In an unconventional move for a retail store, Banana Republic is launching its own travel magazine this month. And an advance copy recently mailed to members of the press suggests that Trips intends to avoid the obvious and be something beyond an advertising vehicle for the clothing store behind it.
The first issue does include 16 pages promoting Banana Republic travel wear. And in keeping with the current trend toward "advertorials," it is a layout that could pass for fashion reportage except for its ad-style copy. But even those pages suggest ideas that have nothing to do with clothes--"Create a travel journal as you go: Mail postcards to yourself!"
And the heart of the magazine has nothing to do with fashion. It is all reports by established journalists--Newsweek correspondents Rod Nordland and Tony Clifton among them--filed from roads less traveled, in Bulgaria, Australia's outback and Tonga in the South Pacific.
These first-hand accounts are punctuated by oddball tips from veteran travelers--how to turn a golf ball into a drain plug for overseas bathtubs--and a steady stream of travel trivia--25 Eskimo words for snow, for example.
Mel Ziegler, the magazine's editor-in-chief, founder and publisher, is the retired journalist who co-founded Banana Republic with his wife, Patricia. More than anything, he says, Trips aims to reflect the store's attitude .
"We're definitely not the travel-in-a-bubble mentality," he says. "We get into the country another way. We've isolated a point of view, an open-mindedness, a sense of curiosity about travel and being alive." With this new magazine, he adds, "We're trying to give fuller expression to that attitude."
Certainly not by coincidence, Ziegler is introducing Trips at a time when travel magazines are a burgeoning part of the publishing business. Other recent additions include Traveler from Conde Nast and Travel Today from Fairchild Publications. The Los Angeles Times and the New York Times both include a biannual travel magazine in their Sunday newspapers. And book publishers such as Vintage, Warner and Atlantic Monthly Press have kept pace by adding travel book divisions.
Ziegler says he didn't start his magazine for the sake of a quick financial success. "At the very best it will pay for itself," he predicts. But he didn't intend it to be completely independent of his stores, either. Despite careful efforts to make Trips more than what Ziegler calls a house organ, he sees it as a marketing vehicle for his store.
"If people think the magazine is to sell more clothing, yes it is," he admits. "We want to attract people to the store who don't understand what Banana Republic is all about. The clothes have evolved from strictly safari wear.
"We've been both the beneficiary and the victim of the safari fashion rage," he says. Banana Republic's 96 stores nationwide now promote what Ziegler describes as a specialty in functional, all-purpose clothing as an alternative to fashion.
"Fashion is mass hysteria," he says. "Style is an individual expression."