Réal Lafrance died of Lewy body disease at the age of 79. (Picture: courtesy)
The “visionary entrepreneur” and co-founder of the Marie Claire Group, Réal Lafrance, died on June 26, 2022 from Lewy body disease at the age of 79. While a big name in Quebec fashion is passing away, his company — which is now a “2nd generation” business — is setting out to conquer new markets.
“My father was a very human man, very close to his employees, smiling and very accessible, affirms to Deals Stéphanie Lafrance, daughter of Réal Lafrance and associate of Groupe Marie Claire, with her brothers Sylvain and Martin. He had a knack for attracting people and being loved and respected right away.”
It was in 1965 that Réal and Marie-Claire Lafrance, then respectively a representative for an oil firm and a teacher, opened their first women’s clothing store in Saint-Hyacinthe.
Today, the Marie Claire Group — which brings together the Marie Claire Boutiques, Grenier, Claire France, San Francisco and Dans un Jardin banners — is the largest private company specializing in the sale of women’s clothing in Canada.
“He was a very hardworking person. To build what he built, he had to make a lot of sacrifices and work a lot”, continues his daughter, adding that the company was “a bit like” the fifth child of the family.
“Example of surpassing oneself”, “exceptional leader”, “giant on a human scale” and “unique being”: these are some of the words used to describe Réal Lafrance, who “leaves a deep void following his departure “.
In Quebec and beyond
In the first breaths of the project, the clothing for the banners was thought out and designed in Montreal. Currently, 10% of the pieces are entirely made in Quebec, not counting the complete Dans un Jardin line, created and manufactured in Boucherville.
“We are a Quebec company and we are really proud of that. We put a lot on it, ”shares Stéphanie Lafrance.
However, the company — which has more than 1,500 employees and nearly 300 stores in Quebec, Ontario and New Brunswick — has some surprises in store for the coming weeks.
“We have a new project coming up in August. Since we already have four banners that are in the local niche, we are going to take the opportunity to try to look elsewhere, “says the director of the company, ensuring that the other signs will not be neglected.
On the contrary, the partners share a desire to dust them off and modernize them, by renovating the stores, refreshing the brand image and continuing their digital transition.
“Our vision is really to ensure the continuity of the company,” says Stéphanie Lafrance.