BUSINESS

Joe Mimran steps down from Joe Fresh; company president Mario Grauso takes over

03/16/2015 08:10 EDT | Updated 05/16/2015 05:59 EDT
TORONTO - The namesake behind affordable apparel brand Joe Fresh has stepped down.

In an email to The Canadian Press, Loblaw spokesman Kevin Groh confirmed the move by Joe Fresh creative director Joe Mimran, effective Monday, adding that Mimran remains founder and brand ambassador.

Current Joe Fresh president Mario Grauso will take over the reins of the label.

"It's been a remarkable journey since we launched Joe Fresh in 2006 and I'm proud of what we have accomplished in these years," Mimran said in a statement.

"As we have grown into one of Canada's leading apparel brands, our focus has always been on fulfilling the needs of our customers offering great style at a great price — the rallying cry of our brand.

"As I step back from my day-to-day responsibilities I'm happy to pass the baton to Mario and his team — experienced hands committed to our shared vision. I look forward to seeing the continued growth of Joe Fresh as we introduce this iconic Canadian brand to new markets and customers around the globe."

In a statement, Grauso said the brand is poised to take advantage of "exciting opportunities" in new product categories and global markets.

"As Joe himself steps away from his day-to-day role at Joe Fresh, we remain committed to the brand's core philosophy of creating clothes with great style and great value, and sold in the distribution channels our customers want to shop."

Grauso said Joe Fresh's design and management team include COO Ian Freedman, women's designer Henriette Ernst and men's designer Jose Abellar.

Grocery giant Loblaw Companies Ltd. (TSX:L) launched the low-priced private-label line in 2006 with Mimran overseeing the brand's design vision.

Joe Fresh is available in more than 340 retail locations, including 16 freestanding and studio stores, and also operates six freestanding stores in the U.S. Joe Fresh products are also available in more than 650 J.C. Penney stores.

The label opened its first storefront outside of North America last year with a flagship in Seoul.

Joe Fresh was a mainstay at Toronto's World MasterCard Fashion Week for several seasons before Mimran announced last fall they were pulling the plug on future presentations, saying all shows would be geared towards the wholesale market.

Tragedy overshadowed the brand in 2013 following the fatal factory collapse in Dhaka, Bangladesh, where items were produced for Joe Fresh and other clothing makers.

More than 1,100 people died in the April 24 tragedy at the illegally constructed Rana Plaza, making it the world's worst garment industry accident.

Loblaw Companies Ltd. provided financial compensation to the workers and also contributed $1 million to Save the Children Bangladesh and the Centre for Rehabilitation of the Paralysed, in support of programming for workers in the garment industry.

The company also joined several retailers in signing a pact to improve fire and building safety in Bangladesh. The agreement requires that the companies conduct independent safety inspections, make their reports on factory conditions public and cover the costs for needed repairs.

Mimran said he was proud of how his brand's parent company had rallied around what was "a tragic situation."