Early Life and Education
Joe Mimran was born in Casablanca, Morocco. In 1957, he moved to Canada with his parents Elie and Esther Mimran and his older brother, Saul, settling in Toronto’s Spadina and Harbord neighbourhood. His mother, Esther — who was an accomplished couturier in Morocco — designed and sewed dresses from her home studio in Toronto and dressed her sons in made-to-measure suits inspired by Hollywood’s leading men.
Joe was fascinated with the design process but also with sales. As a teenager, he worked in the sales department of a small knitting mill, where he explored both manufacturing and design. At 18, he opened a small but successful art gallery while studying art at York University, before heading off to the University of Windsor, where he earned a Bachelor of Commerce degree in 1975. Mimran then became a chartered accountant and was hired by the accounting firm Coopers & Lybrand (now, PricewaterhouseCoopers).
“I got my Chartered Accountant degree before getting into the business, and that has helped immensely. Today, good design and good business go hand in hand. You cannot design in a vacuum. You have to design with price points, manufacturing processes and end use in mind. I have been fortunate enough to come at it from the business side.” — Joe Mimran in PROFIT magazine, 2008.
In 1976, Esther and Saul started a small dress-making company called Ms. Originals, with Esther in charge of design and Saul in charge of sales. Saul expanded the company and purchased a small factory in Toronto’s garment district to meet increasing demand. The next year, Joe left his accounting position and joined the family business, managing Ms. Originals' operations, finances and manufacturing. Although dress sales were moving steadily, the company noticed a rise in demand for women’s suiting. They tapped into this trend by making tailored suit separates 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.
Monaco Group and Alfred Sung
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 in the midst of producing his own line, Moon. In 1980, Sung and the Mimrans developed the Alfred Sung collection, which was produced under the newly established Monaco Group label. The following year, the line was launched in department stores across North America.
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 per cent interest in the business. Shortly after, they closed their manufacturing facility and licensed their collections to Etac Fashion Apparel Group. Following Etac’s bankruptcy in the mid 1990’s, they renamed the company the Mimran Group. The Mimran Group later entered into product ventures with Zellers and the Hudson’s Bay Company (2006).
In 1985, Joe and a small team from the Mimran Group launched the Club Monaco brand, which was put into production while the partners were still in the midst of confirming its retail outlets. Following rejection from traditional retailers such as the Bay and Eaton’s, who felt the unisex concept was not a fit for their stores, they established their own freestanding shops in Toronto on Queen Street West and in Hazelton Lanes in Yorkville.
As one of the only vertically integrated Canadian brands with mass appeal, Club Monaco grew rapidly; opening 48 stores in 48 months. Joe spent the majority of his time on this business, while Saul focused on Alfred Sung.
DID YOU KNOW?
The term vertical integration describes a business strategy in which a company controls the different stages of production of its product. In the case of Club Monaco, Joe Mimran decided to vertically integrate the company to maintain control of his creative vision for the brand.
The brand cut back its growth during the recession of the early 1990s and limited its colour palette to neutral shades. The concept led to the surprising revitalization of the label and to the creation of Caban in 1999 — a lifestyle and homeware store based on the Club Monaco aesthetic. In 1995, Club Monaco opened a flagship store on Fifth Avenue in New York City and moved into a corner of the Lillian Massey Building in Toronto, a landmark building in the city’s high-end retail district. The company went public the following year.
Sale to Polo Ralph Lauren
By 1999, Club Monaco had 125 stores worldwide, including locations in Canada, the US, Japan and South Korea. At the time, the company had annual sales of about US$90 million, which attracted the attention of Polo Ralph Lauren Corp. Polo purchased both Club Monaco and Caban for an estimated US$52 million. Joe and Saul Mimran owned 22 per cent of Club Monaco stock at the time. As Joe explained to the Toronto Star in 2009, “You spend years and years pushing it all into the centre of the table. Sometimes it’s a good thing to cash out and take a deep breath.”
Joe was signed on to manage the label through its transition, dividing his time between Toronto and New York to oversee the process. Although he remained president and CEO of Club Monaco, his duties as an employee did not sit well with Mimran, who parted from the brand and company after a year.
Creative Consulting and Pink Tartan
Mimran stood back from the fashion scene for a few months after leaving Club Monaco and invested in new ventures, including a retail fixturing firm, a steel business and a medicinal marijuana supplier. But his passion was for product design, and he quickly put his focus back into that area. In 2001, he started a boutique consulting firm under the name Joseph Mimran & Associates, which focused on design, product development and branding.
Mimran and Kimberley Newport-Mimran, his second wife, launched Pink Tartan in 2002 — a women’s ready-to-wear collection designed by Newport-Mimran. She has also created uniforms for several leading firms, including Porter Airlines (2006), 60 Thompson in New York, Roosevelt Hotel’s Tropicana bar in Hollywood, and the concierge team at Holt Renfrew stores across Canada (2010). In late 2010, Pink Tartan opened its first flagship store in Yorkville.
Joe went on to launch a string of new ventures through his consulting firm, including a short-lived retail line by designer Paul Sinclaire (formally of Club Monaco) called Tevrow + Chase (2006–08), as well as the President’s Choice home collection, a line of home products for Loblaw Companies Limited, and the Holt Renfrew private fashion label.
Joe Fresh and Loblaw Companies Limited
In 2004, the leadership team at Loblaw Companies Limited approached Mimran to develop a mass-market apparel line to be sold in their grocery stores across Canada (see George Weston Limited). The idea was to utilize Mimran’s expertise in design and production to profit on the emerging “fast-fashion” trend seen at retailers H&M and Zara.
Joe Fresh Style was launched in 2006, a label with competitively low prices and of-the-moment apparel for both men and women. The collection was shown at the bi-annual shows at Toronto Fashion Week from 2006 to 2014. As creative director, Mimran expanded 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 product line collaborations, including an apparel partnership with Barbie (2010) and re-designing the Scouts Canada uniforms (2011). With an ever-expanding collection, Joe Fresh opened its first stand-alone store in Vancouver. The next year, eight more stand-alone locations opened across Canada, and the first international store opened in New York.
In 2010, Joseph Mimran & Associates was contracted to oversee all non-food, general merchandise at Loblaws, Real Canadian Superstore and Maxi & Cie stores — including Joe Fresh, President’s Choice home collection, Tera Gear outdoors equipment and Jogi fitness accessories.
Gibraltar Ventures, Dragon’s Den and LXRandCo
In 2013, Mimran co-founded Gibraltar Ventures, an investment firm specializing in the technology sector. In 2015, he stepped down from Joe Fresh, stating that after nearly 10 years it was time to move on. That same year, he appeared in his first season as a Dragon on the CBC series Dragon’s Den.
In 2017, Gibraltar announced the acquisition of LXRandCo, a Montréal-based retailer of second-hand luxury handbags, watches, jewellery and other accessories. At the time, the re-sale segment was the fastest growing portion of the luxury retail market, and LXRandCo was selling on average $2,275 in merchandise per square foot in its store-within-store locations across North America.
Mimran had three children with his first wife, Sharon Mimran, a well-known interior designer. In 2000, Mimran married Kimberley Newport-Mimran; the couple met after Newport became senior director at Caban. They had one child together. Mimran and Newport-Mimran own homes in Toronto, New York and Palm Beach, Florida.
Awards and Recognition
In 2000, Mimran was honoured by Fashion Group International at its Night of Stars gala. In 2009, Mimran and Newport-Mimran were honoured at the Fifth Annual Design Exchange Gala in Toronto. In 2015, he was inducted to the American Marketing Association’s Marketing Hall of Legends.
In addition to his many creative roles, Mimran was chairman of the Fashion Design Council of Canada, the non-profit organization behind Toronto Fashion Week.