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Retail Realities: What’s Selling at Dutil Denim

Named for the French word “d’utile,” which means “useful” in English, Canadian retailer Dutil Denim wants to fulfill consumer demand for on-trend, premium denim.

For founder and owner Eric Dickstein, the name represents his company’s business plan. “We’re trying our best to not take away from the Earth, [but] we understand that people want new stuff,” Dickstein said.

Being kind to the environment and staying in business is a delicate balance, he said. Dutil Denim sells brands that range from industry classics like Rag + Bone, to sustainable brands like Nudie, and their house label, which includes a range of organic cotton tees.

Dickstein opened the first Dutil Denim store in Vancouver in 2006, and a second in Toronto in 2011. A third location in Calgary will open in early August. For consumers outside of these metropolitan cities, the Dutil Denim also offers worldwide shipping through its online store.

Key to the retailer’s success is the effort Dickstein has made to keep denim relatable—even at premium price points.

“I’m not one of these retailers that want to separate myself from the consumer…we feel connected to them. A lot of retailers, especially when you go into high fashion, they want to alienate anyone who doesn’t understand what they’re doing. We’re the antithesis of that,” he said.

Both stores offer repair and alteration service for jeans bought from any retailer. “We want to help them no matter what. If you have jeans that you want repaired, we’re happy to do that for you,” Dickstein said. “We get people that are a bit insecure about their bodies. By the time that they leave, the feel really thankful that it wasn’t a painful experience.”

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Rivet spoke with Dickstein about the importance of creating a welcoming retail environment and why when it comes to denim, quality will always trump quantity.

Rivet: How is Dutil Denim different from any other denim store?

Eric Dickstein: We do carry other people’s brands, and we also make our own. I’ve stared and looked at different jeans for so long, I basically like to fill-in the gaps. What I mean by that is there really hasn’t been what I consider a perfect jean, so we tried to fill in all of the gaps and make our quintessential series of jeans.

Rivet: How does Dutil Denim embrace each city it’s located in?

ED: There is a certain type of aesthetic, a culture that I like being associated with. In Vancouver, we are sort of in the arts heritage district and same in Toronto. So we definitely like to surround ourselves with creative types because they inspire us to do what we do.

We are definitely known in the cities that we are in as a place for fantastic service for denim, for high-quality denim. But we’re also known internationally because of our specialty. Our online business reflects that. We get consumers from all over the world.

Rivet: What’s been the performance in your online business?

ED: It’s our fastest growing business. Our business grows every year, but the one that is really, just incrementally increasing very fast.

Rivet: How do you choose brands to include in your offering?

ED: I like to work with new brands that are trying to make it happen. The quality can’t be cheap because that’s not really what we are. We do have brands that are price-point brands, but that’s just because we have to stay in business. That’s not most of our store. We really try to deal with artisan brands that are up and coming. We were literally one of the first people to have Rag & Bone when we first opened. We’ve had APC since 2006—back then we were the only place that carried it.

Rivet: What are your most popular styles?

ED: A lot of people are moving away from raw denim because a lot of people want comfort over the interactive-ness of a raw pair of jeans. Some of the clients have been shopping with us for a decade now, some of them were into raw denim for the first five years of our existence. They don’t necessarily want to squeeze into a pair of raw jeans and wait for a month in a half or two months to get comfortable with it.

Rivet: What will be popular for fall and winter?

ED: We definitely see things opening up a bit more. The fits are less tight. Brands are modifying that normcore flavor because normcore is almost a little too edgy. Women are still wearing boyfriend jeans. In general, people want to be more comfortable with their jeans and denim.