Meet Ezra Dabah of Ruum
Ezra Dabah has to be one of the foremost authorities in children’s wear. The former CEO of The Children’s Place helped make the kids’ retailer into a major force in children’s apparel and accessories, making sales that exceeded a billion dollars while expanding to 900 stores. He may have left The Children’s Place in 2007, but Dabah is now back in the fashion fold with Ruum, a new American kid’s wear line. “Ezra is renowned in the children’s business as an incredible eye for fashion and a great merchant who always stays one step ahead,” says Karen Bromley, Principal of The Bromley Group. Read our Q&A with Ruum’s founder. —Barry Samaha (@barry_samaha)
Elizabeth Street: How did you start in the children’s fashion business?
Ezra Dabah: My family started the Gitano Jeanswear business and developed it into a thriving fashion brand. Gitano led me to open E J Gitano, a children’s wear brand named after my daughters Eva and Joia. Eventually we acquired The Children’s Place, an enterprise I led as Chairman and CEO for 16 years. I am thrilled to be back in the saddle of the children’s wear business with Ruum and to build once again what we had before and more.
ES: How did Ruum start?
ED: I had been looking for the right opportunity to get back into kids fashion. Just as my five-year non-compete agreement was expiring, we learned that American Eagle was looking for a solution with 77Kids. Purchasing the assets of 77Kids gave us the springboard to launch a new children’s brand with a significant presence. We are driven to grow Ruum into a major brand by making kids look good and feel good, so they can make their world a better place. I believe clothing has the power to enhance their sense of self and therefore their world.
ES: How do you describe the aesthetic of Ruum?
ED: Ruum is an ideal mix of classic children’s clothes with a twist. We follow the trends, but not enough to make the clothes too trendy. Ruum is fun, colorful and comfortable for the kids to live in the clothes and enjoy life in them.
ES: Did you think there was something missing in the children’s wear market? What makes Ruum stand out among other established brands?
ED: We felt there was a gap in the market in terms of fashion and great value, with elevated well made products at a parent friendly price point. We believe in high quality clothes that are well made and affordable. We strive to add unique details in our products which brings great added value to our customers. Ruum American Kid’s Wear is unique in its colorful, kid friendly environments, too, featuring interactive kiosks and photo booths. The Ruum stores also offer constructive workshops like origami, and we are looking to offer Plasticine figures, book reading, and various creative workshops in the future.
ES: What do you think is the main differences between how adults shop for themselves and for their kids?
ED: Adults tend to shop for pleasure, as realistically we have mostly everything we need in our closets already. When shopping for our kids, we are shopping out of need as they grow out of clothing so quickly. We are considering school, occasions, holidays and vacations. It’s also great to find that sparkly sequined Ruum sweatshirt your little girl never knew she needed!
ES: Do you think the children’s wear market is as trend-driven as the adult market?
ED:Yes, it is becoming more trend-driven every year. We nod to the trends and are always aware of them, but we want to make great clothes that Mom’s will feel aren’t going to be out of style in a few months.
ES: Do you feel that children gravitate toward clothes that parents don’t like?
ED: Children are exposed to so much imagery and information at any early age that they develop opinions very early on. It’s natural for kids to want to look older than they are and to try new looks. At Ruum, we are looking to satisfy both kids and parents. We have a lot of choices for every kid—the skater boy, the boy who’s a bit more classic, and for girls, looks for both the feminine girl and the tomboy. It’s good to give children creative choices. It fosters their independence.
ES: Do you think children should dress themselves?
ED: Of course! It’s all about expression at any age. Ruum collections are built to coordinate easily, giving kids room to put outfits together. Of course, moms and dads can always lend a little help but it is a creative outlet for kids to start developing their own sense of style.
ES: Best parenting advice you’ve heard?
ED: Be a positive role model. Live your beliefs and always keep family first.