Les Ailes de la Mode
Les Ailes de la Mode Inc. was a Quebec clothing retail store chain. Its flagship store was in downtown Montreal and was the anchor tenant of the Complexe Les Ailes. Les Ailes de la Mode also subleased a section of their department stores to Bowring.
Les Ailes de la Mode was founded in 1993 by Jean Delage Roberge as a division of its San Francisco women clothing chain. Les Ailes de la Mode derived from a magazine of the same name that was founded in 1988 also by Jean Delage Roberge.
Les Ailes de la Mode opened its first store in 1994 at Mail Champlain in Brossard, Quebec. At the time, this store had two stories with a pianist playing throughout the store. A restaurant as well as a coffee shop named Brulerie-les-Ailes were part of the Brossard store. This store also had a talking bear in the kids section. The popularity of Les Ailes de la Mode inspired an IMAX theatre that was opening up in the same mall in 1996 to call itself Imax Les Ailes.
Les Ailes de la Mode made its reputation as an upscale department store selling prestigious apparel and cosmetic brands, including Hugo Boss, Versace, G-Star, Dolce & Gabbana, Tommy Hilfiger, Armani, Nautica, Polo Ralph Lauren, DKNY, Diesel, Jones New York, Calvin Klein, Guess, Lancôme, and Chanel.
The third Les Ailes de la Mode store opened in 1997 at Place Sainte-Foy in Sainte-Foy, Quebec. As with the Brossard store, it had a ''Brulerie-les-Ailes as well as a Côté Jardin restaurant in the mezzanine. In this particular store, there was a small play area for kids.
The long-awaited downtown Montreal flagship store of Les Ailes de la Mode opened on August 7, 2002 in the former space of Eaton's department store which had been converted into a new shopping mall called Complexe Les Ailes and named after Les Ailes de la Mode. Upon its opening, the flagship store was 223,000 square meters spread on four floors which included a karaoke (where Musique Plus would broadcast its television program Karaoclip ), an art gallery, a wedding registry service, a shoe waxing service, a vodka bar, many breast-feeding rooms, a carousel and amusements in the kids section as well as many other attractions. The store had four restaurants: 1) Kouros Bar, a bar selling exclusively vodka 2) Kouros Tea Room, a tea bar 3) Stto Shushi Bar and 4) Kouros Restaurant, which offered tapas and Mediterranean snacks. The downtown store employed 1 000 people.
Throughout the 1990s and early 2000s, Les Ailes de la Mode was its peak. In 1998, its stock worth $54. The company had its own foundation, la fondation Les Ailes, which raised funds for the health and education sectors. It participated in charity events and would annually draw a high-priced house called La maison de rêve Les Ailes. The foundation raised 1 600 $000 in 2002 for many established organizations. Shoe waxing, wedding registering and many other services were offered in Les Ailes de la Mode stores. During December of every year, the stores would dedicate a portion of their space as a Christmas section where children would get to meet Santa Claus in his kingdom.
Les Ailes de la Mode's problems began in 2003 as a direct result from the openings of the Bayshore and Montreal stores. The company's quick expansion was more than it could afford. The downtown Montreal store was particularly too large for what the market could handle, and it saddled the company with debt that would force it into bankruptcy.
The Bayshore store was closed down in 2003, less than two years after its opening. In January 2004, the size of the downtown Montreal store was reduced to 76,764 square feet with two floors only and roughly a third of its former size. But the magic was gone. Les Ailes de la Mode never recovered from the troubles initiated by these two stores.
The financial problems brought in by the failures of the Bayshore and Montreal stores were soon catching on the rest of the chain. La fondation Les Ailes and its programs were terminated. Projects to open new stores in Fairview Pointe-Claire, Marché Central and Lac-Mirabel were cancelled. Plans to expand in Toronto, Vancouver and the United States were also cancelled.
Les Ailes de la Mode's lack of performance eventually drove the whole San Francisco Group into bankruptcy in December 2003. After emerging from bankruptcy in July 2004, the San Francisco Group was renamed Groupe Les Ailes de la Mode. Following the restructuring, Les Ailes de la Mode department store became one of the two remaining divisions of Groupe Les Ailes de la Mode (the other division being Bikini Village).
Change of direction
In August 2005, Groupe Les Ailes de la Mode sold Les Ailes de la Mode stores to the Fairwheather Group, (currently named Fairweather I.N.C Group). Fairwheather Group heavily modified the concept of Les Ailes de la Mode from an upscale department store to a discount store.
Les Ailes de la Mode magazine ceased publication and was discontinued. Les Ailes de la Mode stopped selling prestigious apparel and cosmetic brands, including Hugo Boss, Versace, G-Star, Dolce & Gabbana, Tommy Hilfiger, Armani, Nautica, Polo Ralph Lauren, DKNY, Diesel, Jones New York, Calvin Klein, Guess, Lancôme, and Chanel. Instead, Les Ailes de la Mode sold discount merchandise from the various store banners and in-house brands of parent company Fairweather I.N.C Group, including International Concepts, Stockhomme, Pinstripe, Fairweather, and Randy River. The brands, relatively unknown to Quebec consumers due to the absence of several of these store banners in the province, rendered Les Ailes de la Mode stores as outlets for all merchandise of Fairweather I.N.C Group.
In-store restaurants and beauty salons were all shut down, and the stores no longer sold cosmetics and pianos. Most checkout and fitting rooms were closed, leaving several of Les Ailes de la Mode' shuttered sections unoccupied. The size of the downtown Montreal store reduced so drastically that it was using the corridor of the mall, Complexe Les Ailes, to display and sell merchandise. Les Ailes de la Mode' return policy became restricted to exchanges only for items on regular price and the chain no longer accepted any return at all for items on sales.
The management of Carrefour Laval, having been unsatisfied with Les Ailes de la Mode's new identity and lack of cachet, decided not to continue the store lease upon expiry in February 2011. The management of Complexe Les Ailes had also questioned the future of the store in their mall for similar reasons.
The last store in Brossard followed suit in 2017, effectively ending the existence of a chain that was once respected in the 1990s and early 2000s.
In addition to the aforementioned departments stores, Les Ailes de la Mode had warehouses located at Le Faubourg de l'Île in Pincourt, Les Galeries de la Canardière in Quebec City, Place Fleurs de Lys in Quebec City, Centre Les Rivières in Trois-Rivières and Place du Royaume in Chicoutimi.
Les Ailes de La Mode Xpress
The Les Ailes de La Mode Xpress chain was a smaller version of Les Ailes de la Mode. It consisted of 8 boutiques.
Les Ailes de La Mode Xpress was a unisex retailer and all of its goods were also sold in large Les Ailes de la Mode stores. Les Ailes de La Mode Xpress shared the same logo as Les Ailes de la Mode department stores with the addition of the term "Xpress" underneath. The shopping bags at the Xpress stores were the same as the department store.
Fairweather I.N.C Group launched the "Les Ailes de La Mode Xpress" sub-banner by renaming its GLAM chain. GLAM was an acronym for Groupe Les Ailes de la Mode, the former parent company name of Les Ailes de la Mode, despite being operated by Fairweather. Prior to the rebranding of GLAM to Les Ailes Xpress, the chain was also named I&F. In 2012, the Xpress stores were rebranded under the "La Compagnie INC Fairweather" brand.
Department stores (closed)
Les Ailes de la Mode Xpress stores (rebranded as "La Compagnie INC Fairweather")
- "La mégaboutique les Ailes de la mode prend son envol". Le Soleil. Quebec City. 9 August 1994. p. C2.
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