As co-owner and vice-president of merchandising for Simons department stores, Richard Simons spends roughly 100 days a year travelling the world in search of the best designers, and new ideas and inspiration. He attends approximately 50 women’s fashion shows each year but his favourite place is in the showrooms, feeling the product as customers would in a store.
Born and raised in Quebec City, Richard always wanted to follow his father into the family business and, after graduating from business school at the University of New Brunswick, he saw a place for himself at the family firm. Richard is the fifth generation of his family to work at Simons, which started in 1870 as a dry goods store in Quebec City. (His brother, Peter Simons, is the company’s CEO and president.)
These days, Richard oversees the buying for Canada’s 15 Simons stores, including two new stores—one in Calgary and the other in Edmonton. “It’s a very challenging and exciting time,” he says. “I’m always thinking about what’s next. What’s a mall going to look like in five years? How much will people be buying online? As a retailer, you know there’s going to be a lot of change.”
Where do you find your inspiration for the upcoming season?
“Inspiration is all around. There’s inspiration when you watch a film, walk through an airport, go to a fashion show, go to an art museum or when you read. We’re bombarded with inspiration.”
Where did you get your fashion sense, your sense of style?
“It’s like doing a 5,000-piece puzzle. There’s no instruction book. You might have a system and use logic; maybe you start with the border or certain colours. It’s the same with fashion. If you start seeing a lot of yellow, you know that’ll be trending for the next season. You draw lines between the similarities, what everyone is doing. And sometimes no one else is doing it, but you just think it’s interesting.”
Who are some of your favourite designers?
“Without hesitation my favourite show is Dries Van Noten. He is the master of beauty and the values of his company reflect those of our own organization. I’m very keen on Canadian designers [such as] Unttld, Denis Gagnon, Sid Neigum. There’s great talent amongst Canadian designers and we should encourage and support them.”
What’s trending this spring?
“Over the past season, we’ve seen a lot of flower prints, but this has really changed and we’ll be seeing more intense, bright colours this season mostly in solids prints and multi stripes and a lot of shiny vinyl in pants and skirts. I’m also loving the return of tailoring in pants and suiting, which are slightly oversized. Fashion is much less fitted these days, more boxy, wider shapes are taking place over tight-fitted styling.”
What’s the best part of your job?
“The buyers and designers I work with. I’m privileged to work with such passionate forces in fashion. Nobody around me is ever unmotivated. It’s important to enjoy what you are doing, and it’s fun to work with happy people.”
What do you do to get away from it all?
“I bought a cabin that’s three hours north of Quebec City with my brother when I was 21. I go fly fishing there with friends every spring. There’s no cellphone reception, no electricity, no TV. It’s the best place on earth.”
Could you recommend a business book?
“The Designful Company: How to Build a Culture of Nonstop Innovation by Marty Neumeier. It’s great for creatives and the people who work with them.”