Joe Fresh apparel a hit at J.C. Penney



In Canada, Joe Fresh is synonymous with stylish affordable fashions that superbly fit women, men and children.

Now its reputation has crossed the border, thanks to a deal with J.C. Penney, named stores in New York and plans to bring the brand to more cities across the United States.

"We're really about sort of this preppy chic point of view with a modern edge to it," says creative director Joe Mimran, who's helped to build such notable fashion lines as Club Monaco, Pink Tartan and Tevrow + Chase.

"We also like to be purveyors of great quality at an incredible value. That's really what we've built our whole brand on."

Joe Fresh apparel is known for rich, appetizing colors and prints that can be mixed with wardrobe staples. Its silhouettes, color palettes and patterns reflect what's hot on the runway, and it has added cosmetics and a nail polish line.

"We don't victimize our customers with trends," Mr. Mimran says. "We serve it up in a way that is a blend of chicness, but not so chic that it takes on too high a level of sophistication."

As a result, trends are incorporated subtly into collections and can be recycled season after season. For fall, clothes are inspired by early '90s minimalism, he says, with traces of Parisian chic-meets-toughness interpreted as leather skirts, motor bike jackets and black-and-white-heavy ensembles. The children's collection is a blend of pretty and punk for girls and cool classics (varsity jackets, plaid shirts and tees) for boys. Most apparel is well below $100, with some outerwear running higher.

Joe Fresh -- available in more than 300 locations across Canada -- was little known in America until less than two years ago. It gained traction quickly when J.C. Penney started selling the women's line in March in nearly 700 locations and at www.jcpenney.com.

"This was a great way to become a ubiquitous brand overnight and leverage the great real estate that J.C. Penney has," Mr. Mimran says.

The partnership has paid off for J.C. Penney, too. In a few months, Joe Fresh has become one of the financially struggling department store chain's better-selling brands, according to a recent Women's Wear Daily report. During former CEO Ron Johnson's tenure, the retailer was criticized by some for securing too many new fashion brands too quickly. But Joe Fresh's look and value resonated with J.C. Penney shoppers, prompting the store to add its active line to select locations in July and the kids' collection in time for back-to-school season.

Since 2012, the brand has set up a handful of flagship stores in the United States; a 10,000-square-foot space in Soho is the latest to open. Some of the other locations include Fifth Avenue, Madison Avenue and Southampton in New York. Mr. Mimran hopes to extend Joe Fresh's reach to other cities and is "actively pursuing" sites in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Miami and Chicago, he says.

The brand began in 2006 with a request from Loblaw Cos. Limited, a leading food retailer in Canada. The Weston family, which owns Loblaw, wanted an on-trend apparel line to carry in its markets. The catch: The clothes couldn't cost a lot.

"Our reputation is delivering a level of taste and fashion at an amazing price," Mr. Mimran says.

His team accomplishes this feat by not sacrificing quality. Clothes are produced with fabrics that, while affordable, maintain good weight and feel good to the touch, he says.

"I think it's this relentless pursuit that gives you a better product at the end of the day."

fashion

Sara Bauknecht: sbauknecht@post-gazette.com or Twitter @SaraB_PG. First Published October 14, 2013 8:00 PM


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