power couple Joe TEXT

A wise man once said ‘THE COUPLE THAT DRESSES TOGETHER, STAYS TOGETHER’. Wise man, meet Joe Mimran – founder of Joe Fresh and Club Monaco – and Pink Tartan’s Kimberley Newport-Mimran, and see your words come to life. A match made in fashion heaven, these two business minds are unstoppable forces ready to conquer the world, dressed to the nines, no less.

By Belinda Anidjar

COUPLE LILI

Kimberley, what was it like launching Pink Tartan?  KM: Well, it’s like running a magazine. There’s a lot of work that goes on behind the scenes. It’s like getting the issues out. People don’t really realize the amount of blood, sweat, and tears that goes into every collection that you launch. Every moment, the brand moves forward. I haven’t stopped since the first collection and they’re bigger now, so it’s more work.
Joe, what was your life like after you sold Club Monaco to the Ralph Lauren group?  JM: In 2002, I had just sold Club Monaco. I was doing some consulting work. I had invested in some companies; I got into the steel business; I got into the cannabis business. I then got drawn back into home design for Loblaws.

They asked me to do their President’s Choice line of home products. After I did that for them, they asked if I could create an apparel line – and Joe Fresh was born. Within five years, we became the number one brand in Canada in units and dollars.

We managed all the marketing and I directed all of the creative for the marketing. When you have consistency in all the marketing – the product, and everything the consumer sees – you have a better chance for success.

When I think of Club Monaco, the Avedon campaign comes to mind. What did you think of that particular campaign?  JM: Actually, they called me during the Avedon campaign and said, “Joe you have to come right away!” I said, “What’s the matter?” and they said, “Dick has got all the men in black underwear and we can’t tell them to stop. You’re the only one.” I had to go down to the set. I put my arm around Dick and said “you know, the guys look great and everything, but can we put some clothes on them?” He goes “oh, no problem.” [laughs]

Dick Avedon was an amazing artist and photographer. We were very lucky to have worked with him.

What was it like to witness Club Monaco’s growing success and to sell that brandJM: The brand has been so well developed and will be my legacy forever. People still stalk me to this day to tell me Club Monaco stories. They tell me “oh, you know I was in university when I bought my first black skinny pant and it was the best fit” or “I bought a chino that I still have.” The other thing about Club Monaco is that I can travel anywhere in the world [and it’s known]. I launched Club Monaco in 1994 in Korea and when I went back 11 years later, the first thing the reporters wanted to talk to me about was Club Monaco. It became the number two brand in Korea when I owned it. It was really quite a feat back then.

When we sold Club [Monaco], it was [after] 15 years of hard work had gone into it. When we got the offer from Ralph, it was the only time had he stepped outside of his brand. When you get somebody like that who wants that brand and you know he’s a collector of the finest things, it’s really quite a compliment. That’s one [reason we sold].

Two, it was a lot of money and if you’ve been in the fashion business in Canada, you know that you’re constantly taking all your chips and putting them in the centre of the table.

So, tell us, how did the two of you meetJM: We met through work actually. Both in fashion. Kim fell in love with me [laughing]. Just kidding.

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Kimberley, can you share something that attracted you to Joe that you still cherish todayKM: It’s really amazing because he’s so creative and he’s so business-minded at the same time. So, he’s fun to shop with. He’s fun to go to restaurants with. He’s fun to travel with.

JM: I’m the only guy that will look at women’s shoes for two hours and still give her a good time afterwards.

At the time when you started Pink Tartan, Joe had already launched a mega-brand. How involved was he in helping you get your business off the ground?  KM: He’s always been incredibly supportive. It’s really great because he’s so experienced. He’s been a great mentor to me and you can bounce ideas around at the dinner table so work never really stops.

JM: As long as I listen to her, everything is okay. Happy wife, happy life.

The two of you have become one of Canada’s best-known power couples in the fashion industry. Did you know things would turn out this way when you first metJM: It’s a funny label actually, but a fun label. Hopefully we wear it proudly and do it justice. When you’re in the same industry, you really understand the issues, so there’s always lots of empathy. When you don’t understand your spouse’s industry, it could put pressure on your relationship.

KM: We also shared a calendar. When the calendar is the same you get to do things together – and the fashion calendar was the same for both of us. Our down time was the same. We could travel together, whether for work or pleasure, so we could spend time together.

Since you both work in fashion, do you find that there are things you can learn from each other? Is it ever competitive between the two of youKM: In golf. I’m trying to learn to golf as weel as my husband.

JM: Sometimes I’ll say something and Kim will say, “I think you copied that from me. I thought of it first.” [laughs] We’re very competitive people, but we’re not competitive with each other.

What’s your home life like? We can only imagine the life of two fashion icons. Do you always stay stylishJM: We spend a lot of time getting dressed [laughs]. We go to our respective closets and then she comes out wearing all black and white to walk the dog and I’m wearing camel or navy. I go “maybe I should change to black and white as well?” There’s a whole thing that goes on before we go to walk the dog.

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Joe, we heard you’re going to be on Dragon’s Den. What has that been like? Is it time for you to help other people build their own businessJM: I’ve taken Kevin O’Leary’s seat, but I’m a good dragon. I’m a nice dragon. Dragon’s Den is not meant to be a charity show. It’s meant to be a window into entrepreneurialism and what goes into it. Ideas get brought forth and you’ve got five dragons, each one with different experience. I think what’s interesting about the show is that it’s really a family show. Kids and parents watch it together. I think everybody plays a game with themselves as to who’s going to get the money, which of the dragons are going to be supportive, what the dragons are going to say, and how they are criticizing the pitch. The show has been on for 10 seasons and I just heard last week that they’re renewing it for another season. It hasn’t been officially announced yet and they’ve asked me to come back, so it’s good. It’s been a really fun experience.

KM: It’s a great program and I think when you watch it, it really shows that sometimes a good idea isn’t strong enough to make a business. All the facets have to be put together and I think the dragons are able to impart that to people who have great ideas.

Joe, are you going to build another mega brand? Are you working on any projects right now? JM: I’m looking to get involved in luxury businesses that have international potential and scope. I want to be able to go in as an investor or more on a strategic level. That’s one of the projects [I’m working on]. Another project is a company we’ve just gone public with called Gibraltar Growth and that’s a Special Purpose Acquisition Corporation. We’ve raised 105 million dollars and we’ve got to go out and make an acquisition to do that. The other thing that we’re working on is Gibraltar Ventures, which is for early-stage digital businesses. We’re very interested in the disruptive nature of what’s happening on the digital side. It really makes you think about the traditional side differently. You can see from a marketing standpoint that people are starting to put more and more of their budgets into digital media. You have social media with all the social influencers and a lot of people are trying to monetize these changes. All of them do affect you at the end of the day.
You’ve both seen the Canadian fashion scene change so much throughout your careers. Where do you see the future of Canadian fashionJM: Wearable technology is probably one of the most exciting new areas in the fashion business. I think there are going to be huge advances in the next couple of years in that area.

KM: It’s embracing new technology, using it, and being able to make it fashionable.

What advice would you give to other would-be power couples, whether in fashion or any other industryJM: The key is to stay engaged, stay interested, and keep your mind always working. Be respectful and be empathetic. Don’t get petty. And buy nice shoes!

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Photography Lily and Lilac
Grooming & make up Grace Lee

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