Inside a studio space at Banana Republic headquarters, surrounded by mood boards dripping in nearly every color of the rainbow, music (in the form of Britney Spears Radio) and color filled the small space – what essentially felt like a living, breathing Pinterest board – at the center of which was Banana Republic’s Jennifer Costantino, or as she’s better known, BR’s “Color Guru.” (Manager of CAD Textile Design, Graphics if you want to get technical.)
We sat down with Jenn, to get a peek inside her colorful world, and hear how she came to be the keeper and maker of color at Banana Republic.
How did you become Banana Republic’s “Color Guru”?
That’s so funny – everyone calls me that! I studied fashion design at Parsons (Parsons School of Design) and after I graduated I realized I didn’t want to design. During my junior year of college, my advisor told me I had an eye for color, a knack she said took most people years to develop. She advised me to expand on this skillset, although at that time I didn’t know that my current job even existed.
After graduating, I set out to look for a job in the fashion industry. I remember calling a hiring agency where an agent asked me, “What do you like to do?” I laughed, and in all honestly said “Well, I like colors…” and now look at me! That’s the truly amazing thing about the fashion industry, there are so many jobs that make up this world – jobs you probably can’t even imagine exist – and it’s one of the things that excites me most about working in fashion. There is truly something for everyone here, and more often than not, if there isn’t, you can find a way to carve out a space for yourself, doing what you love to do.
Why Banana Republic?
Prior to working at BR, I floated around a lot, but Gap Inc. was always my dream company! Through my high school and college years I wore a lot of Banana Republic (like…a lot), and my love for BR as a customer really fueled my desire to work for the brand. But beyond just loving the product, it truly is a company of people that foster great values and after five years, I still love it. We really try to remain true to our history, while continuing to elevate our collections. Everyone who works at Banana Republic has such a strong passion for fashion, and for beautiful things.
So what exactly do you do?
I lead color development for Banana Republic, which means I create new colors and color palettes to support the creative concepts for each season. I also maintain the library of samples for designers to reference down the line. Basically, I make and curate colors. Pretty magical, I think.
What’s your role in the creative design process?
I’m involved in the design process from the very beginning. Color is always a part of the story.
First the design team will create a concept for the season (which is a whole other interview, I guarantee you!). To breathe life into that theme, they pull images of runway shows, movies, and artwork – anywhere you can imagine. From there, I’ll pull color swatches that relate to the seasonal theme and decide what colors we have and what colors we need to create. The merchants will come in at that point and provide feedback to help decide if the color is wearable. From there, the design team incorporates the colors into the actual design of the pieces.
Our designers will often approach me and say something like, “we need a bluer pink,” or they’ll ask me to match a color they found walking around the city. I once had a designer ask me to match the green color of a tequila box they found, and I did! If for whatever reason I can’t find a color (though that rarely happens), I can easily look for it in Gap’s color library, which has colors archived from past seasos across all of our brands in Gap Inc., not just BR. That’s what’s so awesome about working within a family of brands; we all work together.
What happens when we don’t have a color the team is looking for?
I make it! Once we decide on the color we need, I’ll create it in-house and then I’ll send it to a color service and get it dyed. Altogether, it takes about four to five weeks to develop a new color.
Is it true that if you create a color, you also have the honor of naming it?
Oh yeah! We create probably 25-30 colors per collection, and we get to name each of them. Everyone gets really excited about new color names at the office. People will go out of their way to stop by the room to see the color, and make suggestions for color names any chance they get.
When I’m naming a color, I try to think of the season, what the color will be used for, and the theme. You want people to instantly imagine what that color looks like. For example, I’m obsessed with the beach, so for the 2017 Summer Collection I named a color “Blue Bungalow.” The name, like the color, should put you in a very specifc place, with a very specific feeling.
I’m sure you get asked this all the time, but what’s your favorite color?
It’s so hard! “Excelsior Blue” was a Fall color that I named and I really love that one. Oh, and “Tickle Me Pink” is another color that I really love; we use that color almost every season!
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