Kim Newport-Mimran is on fast-forward. She’s prepping photo shoots for the fall collection of her Pink Tartan brand, orchestrating a big studio move and nabbing the finale-show spot at Toronto Fashion Week, a mere week-and-a-half away. But when we chat, the voice on the other end of the line is upbeat, calm even.
“I just wanted to change the space up,” she says of her recent move, speaking with the confidence of a woman who knows what she wants.
Besides the practical reasons (the convenience of an elevator), there’s the drive to improve e-commerce (by shooting her own digital campaigns) and the desire for a fresh perspective — all of these paved the way toward a new location. “We needed to have quicker access to our product,” she explains. “Before, we used to go through third-party warehousing.”
The bright and big open-concept space of the new studio is a minimalist’s dream. There are no doors, the walls are stark white and the ceilings sky-high, and the beautiful display racks are filled with tidily arranged product. Says Newport- Mimran, “There’s no place for anything to hide anymore. It’s just a nice, fresh change.”
Trading spaces isn’t the only big change.
Pink Tartan has up its chic sleeves. The fashion brand, which is known for its sleek, sophisticated designs, is in the throes of arguably one of its biggest business transitions since branching out into retail concept stores in 2010, and that is bringing the manufacturing of most of her products home to Canada.
After an intense buying trip that had her racking up miles all over the globe, Newport- Mimran felt the urge to take a step back and turn her focus towards Canada. Dubbed #CanadianChic online as well as in brick- and-mortar stores, Pink Tartan is engaging its customers in a “true north” shopping experience and connection — via products made and designed by Canadians, alongside the stories behind them.
“Bringing the manufacturing closer to home allows me to have a closer eye on the product as it’s getting developed,” Newport-Mimran points out. Much like the transparency that people now require in terms of the origin of the food they eat, she believes they also want to know where their clothes are coming from and that they’re sustainable — instead of simply being ultimately driven by price.
At the moment, recycled denim is on her radar. Citing environmental concerns associated with manufacturing, Newport-Mimran tapped local embroiderers, beaders and artists to create recycled-denim one-of-a kind pieces that are similar to works of art. “We are ethical and we make beautiful clothes that are investment pieces. Every piece has a story that we try to pass on, so customers have a relationship with the brand and with what they’re wearing.”
It’s precisely this mindset — connecting consumers with an experience and lifestyle — that helped launch Pink Tartan’s first flagship shop, in 2010 — Seventy Seven in the upscale Yorkville neighbourhood in midtown Toronto. In addition to wares from the brand, clientele are encouraged to shop a mix of home and
gift items and off-label with vintage. It’s the same recipe that is currently making Gwyneth Paltrow’s Goop pop-ups a success.
“I like it when there’s a story and integral reason why the products are chosen to be in the store,” says Newport-Mimram. “It always relates to the style message I’m putting out every season.”
In keeping with the brand’s classic DNA, Newport-Mimram revisited the almighty shirt — wearable but cool — and teamed up with some of her most trusted Canadian fashion stylists to rework her favourite classics for her fall collection. There’s a trench-coat collaboration with George Antonopoulos, a perfect parka co-creation with Susie Sheffman and a smart editor’s pant co-designed with Zeina Esmail. “I wanted to bring the stylist in at the beginning of the design process versus them editing at the end because they have such a good eye,” she explains.
There’s no denying the monumental shift from print to digital in the fashion space; yet, for this designer, relying on her instincts matters most, whether it’s curating the products for her website, switching to shooting digitally focused campaigns or giving customers the instant gratification she knows they crave. Take Pink Tartan’s involvement with the newly rebranded Toronto Fashion Week in September this year. While other designers are giving glimpses into their spring offerings, Newport-Mimran decided against it. “I don’t like the gap,” she says. “By the time spring clothes make it to retail, you’ve forgotten about them. It’s more about letting me show you immediately what I have.”
Luckily for Pink Tartan, it has a reputation for a distinct aesthetic, which is why it has attracted fans beyond the fashion set.
“It’s always flattering when people love your aesthetic enough to hire you to bring something from their brand to life,” says Newport- Mimran, now referring to her corporate gigs designing uniforms for hip hotels like the 60 Thompson in New York, trendy restaurants like Toronto’s La Palma and her much- talked-about work for Porter Airlines, which, she acknowledges, helped differentiate the marketplace. “It’s really great because your work lives on.”
But although quick to credit her career success from learning things the hard way, Newport-Mimran says her role model is her husband and partner of 16 years, Joe Mimran, of Club Monaco and Joe Fresh fame. “He’s brilliant at everything he does and makes it look so easy, and I know it’s not.”
And it’s no surprise that the design-focused duo are avid art collectors and that their meticulously curated homes in Toronto, New York and Palm Beach are frequently featured in home décor magazines.
“The nice thing about art is how it’s all threaded together like fashion,” says Newport- Mimran. “Love of fabrics and [love of] texture are the same, [and] whether it’s for a dress or a couch or chair, colour can really speak to you.” In her particular case, Newport-Mimram favours sculptures. She then notes the Thomas Houseago mask positioned on a plinth, and the Nara painting hanging on a wall in the couple’s room — a constant reminder of their daughter, Jacqueline, now 16.
Last year, Kim Newport-Mimran received the Women of Influence distinction. Though flattered to be recognized this way, she maintains that at the end of the day she’s just a rough-and-tumble working girl. “I’m schlepping — carrying things — all the time. I’ve got
a French bulldog. I’ve got a kid. I’m pinning mannequins, doing fittings. But I still want to look good.”
And that, in essence, is why Pink Tartan appeals to the everywoman.
“I have a POV [point of view] that shows through in the clothes I design. You just have to go out and roll up your sleeves and bring something to market that people like.”
By Tania Kwong – *This article originally appeared in INSIGHT: The Art of Living | Winter 2017
Photos: Pink Tartan