British designer, retailer, and entrepreneur
Born: Ebbw Vale, Wales, 1943. Education: Studied textile and interior design, Camberwell School of Art, 1959-62, and St. Martin's School of Art, 1962-64. Family: Married Sandy Shaw (divorced). Career: Opened first shop, Clobber, 1964; freelance designer, Liberty, London, and Rembrandt manufacturers, 1975-78; designed bed linen collection, 1978; launched Warehouse chain of stores, 1978; initiated Warehouse Utility Clothing Company catalogue, early 1980s; host and co-producer, The Clothes Show for BBC television; designed clothes care products for Dexam International, 1998; created uniforms for Boots the Chemist, 1998; designed jewelry line for G&A, 1999; launched exclusive jewelry through QVC, 2000; developed uniforms for Abbey National, 2000; designed fashion concept for Sainsbury's, 2000. Awards: Woman magazine British Fashion award, 1979, 1982. Address: 21 D'Arblay St., London W1V 3FN, England.
"Jeff Banks Designs," in the Sunday Times (London), 11 January 1976.
McCartney, Margaret, "Mr. Banks Bounces Back," in the Sunday Times (London), 11 January 1976.
McCormack, Mary, "Trend Setter," in Annabel (London), June 1983.
"Behind the Scenes-Fashion Line-up: The Entrepreneur," in Living (London), October 1983.
Hennessy, Val, "Banks, the Scruff Fashion Designer," in You, magazine of the Mail on Sunday (London), 11 December 1983.
Brooks, Barry, "Banking on Fashion," in Creative Review (London), October 1984.
"Influences: Jeff Banks," in Women's Journal (London), April 1985.
Mower, Sarah, "Dennis and the Menace," in The Guardian (London), 9 January 1986.
Rumbold, Judy, "Listening Banks," in Company (London), December 1986.
Robson, Julia, "Will Men Buy It?" in the Sunday Telegraph Magazine (London), 9 August 1987.
"Banks's Shock Exit," in Drapers Record (DR): The Fashion Business (London), 15 July 1989.
Brennon, Steve, "Banking on the Future," in Fashion Weekly (London), 26 October 1989.
McCooey, Meriel, "Be Prepared," in the Sunday Times Magazine (London), 15 April 1990.
Tredre, Roger, "Out of the Warehouse and into the News," in The Independent (London), 5 May 1990.
Barber, Richard, "Jeff Banks: Back Where He Belongs," in Clothes Show (London), March 1992.
"Boots Banks on £5.5 Million New Look," in Community Pharmacy, December 1998.
"G&A Creates Jeff Banks Jewelery Range," in Duty-Free News International, 5 March 1999.
"Abbeycrest Plans Designer Jewelry," in The Financial Times (London), 13 May 1999.
For many Britons Jeff Banks is the face of fashion. The television magazine he devised and hosts, The Clothes Show, has helped to democratize and demystify fashion. It spawned a monthly magazine, generated its own annual exhibition, and sponsored student fashion shows. The program epitomizes Banks' nonelitist attitude to fashion; his career has been devoted to making fashion available to a wide range of people.
Banks' greatest successes have been in the High Street: Clobber, his first London shop, carried the work of young designers such as Foale and Tuffin, and Janice Wainwright. Over ten years later, in the late 1970s, his Warehouse Utility Clothing company introduced designer looks at nondesigner prices. An initial setback—when the first London Warehouse shop and its contents were destroyed by fire—did not quell Banks' irrepressible energy. From their beginnings in London, the Warehouse shops have gained a national and international reputation. Started as a means of combatting wastage, the company utilized stocks of fabrics piling up in warehouses all over Europe. The resulting collections were retailed at almost wholesale prices. The shops, which have had a distinct design and style, sell only Warehouse merchandise, created by a team of designers. The interiors are minimal and logically planned, and the merchandise reflects the current fashion look, without being too extreme for the High Street. Ranges are regularly updated; the Warehouse equals lively, fresh ideas, translated into womenswear and the formula has proved attractive. Warehouse shops can be found in most major UK shopping venues, and in the mid-1980s outlets were opened in the United States.
The Warehouse concept helped to revolutionize shopping by post. Freemans, a traditional mail order company, launched Bymail, which brought the Warehouse style to a wider range of customers. The venture was a great success and was quickly followed by Classics Bymail and Men Bymail. With an emphasis on fabrics and cut, the classics included the perennial trenchcoat, suits, dresses, and separates in versatile and interchangeable dark and soft colors. The catalogues set new standards for mail order; created by top models, stylists, and photographers, the visually attractive spreads helped to sell the clothes. Like the shops, they had their imitators, both good and bad.
Sound team work has provided the essential backup for Banks' ideas, and he has inspired many people over the last several decades. Variety has been a mark of his career. As a designer, illustrator, retailer, manager, design director, consultant, and educator he has helped improve fashion attitudes and awareness. Business training is as important for him as design education, and he has made his views known by acting as a consultant and examiner for several British fashion degree courses. Fashion graduates are employed straight from college by Warehouse.
Banks' greatest achievement perhaps has been in promoting genuine fashion awareness, and he has the ability to fire up others with his own enthusiasm. In the early 21st century he continued to be a high-profile name in the industry, working to support British fashion by heading up, with others, Graduate Fashion Week, one of the main showcases for young UK talent. Banks also continued to create his own branded collections in apparel, accessories, and home furnishings. Additionally, he was active in designing custom uniforms for corporations.
Banks has created several licensed product lines for British manufacturers such as William Baird (apparel), Dexam International (clothes care products and storage boxes), Argos (china), and G&A and Abbeycrest (silver and gold jewelry). His products are sold through many distribution points, from mail-order catalogues to department stores including Marks & Spencer and Debenhams. His well-known brands include the high-end, classically styled Jeff Banks Collection, Jeff Banks Studio, and his lower-to mid-price range, Jeff Banks Ports of Call. The last is more exotic in styling, inspired by warm Southern cultures from around the world, such a Mexican-themed line of jewelry sold exclusively through home shopping network QVC. Banks is known for his inspired use of inexpensive fabrics, making fashionable, affordable apparel and accents available to young women.
Banks, through his consultancy, HQ, has also designed uniforms for many corporations. In 1998 he redesigned the uniforms worn by staff at the UK drugstore chain Boots the Chemist, creating outfits in lilac, white, green, and navy blue for 43,000 employees in 1,350 stores. In 2000 he designed uniforms for 9,500 workers at 800 branches of Abbey National, which were supplied by uniform maker InCorporateWear.
Banks signed a three-year partnership with the grocery store chain Sainsbury's in 2000, whereby he agreed to design a new in-store fashion concept for the retailer's large-format outlets. He created clothing collections for men and women and designed the boutique where the clothes are displayed, as well as supplying the visual merchandising and training Sainsbury's staff to sell the clothes.
Just as Banks was a pioneer in democratizing fashion through his appearances on British television, he has, through the Sainsbury's deal, become one of the first designers to translate fashion retailing to the supermarket setting. For three decades, Banks has made a significant impact on the British fashion industry and how it is perceived by the people of the United Kingdom.
updated by Karen Raugust