An Interview by Sean Hotchkiss with Jill Wenger (CEO and Founder) of Totokaelo
“Unconventional. Eccentric. Enigmatic.”
Totokaelo is chosen as one of the top places to shop in Seattle.
“A vast, light-filled first floor and an edgier vibe downstairs. Features Kati von Lehman ceramics and JW Anderson among others.”
“The Best of New York’
Totokaelo is chosen as one of the top places to shop in New York City.
“After a decade in Seattle, the Dover Street Market-esque Totokaelo comes to Soho bearing its own curation of Vetements velvet turtlenecks, Issey Miyake parachute pants, and sequined Margiela ankle boots. But this airy five-floor store doesn’t have the theatrical (or pretentious) vibe that usually accompanies such “directional” fashion. The mostly black men’s and women’s clothing plays against light-wood Ruud Jan Kokke furniture and potted succulents; the staff is warm and eager to help; the selection, though extravagantly priced (nylon bombers by Acne Studios for $600, elongated Rick Owens silk tees for $430), often feels more timeless than statement making. There are great seasonal sales, too."
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“Totokaelo’s dreamy store takes up an entire building but never feels overwhelming—and the gigantic skylight letting in natural light all the way to the ground floor helps, too. With built-in bookshelves, unique designer chairs, a semi-secret patio, a separate lush outdoor terrace for lounging and more scattered throughout the building, at one point, you start to forget you’re actually inside a store. It’s more like a dream apartment, complete with impeccable closets, a wall of shoes and a private changing room drenched in more natural light.”
“Three Tips On Achieving Your Minimalist, Organized Home Fantasy”
You could say that true organization isn’t meant to be stylish, that it’s all about functionality. But if you did, I would assume you hadn’t met Jill Wenger, CEO of Totokaelo (pronounce TO-to-KYE-yoh, according to their email signature). Her newest store in New York is conveniently five minutes away from Glossier HQ and its minimalist, airy, clean aesthetic makes for a great place to display the newest Margiela boots I can’t get out of my head. If there was a woman I would want to instruct me on how to have a better-looking home, Jill would be that woman.
“Where other stores pursue an ideal of austere and exclusive minimalism, Totokaelo feels warm and welcoming (even in its all-black room!), and browsing its wares is like thumbing through books in a well-stocked library. Not many places could pull that off, and for that it has our utmost respect.”
“With the dedicated men’s section re-opened after recent renovations, we’re even more convinced that Totokaelo New York is about to become your favorite shopping destination. In fact, here are 5 reasons why, along with an exclusive look at the revamped men’s space."
“Of all the new stores I’ve visited, this one wowed me the most. It strikes that elusive balance of being supremely cool and aspirational, while still stocking wearable, covetable items (from Vetements to Dries to a stellar in-house line) and making you feel as if you could spend all day there. This is Totokaelo’s first location outside of Seattle, but we doubt it will be the last.”
“The first Totokaelo is in Seattle, and now Jill Wenger has opened up a five-floor megastore on Crosby Street in New York. Both are beautifully designed and feature her in-house furniture line. I find the customer service impeccable, with VIP fitting rooms and a brand list (Acne Studios, Common Projects, Margiela) that keeps me coming back."
“On the eve of Totokaelo’s New York store opening and the launch of its own ready-to-wear line, the founder and chief executive talks about her start in Seattle, global expansion plans and why e-commerce is the most important part of her business.”
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Totokaelo, 54 Crosby Street
Why we care: The hit Seattle boutique is flying cross-country to open its doors here for the first time, bringing brands like Haider Ackermann, The Row, Dries van Noten, and Marni to men and women that the founder believes will draw in “creative intellectuals”.
When to expect it: September 12th.
SEE THE FULL LINEUP AT RACKED NY
1— Why did you open Dimes?
SS: We felt the city lacked a place where the quintessential NY woman (and man!) could grab a meal that offers a guiltless and balanced menu.
AW: After working on other people’s dreams for such a long time, I was ready to focus on my own.
1B— Ok, I love the mention of dreams. If you were gifted 10 million dollars to open an establishment (didn’t have to be a restaurant) anywhere in the world, where and what would it be? Mine would be a hotel in Amsterdam.
SS: I would commission James Turrell to build a skyspace on my holistic herb farm.
2— What makes Dimes great? How do you explain why it’s special?
SS: Dimes is a reflection of the young and vibrant creatives that make this city an anomaly. It’s so infectious to share that energy with our community of customers.
AW: Dimes has really strong ties to the neighborhood and such a great following of regular customers. It creates a super friendly community spirit that can be rare in such a big city.
2B— It’s super apparent that Dimes is fed by a creative energy. What’s feeding you guys creatively now? What visual artists, thinkers, authors, places or vegetables are inspiring and feeding you?
SS: Agnes Martin has always been an inspiration with the Dimes philosophy. I just rediscovered Lina Bo Bardi’s work, and I definitely see some of her references happening in the future.
3— Where did you guys meet? How long have you known each other?
AW: Sabrina and I met about 11 years ago working at Lovely Day in Nolita. A match made in heaven!
4— How do you describe the Dimes crowd?
5.—How do you describe the Dimes aesthetic?
AW: Clean, beautiful, timeless and fun.
SS: Minimal, with fun surprises if you take a closer look. We love mixing the room with different chairs from designers that we share a core philosophy on aesthetics with.
5B— I love chairs! In my next life, when I come back as an eccentric, I’ll found The Great Chair Museum and be its sole donor. Favorite furniture designers? Classic and current?
SS: Enzo Mari, Roland Rainer, Sergio Rodgrigues, Carlo Mollino, Martino Gamper.
6— New projects in the works? What’s next?
SS: There’s always something in the works :) The best thing about doing what we do is imagining the impossible and weaving those ideas into a Dimes vernacular.
AW: We always have some new things bubbling…..stay tuned!
7— Any mantras, philosophies or words you live by?
SS: When it’s good, it’s fun. When it’s bad, it’s funny.
AW: In general, just work hard and treat people well.
7B— Love these. Much respect. Along these same lines, if you could hop in a time machine and visit your summer-before-freshman-year-in-high-school self for an hour, what would you tell them?
AW: Be kind, confident, and true to yourself. You won’t remember any of these people’s names in ten years.
8— How would you describe the Totokaelo aesthetic?
SS: Totokaelo represents the archetypal modern woman. Comfort is always on the agenda. Confidence is embodied by the simplicity of her style. She’s effortless.
AW: Totokaelo is modern, classic, fun and fearless with a perfectly curated vision.
DressRachel ComeyFlora Dress 119.60
DressY's by Yohji YamamotoSuspender Jumper Dress 234.40
CoatRaquel AllegraTrench Coat 297.00
Ankle BootDries Van NotenMetallic Ankle Boot 549.50
EarringsNikos KoulisGeometric Cut Out Earrings 4,860.00
KnitYohji YamamotoMarbled Sweater 263.10
Ankle BootRick OwensCreeper Ankle Boot 358.40
ArtJulie ThevenotFringe Wall Hanging 312.00
Totokaelo New York opens at 54 Crosby St on Saturday, September 12. We gave NYMag a preview of what lies ahead.
See something you like? Hover over our store rendering to shop the story.
1. Outdoor space: 400 square feet with chairs, couches, and free Wi-Fi.
2. Library: Phaidon-sponsored community library.
3. White clothes: Rachel Comey dresses ($598).
4. VIP fitting room: By-appointment private shopping for top clients will include beer, Champagne, and lunch.
5. Colorful clothes: Blue Dries Van Noten boots ($785).
6. Jewelry: Nikos Koulis geometric cutout earrings ($4,860).
7. Women’s shoes
8. Dark clothes: Y’s by Yohji Yamamoto jumper dresses ($1,172).
9. Statement designers: Acne Studios robe coats ($1,550).
10. Home objects: Julie Thevenot wall hanging ($836).
11. Shoppable stockroom: Upon request, shop clerks take clients into the stockroom for exclusive products.
12. Smoking section: Six-foot-wide outdoor courtyard with benches and a mural by Margot Bird.
13. Men’s clothes: Yohji Yamamoto sweaters ($877).
14. Men’s shoes: Rick Owens Creeper ankle boots ($1,792).
1— Where are you from?
I’m from Napoli, south Italy
2— How long have you been in NYC?
In NYC since February, trying to stay here for good.
3— Where’s your favorite place to travel?
Napoli and Thailand
4— What are you listening too now?
Placebo and Crystal Castles
5— What’s it like on set during a Totokaelo shoot?
Being on set for Totokaelo is a lot of fun!!! Love how OCD you all are about details while still being super easy going and nice :)
Antonino Russo in ‘A Fuoco’
SHOP THE EDITORIAL
SHOP THE EDITORIAL
SHOP THE EDITORIAL
SHOP THE EDITORIAL
SHOP THE EDITORIAL
Nichole goes for fit first with her favorite sale selects – versatile pieces for everyday.
1. Zero and Maria Cornejo Koya Coat in Black
2. Ann Demeulemeester Tabia Blanc Jacket in Black
3. Ann Demeulemeester Fine Vitello Ankle Boot in Black
4. Maison Martin Margiela Gradient Heel in Green
5. Raquel Allegra Bra Top Slip in Black
6. Haider Ackermann Suede Asteria Trousers in Black
7. Acne Studios More Teddy Moto Jacket in Black
8. Rick Owens Lilies Draped Front Skirt in Black
9. Y’s by Yohji Yamamoto Shirt Dress in Black
10. Ann Demeulemeester Gloss Knit Tunic in Black
11. Acne Studios Bree Fluid Dress in Black
12. Rachel Comey Reeves Sneaker in Black Cheetah
13. Rachel Comey Mars Ankle Boot in Black Haircalf
14. Acne Studios Fox Compact Top in Dark Navy
15. R13 Chaps Jean in Grey
In celebration of Inventory Magazine Issue 11 Totokaelo hosted a party in our Men’s store on November 21st. Playing with monochromatic dressing, the Inventory team reimagined some of our favorite Fall collections from Dries Van Noten, Jil Sander, and Haider Ackermann in this exclusive editorial.
Shop the selects from editorial below.
Full throttle — Meg pairs functional outerwear with stripped down basics for a powerful look.
1. Zero and Maria Manu Jumpsuit in Black
2. Sisii Athletic High Top Suede Sneaker in White
3. R13 Classic Moto Jacket in Black
4. Rick Owens D RK SH DW Exploder Jacket in Black
5. R13 Shredded Crew Sweater in Grey
6. Maison Martin Margiela Finger Cuffs in Silver
7. Rick Owens Lilies Hooded Long Sleeve Top in Black
8. Silver Lining Opticians Calcium Glasses in Dark Tortoise
9. Rick Owens Lilies Midlength Ruched Skirt in Black
10. Rick Owens Pull On Boot in Black
11. R13 Exclusive Trucker Cape in Black
12. Rick Owens Crater Knit Sweater in Black
We sat down with ceramist Ian McDonald after his curated show at Totokaelo to better understand the daily life and work of contemporary artists.
TK — Why ceramics? When did that love affair begin?
IM — I started working in ceramics when I was pretty young, around 18 or so, and I worked as an apprentice to potters where I grew up. I was drawn to ceramics then from a general urge to make things and mostly from the point of view of a functional potter. I was gifted a potters wheel around that same time, and put it in my moms garage where I basically made cylinders and simple forms that I cut up and assembled in the patio. I was less apt to finish work then as I really just liked the work of it all and the searching for form. I sometimes think not much has changed.
TK — What glaze are you loving now?
IM — I don’t know if I’m loving any one glaze now, but I have been working with multiple light layers of glaze recently in order to get more depth in the surface without relying on too much glaze or refiring in order to get a rich surface. I have also been thinking a lot about how the clay behind the glaze affects the surface and glaze, so I have been working with different clays for different pieces.
TK — What’s your favorite piece in the show?
IM — That’s also difficult to answer in particular because I see most of my work in combination with others. In order to be efficient, ceramics to me is a kind of numbers game, where you make many pieces at the same time and in turn get results in bunches. I have been working more with the discrete object recently, but even those are made from multiple parts and a basic vocabulary of shared units around the studio. I’m happy with the extruded pieces as this is something I have been working through for years now, but was never satisfied enough to show them.
TK — Can you tell me something new you learned during the process of preparing for this show?
IM — I learned some technical things this time mostly in terms of joining clay with a slip recipe I had never used. The extruded and stacked pieces have created some pretty serious cracking problems due to too much tension between glaze and clay. Although this sounds like serious shop talk, these technical strategies can in some way take you to places conceptually.
TK — What’s it like being Ian McDonald?
IM — That’s a crazy question! I’m busy with the basics. Whispering in my one year old daughters ear about clouds and her Mom. Cleaning leaves and pine needles around the house.
View the collection, now online exclusively at Totokaelo
Timeless and innovative — Nina’s selection highlights easy pieces from progressive designers that form her personal style.
1. Raquel Allegra Sleeveless Maxi Dress in Black
2. Rick Owens D RK SH D W Fishtail Parka in Black
3. Zero and Maria Cornejo Side Drape Tunic in Black
4. Ann Demeulemeester Lace Up Boot in Black
5. Zero and Maria Cornejo Long Elie Dress in Black
6. Maison Martin Margiela Open Toe Tabi in Metallic Black
7. Ann Demeulemeester Angel Leather Jacket in Black
8. R13 Slouch Skinny Jean in Black
9. Ann Demeulemeester Bebe Sweater in Sand
10. Maison Martin Margiela Stretch Leather Pant in Black
11. Acne Studios Elise Ankle Boot in Black
12. Rick Owens Cropped Easy Astaire Trouser in Black
Check out all of Nina’s selects on our Pinterest page