Retail News

Retail News: Totokaelo Moves Up and Out

Owner Jill Wenger announces plans to launch Totokaelo Object and Art. (Don’t worry, the women’s clothing isn’t going anywhere; you’re not losing a dressing room, you’re gaining a better looking house.)

By Laura Cassidy June 10, 2011

Pieces by New York artist Phillip Low will be offered at Totokaelo when owner Jill Wenger brings her cult boutique up to Capitol Hill next spring.

Of the infinite number of ways to group people in Seattle, one would be:

1. Those that obsessively, cultishly, fiendishly find inspiration and wardrobe pieces at Totokaelo, the women’s shop on Western Ave
2. Those that are aware of it, but rarely if ever go (perhaps feeling a little intimidated by the price points if not the forward-thinking shapes and designs inside, and also most likely mispronouncing the Latin word to be “toto-kale-o” instead of the correct “toto-ki-o”)
and 3. Those that are somehow unaware of the store, even though thousands of shoppers from around the globe shop the website and interact with others in the brand’s in-house online community.

Those last two groups will lose numbers, and the first group will grow next May when owner Jill Wenger and her crew move their operations from a semi-obscure location on Western Avenue to supercentral Cap Hill spot near Elliott Bay Books and the Oddfellows Building.

It won’t be just that whole location, location, location thing that alters Seattleites. The Texas native told me yesterday that as she moves from an 1,100 sq ft space to a 6,600 sq ft one, she’ll launch Totokaelo Object and Art, first adding home goods—luxe, minimal bedding; imaginatively yet traditionally forged ceramics and place settings; sculptural, abstract art for abstracted condos and careful collectors; locally designed lighting—and then, in 2013, a menswear collection. (In fact, the Totokaelo offerings have already started to grow; a carefully picked and impeccably presented selection of vintage goods will launch in the West Edge store for fall, beginning in August.)

(This isn’t the first time the shopkeeper has moved, by the way. Her first home was called Impulse, and almost no one knew where that was, either — because it was more or less underground, on an untraveled street in Fremont. The West Edge migration had to do with increasing production space to catch up with her national and international shipping orders.)

The customary expansion options for stores like Totokaelo are a) open a second shop, in another neighborhood or maybe Portland or b) go co-ed. Many of the other small boutiques across the country that fashion and style arbiters have deemed important carry lines for both men and women, but not many pull of a full range of wardrobe and home objects. Which is, of course, why Wenger wanted to do it.

Well, that, and the fact that she’s a dyed-in-the-wool textiles nerd, avowed fanatic of architectural-looking botanicals, and natural-born arranger of perfectly off-beat site-specific narratives and vignettes—little groupings of Asian pottery, folk art needlepoint, and esoteric designer artifacts.

Wenger will do for interiors what she does for closets. She culls highly engineered yet totally wearable dresses from the most forward-thinking, exclusive global designers (Yojhi Yamamoto, Rick Owens, Ann Demeulemeester) and muted-but-bold, intergalactic-yet-classic accessories from Parisian independents and East Coast micro-producers and styles them in-store and online in such a way that Net-a-Porter frequent fliers get a rush of must-have desire and vaguely apprehensive visitors on the verge of a personal style expansion have illuminating can-do moments. That is, Wenger will group clean-lined, hand-honed naked wood furniture with prescient, novel, neon-accented objets d’art and elegantly awkward, world-sourced serving pieces, and, with design services that’ll match her styling services, make it all look clean, easy, and absolutely essential. Just watch.

Of course, you’ll have to wait. To watch, that is. Sooner or later we’ll be able to reveal the actual location, and then you’ll still have months to wait before she moves in and begins reimagining your entire interior universe for you. In the meantime, however, you can shop the store’s summer sale. Markdowns of 30 percent begin on June 18, giving those in categories 2 and 3 above an opportunity to move into category 1 ahead of schedule.

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