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Lighting Up Retail Therapy

The Lighting Doctor explores a special shopping experience.

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Banana Republic store
The Lighting Doctor explores Banana Republic by the lighting.

The Banana Republic has a special store in San Francisco. This is where they test out new clothing and accessories before releasing them nationally and internationally. The design is unlike a typical Banana Republic store. First off, there is lots of open space in the racks. They are not stuffed with clothing which is what you see in other stores. There are just a few of each item, with additional sizes available from the back upon request. This makes it feel much more like a boutique than an international chain. 

Banana Republic, The Lighting Doctor

The first thing you see as you enter is a large seating area, which seems counterintuitive to selling product. Yet, it draws you into the store in a very inviting way. The main sales area is illuminated using a suspended line voltage LED track system. Each track head uses 16.5 W of power to produce 75 W worth of illumination. The color temperature is 3000° kelvin with a color rendering index (CRI) of 92. The whole system is black to blend into the black ceiling, which also hides the HVAC and sprinkler system. These are used to highlight the clothing, along with the art and other aspects of the decor. 

Banana Republic, The Lighting Doctor

There are floor-to-ceiling windows all along the front facade. The giant artwork catches your eye as you walk by. For me, this is more effective than having mannequins in the windows, which can block your view of what the rest of the store has to offer.

The overall feel of the store is African safari. There are huge photographs of elephants and giraffes, along with immense stone and wood tables, which hold tasteful displays of clothing and accessories.

Banana Republic, The Lighting Doctor

On the walls, there are thick, raw wood shelves that hold pillows, duffel bags, purses, and shoes which are interspersed with African artifacts. The muted color palette unifies the items visually. These are illuminated with the track system.

The shelves are shallow enough that they don’t cast shadow lines onto the products displayed on the other shelves. The 3000° kelvin color temperature matches that of halogen lighting. It’s a little cooler than incandescent light which has a color temperature of 2700° Kelvin, but it is much warmer than daylight which is 5000° kelvin. This perceived warmth, when compared to the light outside, helps to pull people into the store. This is especially true in San Francisco where it’s pretty much always cold, even in summer.

Banana Republic, The Lighting Doctor

There are also freestanding glass top display cases that hold jewelry. They are lit from within, using linear LED lighting that is tucked up behind the metal edging. These too have a color temperature of 3000° Kelvin with a CRI of 92. 

This provides a shadowless light for the items, without the glare that you would get from overhead lighting. Also, you do not create a shadow when you lean over and look into the display case.

Banana Republic, The Lighting Doctor

The dressing room area is quite sumptuous. There is a very tall, mirrored section which provides five different views when you are trying on clothes. Each mirror has been backlit with linear LEDs. The color temperature here is also 3000° Kelvin. I think that the consistency of the color temperature from the different types of lighting helps unify the store visually.

This back lighting provides very complementary illumination from head to toe. Typically, in other retail clothing settings there is only overhead lighting, which can cast harsh shadows on people’s faces, and make them look schlumpy. In addition, a giant pendant fixture offers some ambient light to help further soften shadows.

Banana Republic, The Lighting Doctor

Each individual dressing room has a backlit mirror. The pendant hung downlight is installed 5 feet away from the mirror so that it provides some ambient light for the room without casting any hard light onto the people who are trying on clothes.

Banana Republic, The Lighting Doctor

There is even a seating area in the dressing room. A giant chandelier helps anchor the space within the large open concept showroom. This luminaire is fitted with flame tip shaped LED bulbs. These are 2700° Kelvin with a CRI of 90. This adds just a little bit more warmth to make this area feel even more cozy.

A seating area in the dressing room allows you to have an audience for your impromptu runway shows. Who wouldn’t want that?

Randall Whitehead headshot

Randall Whitehead is an educator and author on the subject of lighting design. His work has been featured in many magazines, including Architectural Digest, Home & Garden and Esquire. He has appeared as a guest expert on HGTV, Discovery, CNN and Martha Stewart Living Radio.

His Latest book Beautiful Light outlines how to create successful and subtly beautiful LED lighting designs for homes and gardens. Available through Amazon and Rutledge Books.

You can see his entertaining 1-minute instructional videos at furniturelightingdecor.com. And you can follow him on Instagram:  @randall.whitehead


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