How Michel Grondines Democratized Menswear

BY BRENNA DIXON

Owner and designer Michel Grondines speaks about the evolution of Canadian menswear brand Vincent d'Amerique, his role in the brand's vision, and meeting the challenges of today's consumer with a glimpse into the future. 

Michel Grondines is the person currently in charge of Vincent d'Amerique, but that wasn't always the case. In fact, what he works with today started under the name of Felix Homme, created in 1980 by Mario Lamanque. 

The Felix Homme store flourished throughout Quebec, and in just six years, there were five locations throughout Quebec. In the early 2000s, Felix Homme acquired Vincent d'Amerique, combining forces to double the locations under Vincent d'Amerique's namesake. With its almost overnight success, the brand continued expansion, opening a store a year since 2005.

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Today, the store holds steadfast to the original desire: empowering men across the globe, with unique modernizations of the brand as imagined by new owner and designer Michel Grondines. As a democratized men’s fashion brand, Vincent d’Amerique today sells worldwide.

We sat down with Michel Grondines who elaborates on his personal career path with Vincent d'Amerique and the unique evolution of the Canadian menswear brand since 1980.

What sparked your interest in fashion?
I have always been interested in fashion since a young age. My mother and grandmother would sew, and I would go shopping for fabrics and patterns with them.

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Tell me about your ascension into the fashion world.  
I started working part-time as a salesperson in the Felix Homme stores when I was a student in fashion merchandising. Afterward, Felix Homme acquired the Vincent d’Amerique stores in 2004. Due to the strength of the Vincent d’Amerique brand, the previous owner decided to convert his Felix Homme stores into Vincent d’Amerique stores and needed my help at the head office to organize the merge. I then became involved in the supervision of the boutiques, merchandising, buying, and advertising. You could say that I got involved in all of the aspects of the business and became a shareholder. In September 2017, I bought over my partner and became the only shareholder of the company.

What drew you to the Vincent d’Amerique brand?
I was not drawn to it as a brand initially; we took the strengths of each company and blended them together to create a new and improved Vincent d’Amerique brand and developed a well-merchandised collection.

Vincent d’Amerique has opened its first store in 1983 - what was the initial response to this brand back then? 
Initially, it was Felix Homme that started in 1980. Then, Felix Homme bought the Vincent d’Amerique stores in 2004 from the original owner. Vincent d’Amerique started in 1996. The initial reaction from the consumer was well received. It was a coordinated line and their promotions were also very popular and competitive.

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After the first store opening, Vincent d’Amerique quickly expanded - what propelled the business growth, in your opinion? 
In my opinion, it’s having an inspiring vision and direction in regards to communication and good timing between all aspects of the business: syncing the collection, the sales, customer service, and the advertising together.

What do you think makes the Vincent d’Amerique brand so successful over a long period of time? 
We believe that each business should create its own success. We are constantly improving all aspects of our company - this is what keeps us going and evolving with the changing times.

How did you become the owner and main designer of this brand? 
A lot of hard work, determination, and perseverance.  

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 Why do you think it is important to bring a twist to the brand in order to portray a modernized image?
The consumer’s trend awareness is sharper than ever, [so] you must always be on-trend and give them novelties to entice them.

 What was one of your biggest career challenges, and how did you overcome it?  
We are currently living it with our plans of expansion, distribution towards other markets, and franchising of our stores.  

 How do you think the brand appeals to the man of today? What is your unique selling point? Comfort is key, with good design enabling well-being and confidence.

Defined as “democratized men’s fashion,” how did you arrive at this definition? 
We base our designs on basic items but with an edge.

What advice would you give to today’s up-and-coming fashion entrepreneurs?
Do not believe in an easy road to success, as a quick success can lead to failure. You need to work hard with perseverance and build a solid foundation to your business. 

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In the early 2000s, the acquisition of Felix Homme by Vincent d’Amerique resulted in double the locations. With its almost overnight success, the brand continued expansion, opening a store a year since 2005. Since then, Lamanque has grown through the ranks and is now the owner and main designer of Vincent d’Amerique.

Today, the brand mantra remains steadfast to Lamanque’s desire: empowering men across the globe. As a democratized men’s fashion brand, Vincent d’Amerique today sells worldwide.

We sat down with Michel Grondines who elaborates on his personal career path with Vincent d'Amerique and the unique evolution of the Canadian menswear brand since 1980.

What sparked your interest in fashion?
I have always been interested in fashion since a young age. My mother and grandmother would sew, and I would go shopping for fabrics and patterns with them.

Screen Shot 2018-06-21 at 11.00.54.png

Tell me about your ascension into the fashion world.  
I started working part-time as a salesperson in the Felix Homme stores when I was a student in fashion merchandising. Afterward, Felix Homme acquired the Vincent d’Amerique stores in 2004. Due to the strength of the Vincent d’Amerique brand, the previous owner decided to convert his Felix Homme stores into Vincent d’Amerique stores and needed my help at the head office to organize the merge. I then became involved in the supervision of the boutiques, merchandising, buying, and advertising. You could say that I got involved in all of the aspects of the business and became a shareholder. In September 2017, I bought over my partner and became the only shareholder of the company.

What drew you to the Vincent d’Amerique brand?
I was not drawn to it as a brand initially; we took the strengths of each company and blended them together to create a new and improved Vincent d’Amerique brand and developed a well-merchandised collection.

Vincent d’Amerique has opened its first store in 1983 - what was the initial response to this brand back then? 
Initially, it was Felix Homme that started in 1980. Then, Felix Homme bought the Vincent d’Amerique stores in 2004 from the original owner. Vincent d’Amerique started in 1996. The initial reaction from the consumer was well received. It was a coordinated line and their promotions were also very popular and competitive.

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After the first store opening, Vincent d’Amerique quickly expanded - what propelled the business growth, in your opinion? 
In my opinion, it’s having an inspiring vision and direction in regards to communication and good timing between all aspects of the business: syncing the collection, the sales, customer service, and the advertising together.

What do you think makes the Vincent d’Amerique brand so successful over a long period of time? 
We believe that each business should create its own success. We are constantly improving all aspects of our company - this is what keeps us going and evolving with the changing times.

Screen Shot 2018-06-21 at 11.00.37.png

How did you become the owner and main designer of this brand? 
A lot of hard work, determination, and perseverance.  

 Why do you think it is important to bring a twist to the brand in order to portray a modernized image?
The consumer’s trend awareness is sharper than ever, [so] you must always be on-trend and give them novelties to entice them.

 What was one of your biggest career challenges, and how did you overcome it?  
We are currently living it with our plans of expansion, distribution towards other markets, and franchising of our stores.  

 How do you think the brand appeals to the man of today? What is your unique selling point? Comfort is key, with good design enabling well-being and confidence.

Defined as “democratized men’s fashion,” how did you arrive at this definition? 
We base our designs on basic items but with an edge.

What advice would you give to today’s up-and-coming fashion entrepreneurs?
Do not believe in an easy road to success, as a quick success can lead to failure. You need to work hard with perseverance and build a solid foundation to your business. 

How has Vincent d’Amerique been able to remain ‘top of mind’ in such a competitive marketplace? We focus our strategies to boost the confidence level of the consumer who wears our clothes in all aspects of the product, merchandising, and shopping experience to aid in their personal success.

What do you foresee for the future of Vincent D’Amerique? We are aiming to be an international brand through distribution and expand our retail stores.