By Shelagh McNally
It was during her maternity leave with her daughter, Jacqueline, that Kim Newport-Mimran found the inspiration for Pink Tartan, her global women’s clothing label that has flourished since its inception in 2002.
The hiatus from work gave her the opportunity to re-evaluate her career. “I had always focused on men’s wear,” says the esteemed entrepreneur and designer whose experience prior to going out on her own included the Hudson’s Bay Company and the iconic Canadian label, Club Monaco. ”While I was home with my [newborn] daughter I decided to do a women’s line. I started off with a few patterns and it grew from there.”
Jacqueline, who is now 15, can often be found helping out behind the scenes at her mother’s fashion shows. “Having a daughter changed my relationship to fashion,” Kim recalls. “Suddenly I had this messy toddler, and I was going out the door [to work] with breakfast spills all over me, so I designed a washable pant that was basically wipe and wear.”
The “tech pant” became a cornerstone of the Pink Tartan collection, a pair of pants that can take a working mother from the breakfast table, to the boardroom, to an evening out.
A passion for fabrics and colours is what inspires Kim more than a decade later. And she continues to integrate her own experiences balancing a business and motherhood into the clothing she designs for busy, modern women.
Pink Tartan’s success can be attributed to Kim’s vision for what she saw as a need in the market. There was an unfilled niche for women’s sophisticated sportswear that combined elegance with practicality. Clothing to solve problems. She says, “I’m designing clothes to live your life in and to develop a personal style. I want to create clothes that stand the test of time.”
As a working entrepreneur, it’s always helpful to have a supportive partner. Kim’s career has aligned very nicely with that of her partner and husband Joe Mimran, of Joe Fresh and Club Monaco fame. The two work closely together on Pink Tartan and other projects, sharing inspiration and supporting one another in what can be a challenging and compeitive industry.
Naturally there’s shop-talk around the Mimram dinner table (Kim loves to cook and unwind with her family over a nice meal) and she and Joe often bounce ideas off each other. “He’s a great inspiration and has an incredible eye for colour, so I always go to him to check my colour values,” she says. “We have a lot of common ground.”
No matter how busy life gets, Kim still takes the time to seek inspiration from the world around her. “I have a lot of interests,” she says. “I love art and I love to travel. I love going to a new place and people watching to see what they are wearing on the streets. I like seeing fabrics in different parts of the world.”
When it comes to dreaming up new designs, it always starts with the fabrics. “I love natural fabrics and some of the new tech fabrics. I look at it and ask what can it do? What can I do with this? How can the stitching in this bring out the beauty of the fabric and the colour?”
While her designs may be laid-back chic, her approach to the business is anything but casual. Kim manages her time carefully by maintaining strict timelines, allowing her to balance work and life in an industry that is fast paced and unpredictable. “I’m a big list maker and I update my list every day, even on the weekends. It’s so satisfying to put a line through my list,” she says.
Inspired by the saying, “You can have it all but not at the same time,” Kim says her biggest issue is not having enough time. As a result, she’s learned how to prioritize.
“When I started my business I had no idea how to structure things. I didn’t know how to build an e-commerce site. It’s important to make those connections that can help you develop your business.”
“Of course, travel cuts into your schedule,” she says. “I try to arrange it so I am there for the important things in my daughter’s life.”
In 2016 she skipped Toronto Fashion Week, what some would consider a gutsy move, to celebrate her daughter’s birthday. To compensate, she took over Holt Renfrew to stage a “Front Row Only” presentation of her latest collection. It’s this kind of creative problem solving that helps Kim stay on top in such a cut-throat industry.
Another skill she takes pride in is knowing how to build a dynamic team. “My team is my family whether at work or at home,” she says. “I’ve had the same nanny for 15 years and the same core team at work.”
“When I started my business I had no idea how to structure things. I didn’t know how to build an e-commerce site,” Kim recalls. “It’s important to make those connections that can help you develop your business. I developed connections to shippers, factories, and suppliers as well as people who keep me up to date on technology. “
Her advice to those starting out in this competitive field: “It’s not just about being creative. You have to be technical as well as creative. Find a brand that speaks to you and use that as your training ground to learn the business. You can’t be perfect so you learn from your mistakes. It takes time to become an expert. You have to do it over and over again.”
And no matter how hard you’re working, try to keep the passion alive. “One of my biggest strengths is that I’m passionate about what I do,” she says. “That brings a certain energy to the game. I look at each challenge as an exciting way to move forward.”
Hear Kim’s story in person as she takes the podium on December 13, 2016 at our Women of Influence Evening event: A Well Designed Life: Meet one of Canada’s Greatest Fashion Icons