Winnipeg, Manitoba, is a major hub of clothing manufacturing in Canada. It is here that so many arrived from Eastern Europe in the early 20th century, used their tailoring skills as their primary occupation, built fulfilling lives for themselves, and created an enormously successful industry. Even as manufacturing has become an offshore endeavor for so many companies elsewhere, this city remains a strong and surviving force in the North American garment trade.
One success story is JMJ/Ingenuity, celebrating 75 years in business with multiple generations of family ownership. 34 year old Morris Shenkarow heads this firm that fills over a city block of manufacturing space, and is capable of running 24 hour per day alternating shifts when necessary. He succeeds his father, Marvin, who created a joint venture between Morris' maternal and paternal grandfathers, each of whom had their own distinct companies.
Founded by Morris Neaman in 1933, the Sterling Cloak Co. Ltd. was originally a producer of ladies' overcoats and sportswear, until it was merged with S. Stall & Sons in 1978, and became the Sterling Stall group. This partnership produced a wide range of ladies' clothing, adding leather, down coats, and suits to the already successful lines of the original Sterling Cloak.' From there, the company became JMJ Fashions, as it continued to expand and create private-label programs for Canadian retailers.
In 1995, always capable of changing with the times, JMJ introduced the Ingenuity line of washable, crease resistant women's tailored sportswear. It was an enormous success and today, Ingenuity is sold all over Canada, the United States, and in Mexico City.
Multi-faceted Sue Paymer has been involved with the group for the last 15 years. About seven years ago, between dress-down Friday's, and a general trend toward casual wear in the workplace, Sue began to seek additional venues in which to introduce the more stylish presentation of Ingenuity: She came up with the idea of using the company's made-for-street-wear garments as uniforms. It was the perfect niche.
Without changing the basic nature of the firm, what had been selling as women's fashions, Sue and her fellow sales reps also began to sell direct to various industries where hospitality was key—anywhere they could think of where classy corporate identity garments were wanting in terms of the ideal busy woman's dream outfit.
Ingenuity came up with two incredible basic fabrics: Stretch twill, and Tricotine. The colors were in the classics, meant to go with everything: Black, navy, stone, taupe, ivory, and red. All of the pieces went with one another; all of the pieces were wrinkle free and could travel anywhere. Everything was fused and sewn to perfection so that nothing would crumple or come loose from itself. The Ingenuity shoulder pad, alone, was sewn down in 13 places, rather than the typical three. Just try to ruin one.
The garments have chip resistant buttons, the fabrics never fade, and dye lots are re-produced over and over again, so that a garment from 15 years ago will still match a new garment today; tops still match the bottoms. The Ingenuity garments are completely machine washable, drip dry, have permanent creases in the pants, and are fully lined. Every garment comes on a hanger and bagged.
The styles are so basic that one could conceivably wear a single outfit during the day for a business luncheon, quick change to fancier buttons on the jacket, and have a formal suit for wedding attire by evening. The fabrics are seasonless and wearable all year round. As Sue says, "These are miracle clothes—one of a kind!"
The best part, she is quick to emphasize, is that the durability and wearability of the fabrics save uniform owners a fortune in dry cleaning costs. Sue goes on: "What if a woman is wearing these garments in a smelly job where foods or other items regularly soil the fabric?" No worries. "Just throw everything in the washing machine and in a few hours, the garments are good as new." This is a woman who is completely energized when it comes to pushing her product. She loves it, believes in it, and speaks to its accolades every moment she gets. The result is that Ingenuity is making millions.
In addition to standard in-stock programs, Ingenuity also has its fashion line in novelty patterns, such as tweeds, stripes, plaids, and whatever else a customer could possibly want. If you don't see a color you want, ask. You'll get a lab dip, and the fabric will be custom dyed for you. If you have a special design you want, discuss it with Ingenuity. Need a particular size? Ingenuity manufactures in misses, petites, pluses, plus petites, and tall's. If that's still not you, it will custom make the garments.
Men's wear, you say. Yes, the company is doing that, now, too. The same basics, only in handsome men's styling to complement female counterparts. No one in the entire office ever looks wrinkled, second best, slept in, frayed, or less than band-box fresh. In business, appearance is a keen element.
"We're still a tailor shop," reminds Sue. She is firm that in repping over 50 organizations in her career, Ingenuity is the most principled and well presented company she has worked with. "Our customers are 100% satisfied, we bend over backwards to help them, we do not undercut our dealers, and we stand behind our production." Asked about turn-around time, she smiles and remarks that Nordstrom's once asked for 7,000 pieces in five days and Ingenuity delivered on time.
Ingenuity products may be found online at www.jmjingenuity.com. You may call:1-888-600-0001 ext.307; or Sue Paymer, direct @ 1-410-340-3904.