Given that banana republic is a pejorative term for a Latin American country suffering from endemic corruption and a despotic regime, it seems to be an odd for for a luxury clothing company.
Nowadays, Banana Republic is a luxury clothing brand, but its origins are far more interesting, and actually tie it back to the pejorative term.
Started in 1978 by Mel and Patricia Ziegler as the Banana Republic Travel & Safari Clothing Company. According to the company’s official online history, the Zieglers “loved to travel to collect the surplus clothing that outfitted the store”, including flight suits and photojournalist vests.
As such, the original catalogue business had a lot of “safari and expedition wear from faraway places”. In the company’s first incarnation it had safari-themed stores, and a slightly eccentric catalogue with old-school drawings, and extensive travel-focussed backstories for its range of items.
The company was bought by Gap in 1983, and from around 1988 the chain discontinued its catalogue, and turned from being a safari-style travel clothing brand to one that offered modern luxury clothes for those in the “urban safari”.