High street collections based on (and timed with the release of) major films raise one fundamental question: that of authenticity. That’s especially the case with endeavours like The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo X H&M – the obvious remark being that the target audience of an alternative collection aren’t the types to buy their t-shirts pre-shredded from H&M.
But such arguments undermine just how careful the big brands are to strike the right balance. They tone everything down to the level where the mainstream can adopt it, but where the essence of the film and its characters is still there. That’s also true of Banana Republic’s new Anna Karenina line: a 76-piece range for men and women, created in collaboration with the film’s costume designer Jacqueline Durran.
In various interviews about her role in designing the costumes for Joe Wright’s cinematic adaptation of the Tolstoy novel, Durran goes back to one key point: this Anna Karenina is stylised, not historically accurate. Keira Knightley and co-stars had their costumes built around silhouettes that married elements of the 1870s with shapes from the 1950s.
This was no doubt good news for Banana Republic. After all, it’s not the store you go to for bustling gowns that sweep the floor. So the hop, skip and jump from 19th century Russian aristocratic dress to rather understated ’50s sheaths and prom style dresses doesn’t seem such a big one. Add a few bits of fur here, a Cossack hat and cape there, and you’re left with rather modern outfits with a slight Russian twist. And that’s something more geared towards Banana Republic shoppers.
As for whether it will sell because of the film is another question. Karenina hasn’t proved the biggest box office success, and not everyone is willing to give in to the crushing emotional weight of something that seems so serious and epic. It’s quite a way from Atonement – the brilliant piece of cinema that also had Wright as director, Knightley as star, and Durran as costume designer – a film that created romance between the audience, the characters and costumes. I’m betting that many of Banana Republic’s sales will come down to the appeal of elegant 1950s fashion as a trend – something it interprets quite well – and a smaller proportion by those who saw, and connected with, the film.
What do you think? You can view a preview of the collection by clicking on the thumbnails.