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Now Open: Monogram Bows on Bleecker

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You have to wonder what, exactly, Banana Republic is thinking with its new Monogram boutique (and line in general). BR hasn't sunk as low, sales-wise, as sister brands Gap and Old Navy and BR clothing is generally of decent quality. So why mess with a good thing by introducing a new, "refined" line? For the unfamiliar, a description of Monogram from WWD: "The line focuses on better fabrics and tailoring at prices about 30 to 40 percent higher than the brand's core collection." Today the Monogram store at 205 Bleecker Street, the only one in the nation to be completely focused on Monogram line (also currently available on BananaRepublic.com) debuted to a modicum of curious shoppers. The staff has clearly been instructed to be as hands-on as possible, which means shoppers are greeted at the door, checked in upon multiple times and given bottles of water to drink while they browse.

Half of the small store is devoted to womenswear and the other half to men's offerings, with an emphasis in both areas on suiting. Having tried on a few pieces of the line, we can say that we didn't exactly notice better fabrics and tailoring that BR is touting, and everything we picked up was made in China. All in all, the clothing just seemed unhip and geared toward an older clientele than Banana.This little experiment will be up until January of 2009, which should be long enough for Banana execs to see that they need to go back to the drawing board.