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Retail Realities: Toronto’s Over The Rainbow

Toronto’s indie denim emporium, Over the Rainbow (OTR) has been the go-to for premium denim for 40 years and owner Joel Carman swears it’s been done only through hard work and family values.

Keeping his team small, Carman runs the business with his son, Daniel, and his daughter, Amy. Between the three of them and their in-house team, the OTR office feels warm and welcoming to all that pass through its door. It’s this ability to form an instant sense of familial loyalty that has kept the business running since 1976 when Carman opened the doors for the first time with only $2000 to the business’ name.

“More than having amenities we have relationships,” Carman explained. “I have three generations of shoppers coming through my store—the customer that I had 40 years ago that was 20 years old now has a grown child and sometimes grandchildren, and in some instances we will have three generations of a family in the store buying blue jeans. What that has allowed us to do is have a wide range of styles for a diverse demographic.”

OTR’s varied selection of brands cater to all shapes, sizes and age demographics. This, along with their dedication to providing the highest customer service experience through one on one personal shopping, has helped the business avoid ever being niche. So much so that it has elevated OTR to hit that evasive brand sweet spot of being something to practically everyone.

As Carman explained, “We’re not focused on one particular customer, we have a broad range of customers that come in.”

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His son Daniel adds, “What 40 years does is allow people to trust us. Anyone who has gone denim shopping, no matter what age, knows it’s not an easy thing to shop for. It’s something you really need help with.”

And help they give, servicing A-listers like Julianne Moore, Nelly Furtado and Chris Bosh when they are in town. With services like on-site alterations, tailoring and in-house styling, OTR is really a jean aficionados dream, however it is the family’s passion for the product that sets the business apart.

Carman travels the world visiting factories, Daniel has worked for several manufacturers and Amy spent a year in Los Angeles working alongside Paige denim’s finest. All of them joyfully work the sales floor every Saturday where their unparalleled product knowledge has a moment to shine.


“The one thing we’ve really learned over the last 40 years is to appreciate really beautiful denim,” Carman said.

Carrying brands like Current/Elliott, 7 for All Mankind, Citizens of Humanity, Mavi and Frame Denim, the Carman family have achieved retail equilibrium by offering simultaneously trendy and utilitarian styles of denim.

Regardless of what the jean looks like the Carmans say it’s all about how the denim feels once they’re worn. “To quote Jason Trodskick from Fidelity Denim,” says Daniel, “It’s all about the three F’s: fit, fabric and finish. If a jean doesn’t fit well it doesn’t make sense to carry it.”

Bestsellers include Fidelity, Paige, Naked & Famous, and J Brand. No matter the brand, styles such as skinny, distressed denim, light washes and dark washes are always popular, despite trends like the athleisure making its way into the store through lines like Lazypants’ jogger collection and J Brand’s Tavi utility jogger.

To honor the store’s past 40 years the OTR team have been dropping monthly collaborations with some of the its most successful brands such as Naked & Famous, Paige, Fidelity Denim and coming this September, a special collaboration with John Varvatos.

Offering unique collections and working closely with brands is inspiring, but Carman swears it’s all about giving customers what they need and want that’s kept his business afloat through not one, but three recessions. The Carman family’s passion and reverence of the industry and jeans in general sets them apart. “Denim is a real craft,” says Daniel. “It’s an art form.”

Bestselling brands: Fidelity, Lee’s, Paige, Naked & Famous, and J Brand.

Men’s styles: Men’s cuts are still slim, not skinny but tapered. Dark denim is always a favorite.

Women’s styles: Light washed, distressed denim is really having a moment for women.

Fall ’15 predictions: Wider silhouettes are coming back in as are flares and straight cuts.