Over the Rainbow

Textiles and Trunks

Established in the 1970’s by retail innovator Joel Carmen, Over the Rainbow became a kind of denim institution at 101 Yorkville — a building now slated for redevelopment. The new iteration of OTR a.k.a. “Rainbow Jeans” found a home in the near-by Manulife Centre. This relocation was the perfect opportunity to create an Over the Rainbow legacy project whose design imagined ‘the Rainbow experience’ beyond the retail function.

Custom designed tailor shop sign recalls jean jacket embroidery from the 80’s. Stitching work by artist Amanda McCavour.

The history of Rainbow is now embedded in the architecture. Both priceless and affordable items share the display space. The exhaustive collection of denim is omnipresent, and now housed in monumental walls of abstracted and unfolded wooden ‘steam trunks.’ Experiments with building materials as textiles are advanced to include thirty foot steel doors of perforated metal recalling copper rivets typical to denim, braided copper thread stretched as a loom ceiling, and furled felt walls push out to expose the in-store tailor shop with embroidered signage and wall of spools.

The shop sits as an island in the Manulife Centre retail floor, and a broad, open swath invites pedestrians from both the east and west sides, led by rolling, perforated metal walls that slide in front of ceramic tile ‘tartan’ and a furled glass vitrine.

Over the Rainbow
Copper elements recall rivets in Jeans against mosaic textile wall.

Three shades of porcelain tile echo the pattern on the bias on the floor, working to unify the series of disperate display scenarios. The long space is flanked by a monumental, unfolded denim wall that embraces customers at each end.

The ledge is critical here as it’s where the very knowledgeable OTR staff personally advise each customer. This emphasis on the individual is at the centre of Rainbow’s philosophy and informed the design of ‘shops within the shop’ and radial fitting rooms where each customer is centered and separated by custom lights and felt dividers.

Project Facts

  • Client

    Over the Rainbow

  • Location

    Manulife Centre, Toronto, Ontario

  • Size

    11,140 sq.ft.

  • Status

    Largely Complete

  • Affiliate Architect

    B+H Architects — Base Building Renovation

  • Sub-Consultant Team

    Electrical — BK Consulting

    Mechanical — MEP

    Structural — Entuitive

    Lighting — Light Brigade

  • Fabricator

    Light Fabricator — VISO
    Copper Rope Ceiling — Cobalt Fabrication Inc.

  • General Contractor

    Structure Corp

  • Photography

    Richard Johnson

  • Artist / Graphics

    Embroidery Artist — Amanda McCavour