Founded in 1945 by Felix and Lily Monk, Czech immigrants who arrived in Canada in 1939 to escape the darkness that was surrounding Europe and join a glove company being run by Lily’s uncle in Prescott Ontario. Glove making has a long history in Lily’s family dating back to the years preceding the First World War when relatives operated glove factories in what was then the Austro-Hungarian Empire and post-war became Czechoslovakia. Other family members’ opened a glove factory in Grenoble France, then the home of the best glove makers in Europe. In fact, in 1935 Lily was on her way from Pilsen in Czechoslovakia to Grenoble to start her first job in the glove business when she met her future husband Felix, who was writing fashion updates for eastern European clients from the haute couture capital of the world, Paris.
Lily and Felix married and had two children, Peter and Evie. Throughout the war years, the Prescott glove factory, 50% owned by Felix, manufactured and supplied gloves to the burgeoning Canadian military.
As the war came to an end, Felix and Lily decided it was time to head out on their own in Montreal, Quebec. Felix and Lily opened their first glove company in what was then the “tenderloin” district of Montreal on Hotel de Ville Street with five employees, the two of them, a bookkeeper, a cutter and a sewer. They called the company Paris Glove and made the Eiffel tower its trademark symbol…after all, Paris was the couture capital of the world!
The initial factory had only two sewing machines. The fashion at the time called for fully hand-sewn gloves, so Felix sought to build the initial business around the materials available.
In the beginning times were tough, as Felix had no cutting “clickers” of his own to stamp out the glove shapes. Armed with the cutting dies (His share of the Prescott assets when Felix & Lily decided to branch out on their own), he convinced a work glove maker to allow him to use their equipment at night to cut fine ladies fabric gloves. Next, he needed sewers. Each Sunday, Felix and the sewing technician would drive to the country where the parish priest would announce sewers were needed to sew gloves by hand. As one sewer might sew two pairs of gloves per day to achieve production volumes hundreds of sewers needed to be recruited to meet demand. With his operation in place, at its peak, Felix & Lily were producing over 1200 pairs of gloves per week.
As the Company grew it moved to a 5000’ factory in an industrial building on Hutchison and Park avenue and added leather and a men’s line, they hired salesmen to drive from town to town to present the designs. With Lily’s design background and Felix overseeing production business prospered.
Paris Glove was not unique in post war Quebec, which at one time boasted over 40 glove factories. Paris Glove was proud that even with competition, their gloves were in demand due to the styling and craftsmanship of the product.
By 1961 the Company moved to a 10,000’ location on Park Avenue, had two manufacturing locations, one in Montreal and the other in Ste. Tite and now, in addition to manufacturing, began importing gloves from Italy and Eastern Europe (Czechoslovakia and Romania). In addition, Peter Monk (son of Lily & Felix) joined the Company armed with a MBA from Columbia.
Following Expo 67, Peter convinced the family to enter the ski glove business and source the goods from Japan (then, a source of well made inexpensive product). Business continued to grow, manufacturing in Canada flourished, as did imported fashion from Europe and the ski gloves, which were unique coming from Japan.
In 1973, Peter became President. While at the helm, the Company continued expansion plans with the purchase of Laurentide Glove from the Boulet Boot Family allowing them to enter the industrial glove market. And, in the 1980’s Auclair Gloves was purchased from the Auclair Family in Quebec City; which truly established Paris Glove as a powerhouse glove company.
In 2011, it was agreed that the time had come to sell the Company to an organization who had the expertise to take Paris Glove to a new level, to take the brands under the Paris umbrella internationally. In November (2011), Paris Glove of Canada was sold to the New Wave Group of Sweden, an entrepreneurial multi-national organization.
The Company’s long history in the glove business makes it unique in Canada as one of the few early glove makers continuing to prosper in North America.