Réal Lafrance died of Lewy body disease at the age of 79. (Image: courtesy)
The “visionary entrepreneur” and co-founder of the Marie Claire Group, Réal Lafrance, died on June 26, 2022 at the age of 79 from Lewy body disease. As a big name in Quebec fashion dies, his company – now a “2nd Generation” company – is making its mark. Generation” is – about to conquer new markets.
“My father was a very human person, very close to his employees, smiling and very approachable, he affirms Offers Stéphanie Lafrance, daughter of Réal Lafrance and collaborator of Groupe Marie Claire, with her brothers Sylvain and Martin. He had a knack for attracting people and being instantly loved and respected.”
In 1965, Réal and Marie-Claire Lafrance, then an oil company representative and a teacher respectively, opened their first women’s clothing store in Saint-Hyacinthe.
Today, the Marie Claire Group – which brings together Banner Marie Claire Boutiques, Grenier, Claire France, San Francisco and Dans un Jardin – is the largest privately owned 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,” his daughter continues, adding that the company is “a bit like” the fifth child in the family.
“Example of surpassing oneself”, “extraordinary leader”, “giant on a human scale” and “unique being”: these are some of the words used to describe Réal Lafrance, who “has left a deep void after his departure”.
In Quebec and beyond
In the first breaths of the project, the clothing for the Montreal banners was conceived and designed. Currently 10% of the pieces are made entirely in Quebec, not counting the entire Dans un Jardin line which is created and manufactured in Boucherville.
“We’re a Quebec company and we’re really proud of that. We put a lot on it,” says 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.
“A new project is coming up in August. Since we already have four banners that are in the local niche, we’ll take the opportunity to try to look elsewhere,” says the company’s director, making sure the other signs aren’t neglected.
On the contrary, the partners share the desire to dust and modernize them by renovating the stores, refreshing the brand image and continuing their digital transformation.
“Our vision is really to ensure the continuity of the company,” says Stéphanie Lafrance.