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Marissa Webb Tests Banana Republic's Retail Boundaries in New Flatiron Store

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More than a year after the fate for this former Barnes & Noble was revealed, the Flatiron District welcomed Banana Republic to 105 Fifth Avenue this morning. It's the chain's first store with an imprint by Marissa Webb, the creative director that was hired last spring to revamp the brand, and her touches are noticeable within your first few steps into the bi-level store.

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"People say, 'It's a huge corporation—how are you going to make an impact?' And it's by adding personality," Webb told Racked during a preview on Thursday. And that's in more than just her first collection that's now on shelves.

It's in quotes on the wall pulled from Webb's Instagram like "Find your adventure" and "I have absolutely no desire to fit in," splashed on the walls in white neon lights and individually hammered nails, respectively. It's in third-party collaboration items from smaller brands like Damn Handsome and Odette, handpicked by Webb and dotted on tables throughout the store. It's in the styling of mannequins on both the women's ground floor and men's second level, combining serious suiting pieces like blazers with relaxed denim. "We're still that destination," for suiting, she assured, "but we're just showing it differently."

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Can we expect this iteration of Banana Republic to start popping up across the country now? Not exactly. "This one is considered 'the lab store,' in terms of more things coming here first," she explained (add that to the list of perks of being a New Yorker). It's also a lab in terms of its layout: "You'll find a lot of sections that feel more boutique-y and intimate inside a very big store," Webb said, referring to pockets like the women's petites section and men's Heritage and suiting departments upstairs. "Is this the interior of all the stores going forward? The answer is no."

Other extra touches specific to 105 Fifth Avenue include 105 hand-painted items—on notebooks, sneakers, and denim—and Fifth Avenue-branded candles, totes, and tees on a limited run. "This is not a 'ta-da!'" as in we're a finished product, Webb said of how the store fits into her vision of the brand. "It's another step forward."