A fresh style

You may never have heard of Joe Mimran, but chances are good that you’ve worn his creations.

You may never have heard of Joe Mimran, but chances are good that you’ve worn his creations.

The Canadian fashion designer and wildly successful entrepreneur is the man behind some of our biggest homegrown brands, including Club Monaco and popular budget clothing and cosmetics line Joe Fresh.

Mimran grew up in Toronto but was born in Casablanca, Morocco. As a child, he hovered around his couturier mother as she worked at her sewing machine.

“I used to have her make clothes for me… I was wearing Beatle boots and suede-fronted sweater vests and bell bottoms.”

Mimran’s first profession was accounting, but he knew it wasn’t going to stick. “I always found a way to mix art and business, which is really what I loved. I found that the fashion industry was the perfect blend of that.”

Along with his mother and elder brother Saul, Mimran started a dress business in the late ’70s. They later focused their efforts on tailoring and co-ordinated sportswear, a savvy move considering the rapid movement of women into the work force. Their company, called Ms. Originals, continued to grow and expand. Among their stable of employees was a gifted young designer by the name of Alfred Sung.

In 1985, Mimran and Sung opened a retail store, calling it Club Monaco. Of the name, Mimran says, “We had this imagery of this place that brought Europe together with America in a glamourous way.” Club Monaco became a huge international success — an uncommon occurrence for a Canadian brand.

“When you do something amazing in New York, the whole world knows about it,” explains Mimran, who’s married to fellow designer Kimberley Newport-Mimran. “When you do something amazing in Paris, the whole world knows about it. If you do something amazing in Canada or in Toronto, nobody may know about it, other than Canadians.”

After selling Club Monaco to Polo Ralph Lauren in 1999, Mimran did some consulting work, and was eventually approached by grocery store chain Loblaw Companies Limited to help create a home concept, and later, the clothing line that became Joe Fresh.

“We push so hard,” Mimran says of the research and work that goes into the design and production of Joe Fresh clothing and cosmetics. “We push much harder than the price points would normally dictate. And that’s the magic of the brand.” Mimran's hard work continues to pay off: the brand will soon be expanding in Toronto's downtown core. A massive new Joe Fresh and Loblaws store is in the works for Queen Street and is slated to open in 2011.

Joe Fresh will be showing its spring 2010 next Wednesday at Toronto Fashion Week. Mimran offers a tantalizing glimpse: “We’ve done a lot of sheer and we’ve done a lot of innerwear as outerwear.”

Fashion, by its very nature, is temporary. Had he not gone into fashion, Mimran believes he would have opted for a career in architecture.

“There’s something incredible about being able to build (something) that is around for hundreds of years,” he says. “I have to create so much every single season. A lot of it comes and goes. And nobody ever sees it again. All that creativity just ends up being photographs at the end of the day. It would be incredible to be able to put that creativity into something as tangible as a building or a structure.”

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