The original Banana Republic was founded by Mel and Patricia Ziegler in 1978. Originally a chain of just two stores that offered safari and travel-themed clothing, the majority of its sales were generated by its eccentric, hand-illustrated catalog, which presented high-end and unique items with conversational backstories from exotic locations, as well as more common high-volume products deliberately spiced up with a similar treatment. At that time, Banana Republic was known for the safari-themed decor of its stores, often featuring authentic elements, such as real Jeeps, plants and trees, as well as atmospheric elements, such as fog and steam.
The Gap, Inc. acquired Banana Republic in 1983. Banana Republic's image and product lines were subsequently made over to become the upscale apparel store known by consumers today. The Gap, Inc. then launched Old Navy in 1994, to cover the lower-priced end of the retail clothing market. Shoe retailer Piperlime was created in 2006, and the company rounded out its offerings with Athleta, an athletic apparel retailer for women, which they acquired in 2009.
Today, The Gap, Inc. has more than 3,100 stores worldwide. There are 500 Banana Republic stores across the United States, 26 in Canada, and in the 21st century, the brand is expanding internationally with stores in Asia, the Middle East and Europe.
Fragrances for Banana Republic are produced in collaboration with Inter Parfums, Inc. The first scent was unisex-themed "Classic," launched in 1995. The company continues to produce new fragrances for men and women and has expanded its fragrance line to include candles.