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Joseph (Joe) Mimran (born 2 December 1952, Casablanca, Morocco) is a Canadian fashion designer and entrepreneur who is best known for launching the Club Monaco and Joe Fresh brands. In 2015, he was announced as one of the new dragons on Season 10 of the Canadian reality television series Dragons' Den.
Mimran was born in Morocco to Eli and Esther Mimran, both of jewish origin. In 1957, the family, including Joe and brother Saul, moved to Canada and settled in a midtown neighbourhood in Toronto.
Mimran’s mother introduced him to design at an early age. Formerly a couturier in Morocco, Esther Mimran dressed her family in made-to-measure suits inspired by Hollywood’s leading men (including a houndstooth suit Mimran had seen Sean Connery wear in a James Bond film at the age of 12). She also ran a small business outfitting Toronto socialites from her home studio.
Mimran’s first job was to deliver groceries from his father’s grocery store to neighbourhood residents but his interest in design took him to the sales floor of a small knitting mill where he explored the process of negotiation. At the age of 18, Mimran opened a small, yet successful, art gallery while completing his bachelor of arts degree at York University, where he majored in sociology and fine art studying art history and Japanese cinema. In 1975, he attended the University of Windsor, where he completed a second bachelor's degree in commerce and received his CPA. After graduation he was hired as an accountant by the accounting firm Coopers & Lybrand.
In 1976, Mimran’s brother Saul purchased a small factory in the heart of Toronto’s garment district to expand the family-run dressmaking business so they could produce Esther’s designs on a larger scale. Mimran left his accounting job nine months later and joined the business to head up operations, manufacturing and finance. The dress-making business became Ms. Originals, specializing in women’s separates including suits and pants. Mimran had quickly realized that there was a new demand for tailored work wear for women, and catching on to the right trend at the right time led to the company’s success.
Mimran became increasingly interested in the business of design and branding. In 1979 he set out, with brother Saul, to develop a new line with a more modern aesthetic. They hired Alfred Sung, a Canadian designer whose line, Moon, had caught their eye to design this new endeavour. In 1981, they launched Alfred Sung. The Alfred Sung collection quickly took off as the trio opened stores across North America. In 1983 a Maclean’s magazine cover story declared Alfred Sung “The New King of Fashion."2 In the early ‘90s the Alfred Sung name was licensed to Etac and they introduced several new product lines including fragrance, eyewear, jewellery, homeware, bridal wear and menswear. After Etac filed for bankruptcy, the line faltered for a few years (though kept a strong foothold in the fragrance marketplace) before being revived along with Moon, in collaboration with The Bay in the mid-00s. By this time Mimran had left the Mimran Group to focus on a new business, Club Monaco. He continues to hold share in the company but has removed himself from its day-to-day operations.
By the mid-1980s, Mimran had developed a new business idea and felt ready to take the lead on design. Unable to find a plain, white cotton shirt he decided to make one and Club Monaco, by the newly formed Monaco Group, was developed as a line of minimalist basics. Mimran led this new brand, while Saul focused on the Alfred Sung business.
When The Bay and Eaton's department stores both passed on the collection, partly because they did not understand the minimal, unisex design, Mimran decided to open his own shop. A space was selected on Queen St W. in Toronto, where Club Monaco sold everything from coats to underwear in one 5,000-square-foot (460 m2) space. A teaser campaign preceded the store opening and there was a line up to get into the store on opening day in September 1985.
In 1986 the company went public, then private again in 1989 with Dylex as a partner. A flagship store opened in New York City on Fifth Avenue in 1995 which remains today. The brand cut back its growth for a short period during the recession in the 1990s and focused its colour palette to neutrals including black and white. The concept, which saved on cost, led to the surprising revitalization of the label.
In 1999 Mimran created Caban, a lifestyle store based on the clean Club Monaco aesthetic. In 1996 the company went public once again. By 1999, Club Monaco had 125 stores worldwide including Canada, USA, Japan and South Korea. That same year, the Polo Ralph Lauren Corp. purchased both Club Monaco and Caban. Mimran stayed on as president and CEO to see the company through the transition but left shortly after.
Joseph Mimran & Associates
After leaving Club Monaco, Mimran began to in invest in emerging businesses. He re-opened his design consulting firm, Joseph Mimran & Associates.
With his wife Kimberley Newport-Mimran as lead-designer, Mimran launched Pink Tartan in 2002. The women’s ready-to-wear collection is sold at upscale department stores such as Holt Renfrew and Saks Fifth Avenue and through their own flagship store in Toronto’s Yorkville.
In 2006, he collaborated with friend Paul Sinclaire (formally of Club Monaco and Vogue) on a clothing collection called Tevrow + Chase.
Mimran began designing the President's Choice® Home collection for Loblaw Companies Limited in 2002. The Weston family, who own Loblaw, also asked him to design a private label collection for another business of theirs, Holt Renfrew.
In 2010, Loblaw asked Mimran to consult on all of the non-food, general merchandise sold in their stores. Joseph Mimran & Associates now oversees the design of all apparel, home and entertainment for Loblaw Companies Limited. Under his direction, the President's Choice and Everyday Essentials collections of home décor and small appliances continues to expand and new product lines are being added to the Loblaw offering including the health and wellness line Jogi (2011) and stationery and electronics brand J+/- (2011).
Joseph Mimran & Associates currently employs a team of 200 who work from three offices in Toronto’s Liberty Village.
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In 2004, Mimran was approached to develop a private-label apparel line to sell in Loblaw Companies Limited superstores and supermarkets across Canada. Joe Fresh Style was launched in the spring of 2006. The initial offering included clothing and accessories for men and women available at 40 supermarkets in Canada (including Real Canadian Superstore, Atlantic Superstore and Maxi & Cie locations).
Brand extensions were quickly added including kids apparel, intimates and sleepwear in 2007, swimwear and sunglasses in 2008, cosmetics and bath in 2009, and nail polish in 2010. The brand also embarked on some special projects including designing the ushers outfits for the opening and closing ceremonies of the Vancouver Olympics, an apparel partnership with Barbie and re-designing the Scouts Canada uniforms.
With no more room in Loblaw grocery stores, and increasing demand from a fashion-forward customer, Joe FreshTM (as it is now simply known as) began to open free-standing stores. The first flagship store opened on Granville St in Vancouver in 2010, and a store in New York City was opened in 2011.
Twice a year the Joe Fresh brand presents the coming season’s collection in a fashion show that is an event of Toronto Fashion Week.
On 24 April 2013, an eight-story commercial building called Rana Plaza collapsed in Savar, a sub-district near Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh. Over 800 people died and 3,000 were injured. The factory housed a number of separate garment factories employing around 5,000 people, several shops, and a bank and manufactured apparel for brands including the Benetton Group, Joe Fresh, The Children's Place, Primark, Monsoon, and DressBarn.The parent company of Joe Fresh, Loblaw, announced it would be sending representatives to Bangladesh to investigate the collapse of the building, and stated that compensation would be offered for families of victims.
Mimran has three children with interior designer Sharon Mimran. Sharon and Joe divorced in 1996. In 2000, Mimran married Kimberley Newport, who was a merchandiser for Club Monaco. The couple produced a daughter, Jacqueline.
Mimran spends his free time travelling the world and picking up design inspiration. He regularly visits galleries and art fairs to select pieces for his art collection which includes work by Alex Katz, Richard Serra, George Condo and Kathy Kissik.
Mimran was honoured by Fashion Group International’s Night of Stars in 2000 and The Design Exchange recognition award given to both Mimran and his wife Kimberley in 2009.
Mimran is active in several philanthropic causes, including sitting on the board of REENA to assist those living with learning disabilities and autism, involvement with the Toronto East General Hospital and a three-year partnership between Rethink Breast Cancer and Joe Fresh to produce the Canadian Fashion Targets Breast Cancer T-shirts.
- Joseph Mimran on The Canadian Encyclopedia.
- "Joe Mimran, Canadian fashion mogul, joining CBC's Dragons' Den". CBC News, March 18, 2015.
- "No ordinary Joe". Toronto Star, March 22, 2009.
- "Joe Fresh's global expansion plan: first, he takes Manhattan". The Globe and Mail, February 23, 2011.