superchat seattle: jill wenger

© totokaelo

with the emergence of digital commerce and online shopping, the notion of brick and mortar retail is becoming more obsolete. a store can be an evolutionary experience, in part because of a curated selection of products, but also due to its environment which appeals to individual sensibilities in vastly different ways. there's a certain ritual about the physical hunt for items that becomes part of our every day lives, perhaps it's a sense of achievement in finding that unique item hiding in a row of brushed chrome hangers or maybe it's just the memory of a soundtrack playing during the purchasing process. occassionally an offline destination pops up that resonates with this. we caught up with seattle-based retailer jill wenger whose rather stunning totokaelo stores have an address with much more than an 'http' behind them.

can you give us a basic run down on the totokaelo ethos and your original retail concept? my intention with totokaelo was to create a space where artists [including myself!] can do work we're proud of and enjoy. the women's store and retail concept were born organically, the driving force being the creation of a like-minded team who want to do exceptional work and represent collections and people we believe in. the mens store is an extension of that desire to work with great people and on projects we're excited about.

the store has strong architectural dna. how did you approach the design process and was the outcome what you had planned for? i always start with a feeling. i design each aspect of a retail space based on how i want someone to feel in it, what they notice and where they go. all design starts with how i hope a client experiences the space. the process pretty much happens organically from there.

what is the profile of the totokaelo customer? creative professionals interested in expressing a point of view and taste level, without feeling forced or contrived.

what draws you to particular brands when buying for totokaeloi seek designers who tune out what's going on around them and get excited about the work they're doing.

in terms of retail, and more specifically fashion, how would you say seattle fits into the national retail arena? wow, good question. i don't think of retail being national or local anymore. with the rise of e-commerce i think retail concepts need to be global. myself and totokaelo have been influenced by the pacific northwest's sensible, level-headedness. i think we're distinct in that our look isn't l.a. and it's not new york. i'm not sure what it is, exactly. i think of fashion globally. good design is good everywhere.

tell us a bit about your seasonal agenda and what you see on the horizon? totokaelo maintains the same style direction season after season. we're going for timeless and select looks that don't easily date. that being the case, what we're always hoping to improve is how we convey our style direction through imagery and explanation. 

any chance of totokaelo going nomadic i.e. plans for out-of-state expansion? because we're praying for a new york outpost. yes, new york we are coming! maybe even by the end of 2014, working on it now!



© totokaelo