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Totokaelo Founder Jill Wenger Steps Down

The founder and former chief executive of Totokaelo, which opened an ambitious store in New York last autumn, is exiting the young luxury retailer, shortly after it was acquired by Herschel Capital Corp.
Jill Wenger, founder and chief executive of Totokaelo | Source: Totokaelo
By
  • Lauren Sherman

NEW YORK, United States — Jill Wenger, founder and former chief executive of young luxury retailer Totokaelo, has resigned from the company, BoF has learned. Wenger plans to spend time travelling abroad.

In early September, it was announced that Totokaelo had been purchased by Herschel Capital Corp. (HCC), the Vancouver-based investment division of accessories brand Herschel Supply Co. At the time of the acquisition, it was confirmed that Wenger would stay on in a creative role, managing product, store interiors and design. Richmond, Virginia-based retailer Need Supply Co., in which HCC owns a minority stake, would manage operations and take over some of Totokaelo's back-end functions, such as warehousing.

While Wenger is no longer in the picture, Herschel's plans for the company appear relatively intact. "We wish Jill all the best," a spokesperson for Need Supply and Herschel wrote in an email to BoF, indicating that this was a joint statement. The companies said that both Totoakaelo outposts will remain open, and Totoakaelo.com will continue to live separately from Needsupply.com. As for whether Need Supply's team, led by co-founder and chief executive officer Christopher Bossola, would now manage the merchandising and design aspects of the of the Totokaelo brand, the company said: "We have an extremely talented team and we’re working with them to identify all open positions." To be sure, the two retailers overlap in aesthetic and also in vendors, as the contemporary-space-focused Need Supply has recently elevated its product offering, bringing on more upscale brands including Lemaire and J.W. Anderson.

Totokaelo, which was founded by Wenger in 2008, faced financial difficulties after opening a grand 8,400-square-foot store in New York City's Soho neighbourhood last autumn. As previously reported by BoF, the business was profitable at the time of the September 2015 opening and set to generate $17 million in sales in 2015. According to sources, sales are on track to hit $25 million in 2016. But the financial burden of opening the New York location proved to be great and resulted in failure to meet vendor payments, according to sources.

It is thought that Wenger, whose Seattle store changed the retail landscape of the city, will return to retail "in another form" after she completes her travel.

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