Family Business Expands
In 1976, his brother Saul expanded the family-run dressmaking business and purchased a small production factory to meet increasing demand. With Esther designing and Saul in charge of sales, Joe left his downtown position and joined the family business to manage the operations, finances and manufacturing of the firm (1977). Although dress sales were moving steadily, the company noticed a rise in demand for women's workwear separates. They tapped into this trend by re-branding their collection "Ms. Originals," and creating a signature look of tailored pieces that could be mixed and matched. The drastic change, which involved substantial design and production costs, also led to the collection's success throughout the city.
Establishment of Monaco Group and Alfred Sung Brand
In 1979, Joe and Saul set out to develop a new brand focused on a more modern aesthetic. They hired 31-year-old Chinese designer Alfred SUNG, who was already in the midst of producing his own "Moon" line (1975-1979). Sung and the Mimrans developed the "Alfred Sung" collection, produced under the newly established "Monaco Group" label (1980). The line was launched in department stores across North America in 1981 and carried over to the US the following year.
In 1983 Sung was hailed as the "King of Canadian Fashion" on the cover of MACLEAN'S magazine. Within a few years Alfred Sung had introduced multiple licensed products, including fragrances, eyewear, jewellery, homeware, bridal wear and menswear. The label also opened a flagship store in Toronto's affluent Yorkville neighbourhood.
In 1986, the Monaco Group went public, then private again in 1989 with Dylex Limited as a financial partner. In 1991 the Monaco Group bought back 50% interest in the business from Dylex and decided to focus on the licensing of the Alfred Sung brand. Shortly after, they closed their own manufacturing facility and licensed the mens- and womenswear collections to Etac Fashion Apparel Group. Following the bankruptcy of Etac in the mid 1990's, they renamed the company the Mimran Group and entered into several new product ventures with Zellers and HBC (2006).
Introducing Club Monaco
During the mid 1980's, the Mimran brothers developed a new retail concept catering to the emerging "minimalist" trend. Developed by the Monaco Group and led by Joe and a small team from the Mimran Group, the "Club Monaco" brand was put into production while the partners were still in the midst of confirming its retail outlets. Following rejection from traditional retailers like the Bay and Eaton's, who felt the unisex concept was not a fit for their stores, they set forth a plan to establish their own freestanding shops in Toronto on Queen Street and Hazelton Lanes.
As one of the only vertically integrated Canadian brands with mass appeal, Club Monaco quickly claimed market success, producing elevated basics at accessible price points. As it started to grow, with the opening of 48 stores in 48 months, Joe spent the majority of his time on this business, while Saul focused on Alfred Sung.
By 1995, the label had opened a flagship store in New York City on Fifth Avenue and went public again the following year. The brand cut back its growth during the recession in the 1990's and limited its colour palette to neutrals heavily based in black and white. The concept, which saved on cost, led to the surprising revitalization of the label and led to the creation of "Caban" (1999) - a lifestyle and homeware store based on the Club Monaco aesthetic.
Sale to Polo Ralph Lauren
By 1999, Club Monaco had 125 stores worldwide, which included locations in Canada, the US, Japan (40) and South Korea (30). That same year, the Polo Ralph Lauren Corp purchased both Club Monaco and Caban for an estimated $52.5 million and the assumption of $35 million in debt, the first label to be purchased by the American retail giant. Joe was signed on to manage the Canadian label through its transition, moving to the US to oversee the process. Although he remained president and CEO of Club Monaco, his duties as an employee did not sit well with Mimran and so a year and a half into the acquisition he parted from the brand and company entirely.
Creative Consulting and the Launch of "Pink Tartan"
Upon his return to Canada, Joe Mimran removed himself from the fashion scene for a few months and focused on personal projects. He began to invest in new ventures including a retail fixturing firm, a steel business and a medicinal marijuana supplier. But Joe's passion was for product design and he quickly put his focus back into that area. He revived his consulting firm under the name "Joseph Mimran & Associates" - a boutique consulting firm focused on design, product development and branding.
Under the leadership and guidance of his consulting firm, Joe Mimran and his second wife Kimberly NEWPORT-MIMRAN launched "Pink Tartan" in 2002 - a women's ready-to-wear collection designed by Kimberley Newport-Mimran. This was the beginning of a string of new ventures that Joe would produce through his firm, including a short-lived retail line by Paul Sinclaire (formally of Club Monaco) called "Tevrow + Chase" (2006-2008), as well as the "President's Choice Home Collection" for Loblaw Companies Limited and the "Holt Renfrew" private brand collection, both of which continue to be in production.
Partnership with Loblaw Companies Limited
In 2004, the leadership team at Loblaw Companies Limited approached Joe to develop a private label mass-market apparel line to be sold in their grocery stores across Canada. The idea behind the brand was to utilize Joe Mimran's expertise in design and production to profit on the emerging "fast-fashion" trend. With competitively low prices and of-the-moment apparel for both men and women, "Joe Fresh Style" was launched in 2006. As creative director, Joe led his team in expanding the brand across multiple product categories, including children's wear (2007), sleepwear and intimates (2007), swimwear and sunglasses (2008), cosmetics (2009), bath (2009), nail polish (2010), and optics (2010). The brand also developed several product line collaborations including designing the opening and closing ceremony usher outfits for the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, an apparel partnership with Barbie (2010), and re-designing the Scouts Canada uniforms (2011). With an ever-expanding collection, "Joe Fresh" opened its first flagship store on Granville Street in Vancouver in 2010, with 8 additional stand-alone locations set to open across Canada in 2011 and the first international store in New York City (2011). Since its conception, the collection has shown at the bi-annual shows at Toronto Fashion Week, a presentation which garners national media attention season after season.
In 2010, Loblaw contracted Joe to consult on all of the non-food, general merchandise sold in their banner stores, which include Loblaws, Real Canadian Superstore, Atlantic Superstore and Maxi & Cie. His firm, Joseph Mimran & Associates, now oversees all apparel, home and entertainment for Loblaw Companies Limited including leisure and electronics. Under his direction, the "PC Home" collection of home décor and small appliances continues to grow, and most recently added a line of health and wellness products titled "Jogi" (2011). The relationship with Loblaw expanded further in 2012 when the company announced plans to open 700 Joe Fresh stores in the US in 2013 in a partnership with US retailer J.C. Penny that would run for four years.
Awards and Recognition
Over the course of his 25 years in Canadian design, Joseph Mimran has received several awards recognizing his impact on the industry. Such acclamations include the "Night of Stars" hosted by the Fashion Group International of Toronto (2000) and "The Design Exchange" recognition award given to both Mimran and Kimberly Newport-Mimran (2009). In addition to his many creative roles, Mimran is chairman of the Fashion Design Council of Canada (FDCC), leading each season with a host of talented designers showcasing their work on the runway.
Mimran is also active in several philanthropic causes, including sitting on the board of the Reena Foundation to assist those living with learning disabilities and autism, involvement with the Toronto East General Hospital and producing the "Joe Fresh" for "Fashion Targets Breast Cancer" t-shirt collection which benefits "Rethink Breast Cancer."
Author RYAN CHEUNG
Links to Other Sites
The website for Pink Tartan, the womenswear line co-founded by Kimberley Newport-Mimran and Joe Mimran.
See a brief profile of fashion designer Joe Mimran from joefresh.com.