Harlem’s Fashion Row and Banana Republic have selected Charles Harbison to design a sustainable capsule collection, an accolade that takes the designer full circle. His eco-friendly styles will debut in Banana Republic stores and online in September. That is kismet, since the American designer spent three years working at a Banana Republic in a shopping mall, while in college. His final designs are still under wraps, but the designer spoke candidly Thursday about how his career has evolved. This spring, Harbison plans to reintroduce his own Harbison label as a direct-to-consumer brand via social media and e-commerce — a first for the company. Wholesale distribution will come at a later time, since he and his partners plan to be nimble and flexible without getting in over their heads, he said. Using a pre-order format and deadstock fabrics are some of the ways Harbison will manage inventories and limit raw goods. For the limited-run HFR x Banana Republic collaboration, he received a competition winning, but declined to specify how much. “Hopefully, I will be able to broker additional ones going forward, where I have a bit more of a stake. Right now I’m just grateful, and the check that I get is not a bad one at all.” After starting his company Harbison in New York in 2013, the designer relocated to Los Angeles four years ago. In addition to frequent hikes, lots of solitude, more space and milder weather, being based on the West Coast has also enabled him “to still make stuff happen” he said. “It was largely for the business’ health and for my mental health,” he added. “It’s been a really amazing transition. Being client-based over the past few years and not doing full collections has been good on the pocketbook. I’ve been able to maintain the brand’s voice but in a different way.” At the onset, the plan was to take the ideas he loved and related to — namely gender neutrality, race, class and queerness — and infuse them into American sportswear.
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