Joe Mimran is typically a soft-spoken, kind man with a perfect smile. Mimran didn’t quite show the general characteristics of a dragon when he appeared on the Canadian version of the popular television show, Dragons’ Den, a show which shows off thriving entrepreneurs.
The 65-year-old Moroccan Jewish immigrant has spent the majority of his life working alongside fashion and is most notably known for being the backbone of big brands like Joe Fresh and Club Monaco. But Mimran was no stranger to having his own memories of up and downs along his long career. Joe Mimran still believes he is “no smarter” than all his peers, but he has always had a passion for his work starting at a very early age.
“I always loved design and I always wanted to be an entrepreneur,” he says.
Around the age of 12, Joe Mimran had already had his very own houndstooth suit that his mother made him, just because he wanted to be able to dress up like Sean Connery. Even with his own father being an entrepreneur with his own grocery store, it was his mother couturier business that had all his attention growing up.
He grew up helping his mother run the company from their home and soon after she had opened up a small factory in Toronto’s garment district, she had asked Joe Mimran to take over the company.
“I always wanted to get into business and it was a fantastic learning experience,” he says.
The family business had their niche in selling garments specifically for women. Joe and his brother Saul had seen a different vision for the store. They hired designer Alfred Sung to help them design an off-the-peg line of clothing that would be sold on High Street.
“It turned out to be a hit with consumers and showed me that a business gamble could pay off,” Joe Mimran says
But the rise to stardom didn’t come easily for Mimran, Club Monaco didn’t start off the way they planned it to. Two of the biggest Canadian department store chains at the time, The Bay and Eaton’s, decided not to carry the brand in their stores cutting off a major route to the high-end market.
“We realized that we had all these goods coming in and the only way we could move forward was to open our own stores,” he explains. Mimran recalls that around this time it was unusual for consumers to purchase clothes from a smaller store, typically they would buy their articles from wholesalers.
Mimran recalled on how he took a gamble on hiring Alfred Sung and how well that paid off, so he went along and went for it. Opening stores for his own brand had ultimately gone his way with lines being “around the block” on their first day opening in Toronto.
“Sometimes you just have to dive in,” he says, “a lot of business people, having had lots of problems in the past, will try to dissuade somebody else. But your idea might be done in a new way, might resonate in a way that this very experienced person didn’t, couldn’t, anticipate.”
The jump had worked so well for Club Monaco. The company had branched begun to branch out to New York and other global cities before it was bought by the fashion giant that is Polo Ralph Lauren in 1999 for $52.5 million.
Although Club Monaco and other brands created by Mimran such as Joe Fresh have had success they have also had their struggles as well. Fast fashion and online retailing have made it harder to hold up a traditional fashion brand.
These market forces have cut some of Mimran’s collection. A resale agreement with US department store giant JC Penney was terminated in 2015 and the companies New York store was closed.
“I’m not smarter than everyone else out there because you’re only as good as your last season,” he says. “And, no matter… what you know, you can still fail in our business. It keeps you pretty grounded.”