TRISTAN is a company that designs, produces and sells an array of ready-to-wear for men and women. Targeting a business clientele, the brand offers clothing primarily for work and going out, plus some casual weekend outfits. Over 30% of its products are manufactured in Canada in the company’s two factories in Farnham and Cookshire. As of 2018, TRISTAN was operating 41 stores, primarily in Quebec, but also in Ontario and Alberta. In addition, its clothing is available on its e-commerce site.
In 1973, Gilles Fortin and Denise Deslauriers, a young couple aged 21 and 18, respectively, opened a multi-brand women’s clothing store called Tristan & Iseut in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu.
The following year, they launched the same kind of store for men, called Rabbi Jacob. By the late 1970s, sales were healthy enough that Denise Deslauriers, who had studied couture, began designing her own collections. From that point on, the stores only sold garments designed in-house.
In 1981, Rabbi Jacob was rebranded America. The same year, the couple opened their first store for men and women, under the name Tristan & America. In early 1983, the company was operating a total of seven stores for its three brands: Tristan & Iseult for women, America for men, and Tristan & America for men and women. In August of that year, it opened four new shops within a month: two at Carrefour Laval, one at Galeries d’Anjou and one at Centre Rockland.
Entering the United States market in the 1990s, Tristan & America opened three shops in the New York City area in 1993, 1994 and 1998: first at the Roosevelt Field Mall on Long Island, then at Rockefeller Center in Manhattan, and finally in the SoHo district.
The company’s expansion led it to relocate its Montreal head office. In 1996, Denise Deslauriers and Gilles Fortin moved from the Elpro building on De Courcelle Street to Des Seigneurs Street on the Lachine Canal.
When the San Francisco Group, the owner of multiple brands including Les Ailes de la Mode, ran into financial problems, Tristan & America acquired the brands L’Officielle and West Coast. In 2007, the company decided to unite all of its stores under the TRISTAN brand.
As of 2018, the second generation of the Fortin family was running the business.
The founders’ oldest daughter, Lili Fortin, is president of TRISTAN, while her sister Laurence is a buyer and her brother Charles is the e-commerce manager. Their parents remain involved in the business. Denise Deslauriers still manages the design and production departments and Gilles Fortin plays an active role in administration. Although TRISTAN no longer operates stores in the United States, the company wants to continue having an international presence by granting franchises. The first such outpost has already opened in Santiago, Chili.
Vézina, René. « Gilles Fortin laisse la présidence de Tristan à sa fille » Les Affaires, Médias Transcontinental S.E.N.C., 14 juin 2017, https://www.lesaffaires.com/secteurs-d-activite/commerce-de-detail/gilles-fortin-laisse-la-presidence-de-tristan-a-sa-fille/595560.
Madeleine Goubau, Collaboratrice