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Simons: A Great Canadian Family

12 Jul 2017

Simons is the name of a great family that can be heard today from sea to sea.

Their story is of an unconditional love for fashion, a tale that started in Quebec City in 1840 and that has continued ever since.

It's the story of an array of Canadian designers who were welcomed with open arms, authors of local style, art, and culture with whom we have formed close ties.

And it's the story of the eight private labels that Simons has created, exclusive designs made here that have earned the company the proud title of a Canadian style maker.

The 60’s brought about a new era in Quebec, and at Simons. Barriers were being broken, fresh ideas were bursting onto the scene, and a new way of life was in the making. Women were looking for fashion that was more in line with their modern reality. Donald Simons, who was the head of the company at the time, broke new ground by introducing private labels that answered this need.

Next, menswear followed suit. Le 31 for men, inspired by the French expression “se mettre sur son trente et un” (dressing to the nines), was chosen as the name of the new shopping destination that would revolutionize the masculine wardrobe for men of all ages.

Progress continued in the years that followed. Simons expanded its assortment for women in 1965 with the launch of Contemporaine. Modern women between the ages of 30 and 40 who were becoming increasingly more active identified with this brand that suited their new lifestyle. The assortment expanded even further about a decade later with the arrival of a line of fine lingerie, known today as Miiyu.

In the meantime, customers were able to discover a new department for home fashion, Simons Maison. Its cutting-edge designs and avant-garde merchandising quickly won Canadians over. Some of the older customers and employees still remember the long lines that formed outside in the cold during the winter sale a few decades ago. This is a department that has drawn crowds for years… 

The line of labels continued with the creation of Djab, Icône, and I.FiV5. These three introduced a new favourite spot to shop for young men on the hunt for on-point pieces, a brand for women wanting fashion-forward choices, and a label whose expertise in activewear and exclusive styles have quickly made it a resource for fitness fans.

All of the designs from these labels come to life in the heart of Old Quebec City. At 20 côte de la Fabrique, buyers share their flair for fashion and designers work their magic in the very same building that John Simons housed his merchandise coming from Europe in the 19th century.

The Simons family’s story is filled with a cast of important characters. The story includes Peter Simons, who immigrated to Quebec from Scotland in 1812. It includes his son, John, who opened the store at only age 17. It includes brothers Peter and Richard Simons, who are in charge of the company today. It includes Donald, their father, who passed the store down to the brothers after helping Simons evolve during a pivotal era. And it includes Ève, Peter and Richard’s grandmother, who played her own special role 75 years ago, preparing sandwiches for customers during big sales. (In fact, Ève Café, found at our stores in Vancouver, Mississauga, Gatineau, and Calgary, is named in her honour.)

Simons’ story also includes all the Canadians that surround and support the store, the customers that have been loyal for generations, and those that are just beginning to discover it across the country. Together, they come together to paint the portrait of one of the oldest private family-owned companies in Canada.