“It’s all about versatility,” Jack Calhoun said of his fashion sense. As Global President of Banana Republic, Calhoun’s world encompasses smart style. And versatility seems to be a running theme for Calhoun. As Global President, not only is he is in tune with the minute details; he keeps his eyes focused on the company’s high-level vision. Calhoun is a fluid, yet sharp businessman leading an American classic brand into global territory. Banana Republic is a $3 billion San Francisco-based apparel company that prides itself on being the working person’s answer for modern, refined clothing, shoes and accessories. As Calhoun put it, “We are versatile, ‘gotta have it,’ covetable work wear for professional men and women.”
Calhoun’s pedigree seems to be a seamless fit for his current role. After earning a Bachelor’s degree from Purdue University and a Master’s degree from Harvard Business School, he held various marketing positions at Levi Strauss & Co., Proctor & Gamble Co., and Charles Schwab & Co. He landed at Gap Inc. (the parent company of Banana Republic) in 2003. He moved up the corporate ladder to become Banana Republic’s executive vice president of merchandising and market branding, and then president of Banana Republic North America in 2007. After overseeing new lines of handbags, fragrances and an eyewear collection, he was promoted to Global President in October 2012.
This fall, Banana Republic celebrates its 35th Anniversary, and it appears that the brand could not have chosen a more fitting ambassador. The impeccably dressed Calhoun has been billed for his attention to detail, his pleasant demeanor, superb organization (at home, he has a custom-built clothing closet), mild-mannered personality, but most importantly, his no-nonsense business sense.
Instrumental in elevating the company’s worldwide presence, Calhoun’s business moves include corporate partnerships that unite function and fashion on a large scale. Such alliances include one with the popular Sixties-inspired show Mad Men, through which Banana Republic sold a line of clothing inspired by the suits worn by the gentlemen of Sterling Cooper. Another partnership was with Virgin America Airlines. Banana Republic signed on with the Bay Area based airline to design fashionable and functional uniforms for in-flight and on the ground wardrobe. “Virgin America was a good fit because that’s our customer; they’re traveling, they’re active. They’re a cool, hip, modern airline,” said Calhoun.
It seems perfectly fitting that Banana’s most recent partnership is another cool, hip and modern one. As the 34th America’s Cup comes to the San Francisco Bay this fall, Banana Republic has signed on to dress Oracle Team USA, the defending champion, off the water at all their formal events. “It’s one of those perfect marriages,” said Calhoun. “America’s Cup being in San Francisco is such a special thing, and we were so happy to be part of it and sponsor Oracle Team USA as they go defend and (hopefully) keep their trophy right here on the Bay.”
“They’re wearing our monogram collection, our most special collection, with each of them individually fitted.” “It’s always good to be fitted for new clothes, right?”
Members or Oracle Team USA were personally fitted for the collection. Said Calhoun, with some pride: “They’re wearing our monogram collection, our most special collection, with each of them individually fitted.” “It’s always good to be fitted for new clothes, right?” he asked rhetorically. “Who doesn’t like new clothes?” So what’s next for Banana Republic? “Our biggest opportunity is worldwide expansion,” said the Global President. “As work wear becomes more casual and versatile all over the world, the demand for versatile outfits is growing. There is no longer a ‘cookie cutter’ uniform for professionals. The world of work has evolved. When I started, it was a suit, tie, and a white shirt. Now, I don’t even know how to define work anymore. There are people wearing suits and people wearing sweatshirts to work.”
As for his own style, Calhoun’s smart and meticulous approach is very much aligned with that of his company’s. “I think through what I’m gonna wear. I need it to be modern, and I want to be able to go from work to an event. I always think, ‘How will I get it all done in one day, without carrying four outfits?’” From the outside and inside, Jack Calhoun is the picture-perfect paradigm of success. As he put it, “It’s all about versatility.”