Marie Claire Group
Marie Claire store. Photo courtesy of Marie-Claire
Marie Claire is a family-run business specialized in the creation and retail of affordably priced ready-to-wear women’s clothing. As of 2018, the company had approximately 300 stores—located both inside and outside urban centres—in Quebec, Ontario and New Brunswick. These shops include six different chains: Marie Claire, Grenier, Claire France, San Francisco, Terra Nostra and Emotions. The company has a total workforce of 1,800, including 120 employees at its head office in Montreal’s Anjou neighbourhood. The collections are designed in Montreal, while production takes place primarily in Asian and European factories. However, about 10% of production remains in Quebec.
The history of the Marie Claire group began in 1965 when Réal and Marie Claire Lafrance opened their first boutique in Saint-Hyacinthe on Cascade Street.
They soon opened a second store in Longueuil. Over the years, the two co-founders decided to organize their products under different banners to better meet the needs of different female customer segments.
The Emotions stores were launched in the late 1960s to target retired women with contemporary style who like embellishments like embroidery and rhinestones. In 1980, they created Le Grenier (called simply Grenier since 2017), which features brightly coloured, highly affordable clothing. Claire France was added three years later to dress women sizes 14 to 24 (XL to 4XL). The year 1993 marked the arrival of Terra Nostra boutiques, devoted exclusively to European brands. Although the Marie Claire group had always created its own brands, in 2004 it purchased the Boutique San Francisco chain from the San Francisco Group, which also owned Les Ailes de la Mode department stores. Boutique San Francisco targets a younger, trendier clientele.
Over the years, several other chains have come and gone in the Marie Claire stable of stores, including Camélia, Évasion, Express Jeunesse, Ingénue, Marie Moi and New Look.
On January 4, 2018, Réal Lafrance handed control of the company over to his three children. Sylvain Lafrance thus became president of the Marie Claire group and director of the Grenier and Claire France divisions. His brother Martin is now director of the Marie Claire and Emotions divisions, while his sister Stéphanie is in charge of the Boutique San Francisco division.
Martin, Stéphanie and Sylvain Lafrance. Photo courtesy of Marie-Claire
Marie Claire Lafrance, co-founder of Marie-Claire. Photo courtesy of Marie-Claire
Réal Lafrance, co-founder of Marie-Claire. Photo courtesy of Marie-Claire
Madeleine Goubau, Contributor
© McCord Museum 2021