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Banana Republic taps former talent behind J. Crew

With declining same-store sales weighing on the brand, Banana Republic is tapping the woman who formerly powered the fashions at popular apparel retailer J. Crew to head its own design team.

Marissa Webb—who spent 11 years at J. Crew, including a stint as the head of women's and accessories design—will become the Gap-owned brand's creative director and executive vice president of design, effective April 28.

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"What she delivers today is so fresh and relevant, I know her design sensibility will move Banana Republic forward in our effort to deliver Modern American style," said Jack Calhoun, the brand's global president.

Banana Republic's apparel has struggled to resonate among shoppers over the past year. After posting a 3 percent comparable-store sales decline during the critical fourth-quarter period, the brand Thursday announced a 4 percent same-store sales decline for March.

Following the sales report, Stifel Nicolaus analyst Richard Jaffe wrote in a research note, "We believe an improvement in the product assortment is necessary to drive traffic and comps."

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Banana Republic's former creative director, Simon Kneen, exited the company in December after five years in the role. Webb, who ended her time at J. Crew in 2011, is expected to see her collection hit Banana Republic shelves in summer 2015.

Gap also announced Tuesday that it will become one of the M Webb company's minority investors, through investing in the designer's eponymous brand. The label, which debuted at New York Fashion Week in September 2012, is sold at 30 locations globally, including Barneys New York and some Gap-owned Intermix stores.

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