Editors’ Pick: Harbison X Banana Republic

Thomas Wolfe’s 1940 posthumously published novel “You Can’t Go Home Again” is about a successful author who returns to his hometown in North Carolina to face angered residents who don’t appreciate how they have been portrayed in his successful novel. Unhappy about his reception in his hometown, the author, George Webber, searches for his identity first in New York City and later in various European cities. Finally, he returns to the America, ultimately finding his true self.

The title of the book “You Can’t Go Home Again” has become a much-used adage reflecting on the fact that we romanticize people, places, and situations. And when we return to things of the past, the reality sometimes pales in comparison to the truth. In other words, you cannot go home again.

Well, that much-used adage does not apply to Charles Harbison. Like the main character in Wolfe’s novel, Harbison is also a North Carolina native; however, his return is to fashion roots in New York City after moving a few years ago to the City of Angels. And unlike George Webber, Harbison return to his fashion roots has been met with great praise and adulation.

Harbison’s re-appearance in the Big Apple is primarily due to his recent limited-edition fashion collaboration with Banana Republic. A retail store he worked at while an architecture student at North Carolina State University.

Harbison’s 18-piece collection for Banana Republic features two-piece utilitarian suits, puff-sleeve tops, belted miniskirts, and day dresses. All created with Harbison’s special style and nuance, combining minimalism with an emphasis on silhouette and great fit.

This collection grew out of Harbison reflection of the female members of family, who he was not able to see because of the pandemic and the pioneering efforts of black women. As a sportswear designer of color, Harbison like so many African American designers in the past and current are often not given their rightful due, especially when they use black culture as the centerpiece and bedrock of their collections.

Harbison established his brand, Harbison Studio, in New York City in 2013. (Fashion Reverie was one of the first publications to review Harbison’s runways shows and he has been a great friend to Fashion Reverie.) In the first iteration of his eponymous brand, Harbison dressed First Lady Michelle Obama, Solange Knowles, and Beyoncé.

Reflecting on his brand, Harbison details, “I was really carving out a brand identity that was reflective of this chic, modernist aesthetic but also rooted in themes that were important to me like racial and gender equity, queer affirmation, discussions around class and the Earth.” Though Charles Harbison believes he was a little ahead of the time by discussing class, race, and diversity through his collections—Fashion Reverie disagrees—there was never any doubt of his great talent.

All images courtesy of Banana Republic

This time around with his return to the New York fashion scene, first showing his current collection at Harlem Fashion Row during New York Fashion Week, and now with his collaboration with Banana Republic, Charles Harbison believes he is better situated to expand his brand. “Coming back into the fashion conversation, it’s exciting because I feel like we’re primed now to have discussions in a more open way through product,” he says. “It’s really an exciting time to be back.” And Charles New York City is glad to have you back, even if you are living in LA.

Harbison x Banana Republic is not available online and in Banana Republic stores.

—William S. Gooch

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