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Wild Company: The Untold Story of Banana Republic Hardcover – October 2, 2012

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster (October 2, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1451683480
  • ISBN-13: 978-1451683486
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1.1 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (43 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #566,715 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


"This is a wonderful book, a book about joy and guts and art. Mel and Patricia understand that a store is far more than just a place to buy stuff and that a business is far more than a way to make a living." (Seth Godin, author of Linchpin)

"Remarkable tale of creating one of the most cutting-edge fashion businesses in the world... a pleasure to read." (Publishers Weekly)

"The warmly inspiring account of how a journalist and an artist stumbled into business and founded Banana Republic, one of the most successful clothing chains in retail history... Told as a dual-voiced narrative that alternates between Mel’s and Patricia's points of view and illustrated throughout with sketches and images featured in the early catalogs, the story offers refreshing insight into the possibilities of achieving success and maintaining personal integrity in a hyperformulaic world. An unabashedly free-spirited celebration of the power of outside-the-box thinking." (Kirkus Reviews)

“[Wild Company] uncovers an entertaining and enlightening history that provides a new understanding of what has now become a ubiquitous brand…. Wild Company gives us a reminder regarding the fickle nature of success in the world of entrepreneurs, and it does so with a friendly narrative that’s difficult to set aside….You most certainly don’t have to be a patron of the current Banana Republic to enjoy reading Wild Company.” (800CEORead.com)

"This inspiring history offers a good reminder that the invention and dedication apparent in current tech start-ups is nothing new... Highly recommended." (Library Journal)

About the Author

Mel Ziegler is a founder of Banana Republic and The Republic of Tea. He lives outside of San Francisco.

Patricia Ziegler is a founder of Banana Republic and The Republic of Tea. She lives outside of San Francisco.

Customer Reviews

Great success story.
Leo D. Cloud
This story, written by founders Patricia & Mel Zeigler, takes you on Banana Republic's journey from beginning to end.
jan phillips
A quick, fun read that will leave you inspired.
Robin Wolaner

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Daniel Grossman on October 4, 2012
Format: Hardcover
Wild Company is a wonderful read. The book is accessible and relevant to anyone who wonders how to break through the clutter in a homogenized world, who contemplates remaking oneself, who considers starting a business, who dreams in technicolor - in short, to anyone. Reading it is not exactly like riding bareback on a zebra (see the cover) but it may be the next closest thing!
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Robert A. Hardin on October 3, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
If fiction, it would be called "magic realism," but "Wild Company" is a real story
with a magical plot: Sympathetic characters (two talented, attractive young journalists) struggle against great odds (no money or business experience) to achieve a worthwhile goal (creative and financial independence). The result, readers know going in, is an against-the-grain company called--in one of many inspired moments--"Banana Republic," iconic in its heyday for outfitting a youthful generation in creative style for vicarious safaris. Just how audacious, shaky and danger-filled this sartorial adventure was will entertain readers, ranging from those nostalgic for a rapidly receding era to the newest business school student seeking inspiration for the future.

Considering that Mel and Patricia Ziegler quit dream jobs to go into business with no idea what that business might be, "Wild Company" is an aptly titled tale that asks: just how many obstacles can mere love, determination and talent overcome? And on this safari the endless obstacles are as real and dangerous as Serengeti tigers or crocodiles: floods, deadlines, shysters, burglars, robbers, bank turndowns--all the perils and predators of commerce lined up and waiting. But as in magic fiction, the heroes are given special powers: she is an artist whose eye for fashion is backed by talent with needle and thread as well as pen, capable of re-fashioning short-sleeve Spanish army shirts into must-have haberdashery. His quirky writer's mind thinks outside boxes not yet invented, soaring to dizzying heights in telling catalog readers just how Spain (and other countries) could so err in labeling such treasures "surplus.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Rob Culliton on October 8, 2012
Format: Hardcover
Wild Company gives readers the delightful opportunity to witness the evolution of a witty project between two young visionaries into the household name we know as Banana Republic. Pitting their lack of business experience as an advantage rather than an obstacle, Mel and Patricia immediately bring the reader into a world whose very fiber is rooted in challenging the status quo. The story reads much like a path through one of the jungles in which Mel and Patricia find inspiration. There are moments in the sun, such as the overwhelming response to the early paratrooper jackets. And there are moments of trepidation, including the employee thefts and warehouse floods. However the bizarre nature of the events that unfold in Wild Company pales in comparison to how the Zieglers respond to them. They never relent, and are able to somehow find the right balance of love, ambition, and creativity to drive their dreams forward. From the plains of Africa to the urban wilds of San Francisco, readers should buckle up for a journey that will leave them renewed and compelled to create something meaningful of their own.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Tracy Carlson (Founder, Right-Brain Brands) on February 22, 2013
Format: Hardcover
Banana Republic founders Mel and Patricia Ziegler, a journalist and artist/illustrator, had no business training whatever. As they started and grew their safari-inspired clothing company, they got many things wrong. But they got the most important things very, very right. Their creative instincts and uncanny understanding of human nature led them to establish one of the most exciting, thriving and profitable clothing companies ever. Their undoing—and that of the company—came from the collision of their (wildly successful) approach with the linear, left-brained world of business “professionals.”

This is a cautionary tale for every b-school student and hotshot MBA who probably knows today’s Banana Republic only as the mall-based high-end brand in the Gap’s company portfolio. Today, it’s a bit like Ann Taylor, a bit like J. Crew, a bit like…lots of other companies. But it used to be something remarkable. From its chaotic origins selling exotic, often peculiar surplus clothing from other countries, it became a sensation with a wide, devoted, and celebrity-studded public.

In lively prose, with Mel and Patricia alternating as narrators, the Zieglers recount how, by following their own passions, they tapped a deep, thriving connection with consumer yearning for adventure, whimsy, and style. Unlike most business biographies, Wild Company is filled with humility, remarkable self-insight and great humor. With scrupulous evenhandedness they describe how acquisition by the Gap allowed the company to expand and flourish under initially loose reins.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Wild Company is the tale of how two people left their unsatisfying jobs, created something they really weren't willing or able to nourish, and ultimately lost control of their creation. Their creation lives on, subsumed in a corporation that neither cares about or wants to remember what made the creation great, just one bland face of three.

The Ziegler's both worked in journalism but were unsatisfied with their jobs. They stumbled into running a clothing chain due to a combination of luck, skill (art and writing, as well as an excellent eye for design) and serendipity. The book tells of many highs (finding bargains, excellent sales, extreme customer loyalty) and lows (they seemed to blindingly trust people and hire on a whim at times, which lead—in one case—to the loss of an very productive day's receipts due to a dishonest employee, and—in another case—to tens of thousands of dollars of merchandise being lost to another dishonest employee).

I was actually surprised how early on in the chain's story they were acquired by The Gap. That acquisition gave them the capital to expand, add more things to the store and even (eventually) design their own clothing rather than sell (mostly) military surplus. But it also eventually doomed Banana Republic as it was. The earliest sign of this was the clash between the lawyer the Ziegler's had for the deal and The Gap's corporate counsel. Then came three family member's from The Gap's founder to work in Banana Republic. Two of the three seemed to fit in, but the third was an ongoing exhaustion to Patricia Ziegler with weekly and daily clashes over materials, clothing lines, new product launches, the way stores looked, etc.

Eventually the Ziegler's left Banana Republic in what amounts to a coup by people within The Gap.
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More About the Author

Mel Ziegler is co-founder of Banana Republic and the Republic of Tea. Prior to his entrepreneurial endeavors, he was a journalist at the Miami Herald and the San Francisco Chronicle, and wrote for New York Magazine.

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