Totokaelo prepares to aim high with new Capitol Hill fashion, style and finishings store

(Image: Oddfellows)

With Everyday Music happily ensconced in its new home across the street from its old home, the 10th Ave space neighboring Elliott Bay Book Co. got the butcher paper treatment last week as work began inside to transform the shop into its next form — Totokaelo. CHS talked with founder and CEO Jill Wenger about the store and her plans for bringing a new retail experience to Capitol Hill.

Can you give us a more clear picture of what Totokaelo Capitol Hill will be? As I understand it, this will be an expansion of your existing retail effort on Western Ave. So, in what ways is the vision expanding?
The new store will continue to represent the fashion categories and style it’s become known for, along with introducing: furniture, lighting, linens, ceramics, vintage textiles, rugs, objects and art.  The brand off-shoot “Totokaelo Art & Object” launches with the opening, and will encapsulate these new non-apparel related products.


Also on the launch docket is the unveiling of Totokaelo’s in-house furniture line. The initial collection of six pieces (dining chair, lounge chair, ottoman, sawhorse desk, dining table,  credenza) will be unveiled on opening day. The line was designed by myself and built mainly by local woodworker Joel Kikuchi.  We also had help from metalsmith Kirk Lang, and leathersmith Tamara Clammer.  Materials are all PNW native and all hardware is custom. It’s pretty dope.  But I’m biased.

How do you see the store fitting into/complementing Elliott Bay Book Co and Oddfellows? Rancho Bravo?
The neighbors (listed above) were a big draw of the space. I’ve heard Oddfellows referred to as the living room of Capitol Hill, and I agree. Elliott Bay is a major draw. And who doesn’t love Rancho Bravo’s chicken tamales.

Capitol Hill is where myself and the majority of the my team live and spend time after work.  We are looking forward to being part of the community.

What about the CHS commenters who will say pffft to an expensive boutique, I’ll never shop there, blah blah bah? Anything to say to sway them? Or just tell them to fuck off?

Totokaelo is a specialty shop. It doesn’t proclaim to have something for everybody. If you can’t tell the difference between a 20.00 pair of pants and a 200.00 pair, then fuck it, buy the 20.00 ones, right?

But for the person that can tell the difference, the person that wants to discuss Raf Simmons’ final collection for Jil Sander, or French seaming, or the Antwerp 6, Totokaelo won’t disappoint.  We love what we do.  We are enthusiasts.

In my mind, there’s a commonality between enthusiasts of any kind. Whether it be coffee, farm-to-table food, fixed gear bikes, etc. I appreciate it when someone finds something that gets them excited.   Hopefully the feeling is mutual.

The shop on Western (Image: Totokaelo)

As the butcher paper above reads, the new Totokaelo is on course for a June opening. You can get a look at the Totokaelo “look” and shop the online store at totokaelo.com. According to this interview on the Seattle PI site, the original Totokaelo grew out of the success of the online store. The article also notes Wenger’s humble start in the business selling handmade items on consignment from Portland and Seattle designers. According to the Totokaelo site’s about page, the name derives from toto caelo “a Latin phrase that means ‘reaching to the edge of the stars.'”

Corrections: Two updates to this post. Due to a production error, we accidentally placed the end of Wenger’s second answer at the beginning of her third. We also misstated the nature of Wenger’s early business venture from the PI article. She sold items on consignment — she didn’t sell her items in consignment shops. Sorry for the errors.

17 thoughts on “Totokaelo prepares to aim high with new Capitol Hill fashion, style and finishings store

  1. Yep, although they were originally called Toto Coelo.And I am thoroughly disappointed this shop does not appear to sell dresses made of garbage bags and neon makeup.

  2. This is a great idea, finally bringing sweaters over a thousand dollars to Pike/Pine. I suspect this will do every bit as much for the neighborhood as that couture baby clothing store did.

  3. between an expensive pair of pants, and an affordable pair of pants? What if I don’t care, or what if I think that people who willing spend far too much for a pair of pants are stupid? What if I love high style and fashion, but detest the bourgeois notion that expensive is superior? I’ll be F’ing off with all of the other smart, reasonable people on the Hill.

  4. I think folks are harping too much on the $200 pair of pants. I mean, Wenger does say they’re a specialty shop and not for everyone (aka “exclusive”). I take more umbrage at the obvious pandering to the New Capitol Hill….equating high end fashion with coffee culture, organic food movement (ok that’s fair) and the hipster fixie crowd.

  5. I would like to have a store on the Hill where I can actually shop for shoes, furniture, and the like, that isn’t a total hole (Value Village), or totally overpriced (Area 51, and this new store). C’mon already!

  6. Although I won’t be shopping there, this really doesn’t bug me. It’ll sort itself out. If they open and have lots of business and do well, goody for them. If they find out the mkt for $200/pr jeans (or whatever) isn’t there, it’ll be obvious pretty quickly. With all the new retail space I see everywhere, I hope twe’ll see lots more choices in the price range I feel like paying (which admittedly this isn’t, but whatever). I’d prefer to shop on CapHill if I can, but I’ll go where the stores match my budget. And I’m sure I’ll have lots of company.

  7. ‘Expensive is superior’ isn’t necessarily a bourgeois notion…it’s also an environmentalist notion and a notion held by those who believe in quality standards for workers. When did people decide it was revolutionary to buy knock-off styles at H&M? Do you know who is making those clothes? Do you know what regulations their factories are following? You’re right that style can’t be bought, but absolutely wrong if you don’t agree that you get what you pay for. You can learn that quickly from Chinese acrylic factories. Give this shop a break. Better yet, go in and talk to them. I don’t know them personally, but chances are you’ll learn something once you put that bottle of haterade down…

  8. Is the 15-20 minute walk downtown burdensome? Or a quick bus ride? Unfortunately, for most retailers, we are considered to be a downtown neighborhood, amd they feel we are a well covered market. When the Link service to the hill begins in 2016, we’ll be 5 minutes away from the cityTarget. No, its not local, organic, PC or what not, but it is affordable.

  9. Let’s not forget Madison Valley & Volunteer Park areas are only a 5min drive, with easier parking than the current store downtown. I’m sure those who can afford it will still shop here, if not a lot more often given it’s new convenient location. If Area 51, with all it’s knockoffs, can stay in business, I don’t see why Totokaelo can’t.

  10. So many haters here! I’ve window-shopped this store, and it is amazing. Seriously: Every item in there is awesome. Someday I will buy shoes from there, but I can’t quite afford it yet. But just because I can’t afford Totokaelo doesn’t mean I’ll hate on it. Aspirational can be a good thing, people.

    I agree with JG: cheap clothes does not necessarily mean smart clothes. I own plenty of cheap clothes made in Chinese sweatshops and I usually only wear them for one or two seasons. I also feel shitty when I wear those clothes, knowing the environmental, cultural and societal burden that comes with them. My truly expensive clothes stay stylish for years, plus the cost forces me to make due with much less. My ideal wardrobe is 70% vintage and 30% Totokaelo.

  11. I agree it’s nice to have shop space rented, but I wouldn’t worry it might have gone to a club – that space is one of MIchael Malone’s buildings, and he wouldn’t do that. His aim is to find the kind of business he likes that can afford the rates he’d like to charge, and I understand that a high-dollar boutique is more likely than most types of shops to be attracted by that kind of landlord.

    Lord knows I love me a high-end shop – my most treasured possession is a shirt brought back from Agnes B in Paris. But having another such shop in Pike/Pine feels like an erosion somehow, a loss. I do wish this person the best.

  12. so…have you walked up to 14th lately? there’s a little store next to Porchlight coffee called SPUN Sustainable Collective. we’re a co-op type boutique and carry all local designers. organic cotton and upcycled stuff too! and oh yeah, we’d love for you to check out our price tags. it’s easy to shop local, whether it be “expensive” or “affordable”. all that matters is that you support your local shops…any way you can!