Once you've tried to pronounce its name, you'll never forget Totokaelo (try TOH-toh-KYE-oh). That's the universe of fashion, art, and design created by Jill Wenger. The sprawling store nestled in the heart of Capitol Hill, Seattle's coffee-stained bohemian enclave, is where she spends all her time when she's not boarding a flight to Paris or Milan in search of that perfectly unusual blouse or shoe.
At her store, the selection is markedly different than your regular designer boutique, as she puts her money on those dreamy-but-brilliant underdog pieces that don't necessarily make it in the monster deliveries to larger commercial department stores. She reaches for what's unique, beautiful, and avant-garde, all without being unwearable.
Earlier this summer, she also launched Art-Object, an art, design, and lifestyle satellite that features furniture, lighting, and more, alongside unusual objects, like a bird's wing. Click ahead to read more about Wenger's vision, then click through for a slideshow of her store.wors
So, what does Totokaelo mean?
Totokaelo is a made-up word. Roots are Latin. Toto Caelo = Total Sky. Western translation: The sky is the limit.
What were you like as a child?
I was a headstrong, rebellious tomboy. And a ringleader. A typical after-school activity would have been to form some exclusive club that required neighborhood kids to complete an elaborate task to gain membership. I didn't have much power or control in my household growing up, so I hit the neighborhood on my Mongoose in search of some. I can't say I would have been friends with my childhood self.
Can you remember when you first fell in love with fashion?
I loved fashion as a child. I had an amazing "dress-up box" and would spend countless hours mixing my mother's abandoned cocktail dresses and accessories with soccer cleats and costume jewelry.
How have you developed your eye?
I view fashion as the visual representation of an individual. I'm in search of creative collaboration and want to fill my world with people I like and can relate to. Based on my understanding of what clothing represents, I've developed a style reflective of my interests and values.
And then you started a business from the ground up.
I was 26 when I founded Totokaelo, so most of my early challenges were rooted in inexperience. On top of learning how to run a company, I was also developing a personal leadership style and aesthetic point of view. This did not happen without hiccups. The most consistent challenges come from scaling at a rapid pace.
Who do you think is the Totokaelo girl?
She's stylish, artistic, cool, and confident. She's intelligent, independent, driven, and accomplished. She is thoughtful. There is a subtlety to her. She has depth of character. She questions what she is taught and lives from her gut.
You've created a small following that reaches all over the world. What do you think of that?
I think it's incredible! It's super-affirming to learn that people are responding to something honest we've put into the world.
You go to Paris for market. What's that experience like?
I go to shows for the crowd as much as the runway. Paris market is this massive coming together of people from around the globe that appreciate many of the same things I do. What's not to love about that? I feel a sense of community. Individual styles aside, there's a shared dedication to the artistry of fashion.
So, what interests you outside of fashion?
Travel, art, ceramics, sculpture, furniture design, skateboarding, music, reading, business, technology. I'm super-grateful that about 90 percent of my interests are fulfilled by my career. I work a ton. It's hard to stop when there's nothing else I'd rather be doing. Designing stores, buying, designing and launching websites, meeting artists, collaborating on furniture projects. My brain is fully utilized, and that's extremely satisfying for me.
Most Viewed Stories
I Tried Hillary Clinton’s Diet and Now I Sympathize With Her
Blake Lively Reportedly Just Gave Birth, and You’ll Never Guess Who’s Running to the Hospital
Brad Pitt Fights Back Against Angelina Jolie and Her Plot to ‘Destroy’ Him
Looks Like Kate Middleton Is Enjoying the View in Canada
What It’s Like to Be a Female Reporter Covering Donald Trump
Angelina Jolie Got Everything She Wanted in Temporary Divorce Deal With Brad Pitt
The Best Part of Being a Royal Is Getting to Pet Bunnies
22 Intimate Lost Photos of Marilyn Monroe
Trump Campaign Manager Accidentally Refers to His ‘Abuse’ of Women on Live TV
The Mysterious Deaths of Two Sisters in a Luxury Hotel
From Our Partners
powered by PubExchange
The Cut’s Latest Fashion FeaturesCiara's Wedding Dress Was Too Big for the Chapel
To be fair, it was a 13 foot-long dress.You and Rihanna Will Both Want to Invest in Dior’s New Bag
It's got something for everyone.Polo Shirts Have Turned Their Back on Ryan Lochte
Along with his other major sponsors.Ryan Lochte Will No Longer Be Paid to Wear Tiny Bathing Suits
Speedo remains committed to transparency.Laura Brown Is the New Editor-in-Chief of InStyle
After 11 years at Harper’s Bazaar.Tyra Banks Is Going to Teach a Class on Smizing at Stanford
"If I see somebody not paying attention, I’m gonna call on them."This Floating Pier Is the Most Zen Installation Ever
Walking on water in Italy.Nation Is Appalled by Matt Lauer’s Nude Ankles During Ryan Lochte Interview
What’s the opposite of “Jeah”?8 People at the Life of Pablo Pop-up Explain Why Kanye West Is a God
"I mean, Kanye West is just Kanye West. There's not more or less you can say about Kanye West. He's just Mr. West!"A T-shirt Is Enough
Simplicity, versatility, and cool. What more could you want?
She took a perfect pencil dive off a 30-foot yacht.American Apparel Is Being Sued by Former Workers
As the company considers putting itself up for sale.A Gendered History of the Tailored Suit
From Marlon Brando to Coco Chanel.How Zendaya Developed Such Great Style at the Young Age of 19
The star's best looks from Disney to now.Proof That If You’re Chic Enough, a Little Federal Investigation Doesn’t Matter
Is this the best they could do?5,300-Year-Old Mummified Iceman Probably Would’ve Been a Street-Style Star
He had several different looks and was “pretty picky.”J.Crew Has Identified 226 Shades of Pink
Even more than there are shades of gray.Gigi and Bella Hadid Merch Is Now Somehow a Thing That Is Happening
Today in Hadidiana.Gird Your Loins for the Return of Yeezy to New York Fashion Week
The season approaches.This Indie Brand Had a Great Response to Ivanka Trump
When she bought one of their cuffs, they donated the proceeds to the Clinton campaign.