grooming products.
What are some tips for business travelers who need pieces that can seamlessly move from day to night?
Effortless dressing is contingent upon versatility and a neutral base with pops of color. For women, black is the easiest. Pack a favorite black pant and jacket, or a black sheath dress that can be reworked with accessories. For men, decide if this is going to be a black, brown, or gray trip, and then build a few looks with the addition of a sweater, a tie, a different belt.
What is your airport MO?
Get to the airport early, always carry hand sanitizer, and download as much as possible -- music, articles, video -- to your iPhone for entertainment.
SIMON’S FIVE KEY PIECES FOR FALL
Sleeveless black sheath dress
Suede, to-the-knee boots