Easily said, not so easily done: Over The Rainbow has been open for over 40 years in Toronto, Canada. It was born exactly in the same year as this magazine (1975) so the store has witnessed pretty much all the developments that shook up the denim market in the last decades. From the ‘90s vintage-inspired clothing uber-trend according to the store’s founder Joel Carman up to the explosion of LA premium denim brands in the noughties. Daniel Carman started working at his parents’ business in his teenage years, doing every possible store job. After university, he embarked on various jobs in the wholesale channel and did an internship with a denim factory in Winnipeg, Canada. “Once I had a well-rounded experience and knowledge of the fashion industry, I came back to where it all started for me. My sister Amy and I love having a legacy to continue building into the future,” Daniel explains. In this interview, he focuses on the present state of affairs, but we’re excited to also share some photo archive pearls so that you can see how the store looked like back in the early days.
When did you come back to Over The Rainbow after your experiences in wholesale to take over your father’s role?
I came back to Over the Rainbow in August 2006. My first project was launching the company’s first website. I moved on to join the buying team, first as an assistant until assuming the position of menswear buyer. I kept that role until two years ago, deciding to promote a capable person within the company to the position. I still remain involved with the buying team, but my focus is overseeing the growth and bigger picture items for the company.
What are the pros and cons of the store having a 40-year-old history behind?
Because we have a long standing history, both in our city and the fashion industry, it allows us to keep a loyal client base spanning many generations. The challenge is convincing an entirely new generation of new brands and consumers who don’t necessarily care about the past to shop with you and may not want to shop in the same place as their parents. The balance we face is trying to evolve the store just enough to impress new people, but not too much to alienate our older, most loyal clientele. Our new approach to social media and e-commerce is geared directly towards new customers. The in-store experience remains true to the roots and values of Over the Rainbow.
What denim brands are you most excited about right now? Which ones are selling very well?
There is a noticeable split in our customer base. We have a consumer who loves breaking in a beautiful pair of raw denim, where brands like Levi’s, Nudie Jeans and Naked & Famous Denim sell really well. The other customer wants ready-made “maximum comfort” jeans made from a blend of fabrics involving stretch. Leaders in this market for us include AG, Paige Premium Denim, Citizens of Humanity, Current Elliott and Fidelity Denim.
What attributes do you think a young entrepreneur must have in order to succeed as a denim retailer?
I mentioned working in a denim factory, which is an invaluable experience for any person who wants to sell denim to a consumer. Knowing how denim fits and wears over time. Understanding inventory management and the backend of retail business. Also being present in front of real customers, learning what they want and giving them a great shopping experience.
How do you discover new, interesting labels? What are your sources of inspiration?
Inspiration comes from everywhere. It comes from someone walking on the street, or a customer mentioning a brand from another place in the world. Or an impressionable salesperson or brand founder who makes a genuinely passionate pitch about their brand. You have to keep your eyes and ears open at all times.
In North America, many talked about the damage that ‘athleisure’ –yoga pants and the like– was causing to denim sales. What is your opinion on this topic? Has there been a change of course in the last couple of seasons?
Every trend has its “moment”. It was actually a good thing for us because it forced us to evolve into a full-service bottoms store, as opposed to just selling denim. We are still having a great run with jogger pants and chinos. At the same time, I believe that “moment” is passing because my store has experienced a resurgence of denim in the past six months. Denim continues to be a staple in people’s closets that transcends the “in the moment” trends.
What do you like about your location, Toronto?
Toronto is the most culturally diverse city in North America and people who live here, these days, are proud to be from Toronto. It is a growing city of (over 6 million people) that is booming across many industries, including fashion. I am happy that as the city grows, there is still an appreciation for independent retail stores that provide one-on-one service and unique shopping experiences. I see more people talking about Toronto and Canada in my travels and the market is becoming more relevant in the landscape of fashion.
Over The Rainbow
101 Yorkville Ave,
Toronto, ON M5R 1C1