This week, Joe Fresh celebrates its one year anniversary doing business in America.
In my homecountry of Canada, Joe Fresh, founded in 2006, is already a really big deal, with 300 stores nationwide and a dedicated following eager to snap up its fashion-forward, super affordable duds. While it’s new to the States, it’s wasted no time in following a similarly lightning fast expansion: In just 12 months, Joe Fresh has launched four standalone stores in New York and opened up 680 shop-within-shops at JC Penney.
It’s a dizzying pace, but as I learned on Wednesday, when I spent the morning hanging out with founder and creative director Joe Mimran at the company’s New York headquarters, that’s just kind of how he rolls. After all, this is the man who dreamed up and launched Club Monaco nearly 30 years ago–a concept which at the time was pretty revolutionary (more on that later).
Though it was arguably one of the retailer’s busiest days, with an all-out anniversary bash (that would see the likes of Mickey Boardman, Dani Stahl and Corey Kennedy walking the runway) planned for later that night, Mimran was gracious enough to let me follow him around for the morning to see everything that goes into running a successful retail chain. Even with the massive event looming, it was business as usual at Joe Fresh’s Chelsea headquarters. And for Mimran that means one thing: Meetings, meetings, meetings.
“[A typical day for me] is what you’re seeing now…a lot of meetings,” Mimran said.
The first one on schedule that day is a fabric buying appointment for next year’s spring-summer season. Joe Fresh’s Design Manager Ingrid Delvalle Sr, and VP of Design Yolande Heijnen, who Mimran lovingly refers to as “the Dutch,” sit in with Mimran while a rather chatty fabric merchant presents a seemingly endless array of fabric options (seriously, there was a massive suitcase filled with the stuff). Color patterned silks and paisleys are swished on the table and then vetoed or okayed with a nod or a few words. “I feel like we’ve done that one before,” Mimran will say, or, “these ones look sad,” or, “no, I’m not digging these ones.”
“I was in love with green like four years ago,” Mimran says when a series of green fabrics are presented. “But I’m just not in love anymore.”
Ever the polite Canadian, you get the feeling Mimran almost feels bad when vetoing. When the fabric salesman mentions his girlfriend designs some of the company’s fabric, Mimran furrows his brow and says, “we’d better watch what we say then.”
Once the selections are made, the team further deliberates, whittling the edit down to just a handful of fabrics. “So are we going to get our insanely low price again?” Mimran asks with a twinkle. He steps out of the room briefly–another meeting–while Delvalle stays behind to bargain.
With a few meetings out of the way, Mimran sits down with me to chat.