WorkWild Geese

The Irish woman opening the door for high-end brands in a Canadian city with a ‘fabulous quality of life’

Jane Hanrahan cofounded a brand-positioning consultancy in Toronto, where the Irish are viewed as hard-working, well educated and kindred spirits

While she lives a glamorous life now promoting high-end global fashion and beauty brands and working with VIPs in Toronto, Jane Hanrahan feels it is her roots in New Ross that provided a solid foundation for her career in marketing and communications.

Hanrahan’s family ran a pub in the Wexford town. “Growing up in a pub, you learn to work with many different types of people and how to manage people’s personalities. I’ve spent my life in careers that are communications and human relations based,” she says.

After school, Hanrahan spent a brief spell in UCD but yearned for a career in the world of fashion and communications. She left college to work as an assistant for leading photographer Kip Carroll, which led to similar work in New York.

When her student visa ran out, Hanrahan moved to London where she worked as PR manager for the Jimmy Choo brand in 2001. “Jimmy Choo had just one store in London at the time with five staff. I worked on international communications in PR and celebrity dressings for events such as the Baftas and Oscars.”


Hanrahan was then approached to set up the London office of an agency called Starworks where she cemented her contacts in the world of high-end fashion brands before the opportunity came to move to Canada when her husband, Rohan Dixon, who works in insurance, was offered a two-year secondment to work in Toronto in 2010.

The couple never returned. “Within two years, we had fallen in love with the city and I knew we were going to stay.”

Hanrahan had worked previously with Vanessa Mulroney, daughter-in-law of the former Canadian prime minister, Brian Mulroney, and they soon hatched a plan to go into business together.

“We both recognised that Toronto had a lot of potential for high-net-worth spending. There were not a lot of high-end brands here at that time and the retail landscape was underdeveloped. We started our business in 2012, bringing in luxury international designers into Toronto and doing trunk shows. It grew from there. Vanessa had relationships in Toronto and both of us had relationships from working in London.”

Their business, Power of Privé, commonly known as POP, quickly established a niche as a brand-positioning consultancy delivering strategies and specialist advice to establish global brands in the Canadian market. The company organises events such as trunk shows and pop-up shops and links brands with relevant retailers or talent in areas such as music, film or fashion. It has worked with brands including Jimmy Choo, Louis Vuitton and Dr Barbara Sturm.

Canadians also have a good, healthy sense of humour. My friends here have the same sense of humour as the Irish

“I don’t think there are any other agencies that get to work with the luxury brands that we do because most of the brands work in-house. Traditionally, brands thought of Toronto as just another American city and it hasn’t worked. They realise now that they have to come in and meet the customers and build those relationships directly. We help facilitate that by, for example, organising a chic event that aligns with their brand creative and we invite shoppers to come and meet the people behind the brand and see their collections,” Hanrahan explains.

Hanrahan and her husband are now firmly rooted in Toronto, holding Canadian passports and raising their two children, Bowie and Sonny, in the house they bought in Midtown, within walking distance of the city centre.

“Toronto has a fabulous quality of life. It reminds me of Dublin in terms of size,” she says.

“It has changed a lot over the last 10 years. It has got a lot busier and a lot more vibrant. The city has a vibrant night economy with a particularly impressive restaurant scene. Winters involve six months of snow and extreme temperatures. Our kids ski every weekend. There’s a four-month summer.

“For the same price as a small apartment in London, we can own a nice house, drive around in a car and get parking, something you can’t do so easily in London.”

Toronto is recognised as one of the most diverse cities in the world, she says, with a strong immigrant culture, very open borders and a positive attitude to people looking to live there. There are significant differences in terms of culture and attitudes from the United States, she adds. “Politically and socially, the two countries are way apart. Canadians are generally liberal, well educated and have a much broader view of the world. All my Canadian friends travel.

“Canadians also have a good, healthy sense of humour. My friends here have the same sense of humour as the Irish. They like a good time. It takes a bit longer for them to express it to strangers as they are little more reserved.”

There is a very positive attitude to the Irish throughout Canada, with the Irish viewed as hard-working, well educated and kindred spirits, she says. The province of Newfoundland is particularly Irish, as a result of the many immigrants from Ireland who settled there over the years. “The accent you hear when you visit is very distinctive, it’s pure Waterford.”

Hanrahan and her family visit Ireland three times a year and she is particularly keen that her kids get a sense of their Irish roots. While she has no yearning to return to Ireland, she says she would love to have second home here. For now, despite all the snow, she is “enjoying living in a country where there are blue skies most of the year”.