It’s one of Canada’s oldest brands. In fact, it’s older than Canada itself. And, you’ve likely never heard of it.
La Maison Simons launched in Quebec City in 1840.
Simons is making its Vancouver debut on Thursday, and the latest example of this city becoming a retail destination of choice.
CEO Peter Simons says his family’s brand new 100,000 square foot store at Park Royal is the company’s second location outside of Quebec.
Simons is a fashion retailer, but the focus is not just clothes and accessories.
There is art everywhere, and not mass produced, cookie-cutter pieces.
LISTEN: CKNW’s Charmaine de Silva met up with CEO Peter Simons at the new store
Fashion and art
The Park Royal store features work by Coast Salish artist Jody Broomfield, West Vancouver’s Bobbie Burgers, and Douglas Coupland.
That’s something Simons is proud of.
“It’s part of our DNA. We really believe in design and architecture and art, all com[ing] together to make a unique space and experience. We made a really conscious decision to make a unique space in every single store.”
Bobbie Burgers says its always great to expose people to local art, and also is an opportunity for her.
“I think it’s really nice to have something in your own hometown. I grew up in West Van, and it’s my first sculptural piece. I was really pleased that they could support so freely with that idea, and blindly go with that concept without me having any record in that field before. “
Her piece Innocence Disobedience features more than 50 flowers in various stages of decay, and is meant to represent feminine rebellion.
Broomfield’s Kayachtun is a sandblasted granite relief of an eagle right at the south entrance of the store.
Coupland’s Bow Tie sculpture is the store’s central piece, filling its two-storey central atrium, referencing fashion, culture and engineering.
Vancouver has become home to many shopping options, and recently, luxury retailers and brands have had a lot of success.
McArthurGlen Vancouver Airport Outlets welcomed its one millionth visitor earlier this month, well ahead of targets.
Nordstrom has opened its Pacific Centre location to much fanfare.
But Simons doesn’t put itself in the same category.
Peter Simons makes repeated reference to the fact this is a family business and it’s not a luxury retailer.
“It’s the way women shop today, they’re really sophisticated. They know how to mix up great faster fashion, maybe more value fashion, with luxury. We’ve tended in the past to sort of silo everything. it’s either fast fashion or it’s luxury. But the reality is women are cross shopping and they’re mixing and matching.”
World class city
So, why Vancouver? Especially before other major Canadian cities, even in Ontario.
“I think it’s an exciting market to be in. It’s got great style. As I travel across the country, you can see every city from Montreal to Toronto to Vancouver has their own style.”
Canadian retailers at risk
But being a Canadian retail brand is not without its challenges.
Even an institution like Hudson’s Bay is no longer Canadian-owned.
Other retailers, like Jacob, now cease to exist.
Simons says there’s no doubt, the landscape has been incredibly competitive.
“You really have to make commitments to invest and update your organization and your technology to be viable. You can fall behind very easily. It’s been very challenging.”
Whether Simons will be able to find success in Vancouver remains to be seen.
Simons at Park Royal opens Thursday October 15th at 10:00am.