News & Scoops

2011 November 3

Getting (Joe) Fresh With Founder Joe Mimran

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Joe Zee and Joe Mimran Joe Zee and Joe Mimran
Donna Alberico Photography
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(NEW YORK) A chic Canadian import freshened up the prime shopping swath of lower Fifth Avenue today, and it doesn’t involve maple syrup or bacon! Joe Fresh, the Toronto-based line launched by Club Monaco co-founder Joe Mimran five years ago, which got its start at Canadian grocery store Loblaws and has since grown to include 330 locations throughout Canada. The brand made its NYC debut of affordable and stylishly directional looks for women and men today, as the barrage of tangerine-hued shopping bags spotted in the area can attest. The cleanly designed space on 16th Street and Fifth Avenue, formerly occupied by Esprit, is the third U.S. outpost of the chain, following two locations in N.Y.’s Roosevelt Field mall and N.J.’s Bridgewater Commons. (Holiday pop-up at Madison and 80th Street and 34th and Seventh Avenue are currently charming UES-ers and tourists alike.) Elle’s Joe Zee, a fellow Canuck and former Club Monaco employee, was on hand this morning to share a couple funny tales from his early days doing retail—and loving it. “I wanted to live at Club Monaco!” Zee exclaimed. “I did everything, from working in the café to being on the floor with customers.” The affable Elle creative director chatted with Mimran, his “first fashion boss,” about his passion for art, penchant for slippers—his collection count is “far too many to say”—and who mans the kitchen in his marriage to Pink Tartan designer Kim Newport-Mimran (she does). Why is Mimran bringing Joe Fresh’s vibrant array of sumptuous (and sensibly-priced) cashmere V-necks and flat-out fabulous neoprene cocoon silhouettes to New Yorkers right now? Well, besides “why not,” Mimran explained to Zee that “U.S. designers are moribund right now in terms of new concepts.” And, not too surprisingly, for the value of making a mark on the city’s fashion scene. “To be accepted by the New York market is the biggest vote of confidence,” Mimran said. The Daily had a chance to chat with Mimran after Zee wrapped up. P.S. Check out Chic Report for Mimran’s refreshing slew of essentials for fall style and more!

Which Canadian brands or designers have made the biggest splash in the industry globally?
I think Lululemon has done an amazing job—they’re one of the most amazing Canadian concepts that’s ever been generated. Canada Goose is another great company. They’re so quintessentially Canadian, so they’ve really represented us well.

How do you divvy up your time between Toronto and NYC?
I spend a bit more time in Toronto; I’m about 65-35 in terms of how I split my time between Toronto and New York. My daughter is in school in Toronto, so that limits my ability to be in New York longer. I already miss so many days with her! 

Does your style segue towards a Gotham-skewed sensibility when you’re stateside?
White pants never work when I’m here in New York. But in Canada, you can get away with it for some strange reason. 

How did this location on lower Fifth Avenue come about?
I love the Flatiron area—I don’t think it’s touristy, it’s local, and this is a statement that we’re here as part of New York, not as an international brand trying to do the ‘typical thing.’ Besides this location, we have our pop-up at 80th Street and Madison, which is certainly not typical, either. We want to do things that are atypical! 

What’s the next ‘hood that will be getting Fresh-ened up? 
Coming up in the spring, we’ll be at 43rd Street and Fifth Avenue. It’s a beautiful historical building and location. 

How about Joe Fresh locations beyond the tristate area?
We’re keeping our powder dry, so to speak, until we see how we do here! 

Riffing off the name Joe Fresh, what edibles do you absolutely only eat when they’re super fresh? 
A banana with a bruise on it is just horrible! That’s like selling a sweater with a flaw in it! 

What’s the story behind the chic camel sweater-clad employee getups? 
The camel is such a classic look; behind the cash register as well, there are photos of models sporting the camel. It just looks so good with gold and dark denim. I thought it was very brand-appropriate. Plus, camel and orange look so beautiful together. 

Have you ever ridden a camel?
I actually have not, but I’ve been spit at by a camel when I was in Marrakesh. But I still like the color camel! 

Since fashion truly runs in your family, would you ever collaborate with your wife’s line, Pink Tartan, on a capsule collection?
Oh, absolutely! That’s definitely a possibility. We already collaborate on so many things—we made a beautiful 10-year-old girl together. 

How does your design process compare to Kim’s? 
I don’t think our processes are that different. The biggest difference for me is that I’ve got to corral a lot of people around an idea, because so many people work for me. For Kim, I think it’s a bit easier in that it’s  a smaller team, so she can get to a point a bit quicker sometimes. But that also means that I have a lot of hands to help out with our extensive Joe Fresh collection. 

What was your reaction when your older daughter, Mercedes, decided to follow in your fashion industry footsteps by attending Parsons?
I think fashion is a wonderful career! The industry can be very tough and demanding, but it’s a real thrill. I love what I do. 

What’s the key advice you’ve given her as she’s embarked into fashion, currently in the role of marketing editor at alice + olivia?
I’ve always told her not to get demoralized. You’ve got to work hard. There are challenges every day, but you have to see beyond those. In fashion you’ve just got to keep driving forward.

What’s the coolest club you’re ever been a member of, besides Club Monaco? 
As Marx would say, any club that would have me as one, I wouldn’t want to be a member of. I’m not sure! I think clubs are interesting, but I don’t think I’ve been a member of anything unusual. 

When was the last time you were in Monaco? 
I was there 10 years ago. I used to have an office there when I had Club Monaco. I became very close to the Monaco government because of the name Club Monaco. I used to love to go there. We foraged a relationship; we’ll leave it at that! 

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