Joseph Ribkoff dropped out of school at age 15 to work in Montreal’s garment industry. He worked his way up to the head of a garment manufacturer’s shipping department before going out on his own in 1957, at the age of 20. His first business was financed with money he and his bride had earmarked to buy furniture for their first home.
Typical of most Canadian dress manufacturers of the time, his company made clothes styled after established trends. His biggest competition was the long-established manufacturer Algo, which produced a similar kind of line for Canadian department stores and independent dress shops.
In the late 1960s Ribkoff was looking to Europe for inspiration – Kenzo was a favourite. He also followed a younger aesthetic spurred on by his friendship with American dress manufacturer Jack Litt whose company Arpeja created the clothing lines Young Edwardian, and Young Innocence.
Over the years Ribkoff’s business shifted towards an older clientele. Ribkoff’s market is now mostly mature women (over 40) but he must be doing something right because Ribkoff remains one of the few Canadian companies still making clothes in Canada, and exporting lines to 55 international markets. For more information about Ribkoff read this interview from Dress to Kill.