Quiet Luxury Brand Toteme Arrives in L.A. With Swedish Serene Meets Art Moderne Flagship

Stockholm fashion sensation Toteme has opened its L.A. flagship, a Swedish-serene meets Art Moderne design in a prime location on Melrose Avenue, neighboring celeb hangout Craig’s and the Maxfield, James Perse and Acne stores.

The 2,600-square-foot space created by Swedish design studio Halleroed delights from the street view with its Italian beige sandstone facade, two giant porthole windows, succulent plantings and bespoke signage evoking ’30s Hollywood, spelling out the address: 8910 Melrose.

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“We wanted to give equal space to the address, which is a way of not pushing our brand so much,” said Karl Lindman, who cofounded the quiet luxury brand Toteme in New York in 2014 with wife Elin Kling, a fashion journalist and stylist. “To me, it doesn’t even necessarily look like a clothing store, it could be an old post office.”

Toteme opens after a six-month delay, which saw what was intended to be the second store, at Palisades Village, open first. But it was worth the wait for the gorgeous, modernist flagship, whose design references include Ed Ruscha’s “Every Building on the Sunset Strip” photography project, Frank Lloyd Wright and Art Deco, all through a Swedish lens, Lindman said.

It’s the 13th store for the advanced contemporary brand, which has been riding high on the quiet luxury trend, with $150 million in annual revenue, and fans including Selena Gomez, Hailey Bieber and Kendall Jenner who incorporate it into their everyday wardrobes.

Inside the Melrose store, curving steel dividers define the space and the eye is drawn back to an ice-blue corridor with mannequins in recessed niches showcasing key styles. The fitting rooms and personal shopping area with private entrance lie beyond.

A look inside Toteme’s flagship store in LA.
A look inside Toteme’s L.A. flagship.

Framed by industrial steel pillars, a skylit seating area with low and deep sofas by Josef Frank for Svenskt Tenn invites lounging, and a 1960s polar bear sculpture by Lisa Larson on the center table nods to Toteme’s Nordic roots. The perimeter of the space is lined with steel fixtures displaying pre-fall ready-to-wear, while arched alcoves delineate areas for the brand’s popular T-Lock bags, boots and shoes, and handsome freestanding brass-studded glass vitrines showcase the brand’s growing jewelry category.

Throughout, artworks add context and texture, including a striking melted bronze sculpture by the Burkinabe-Swedish contemporary artist Theresa Traore Dahlberg in one window, and a large ceramic peeling vessel by Yuji Ueda in the other.

“For a kid growing up in Sweden, L.A. is a place you dream about. It’s such a milestone to open here,” Lindman said during a preview of the store, pointing out details such as the patched floor, deliberately left that way to add character. “It’s like traces of the past, which is something we deal with in our collections. Even though we’re pushing fashion forward, we like to have some foot in the past.”

The U.S. is the largest market for Toteme, which the founders moved back to their native Stockholm shortly after starting. “Our collections are performing really well in an unstable market,” Lindman said of the overall picture. “And thankfully, the U.S. is doing really well, because you can see a general dip in Europe and China.”

Toteme Couture Spring 2024
Toteme Fall 2024

Quiet luxury may be driving retail sales now, but that wasn’t always the case.

“When we launched, no one was asking for quiet luxury,” said Kling during an interview the last time she was in L.A. “It was all about influencers and Instagram…Anna Della Russo outside the shows, the streetwear influence and logos. That was our first five years. When we were looking for agencies for wholesale, they were all asking for prints, logos and colors. But we were sure even though it wasn’t the time for the brand that there were enough women around the world who wanted this style.”

“We’ve followed our aesthetic from the beginning,” said Lindman. “For us, it’s not a trend; we’re not interested in trends, we’re interested in the notion of style. We want to progress and keep pushing ourselves, but we want a piece from our new collection to work with something from our past collection. And a lot of our styles are carried over.”

Indeed, several silhouettes of Toteme outerwear, including the wool blend blanket jacket with fringed scarf that became a hit with influencers a couple of years ago; the “Signature” coat with draped face-framing shawl collar that comes in cashmere and now linen, and the “Signature” trench with double wrap belted cuffs, are new classics that the fashion crowd wears from season to season, and that remain in stores. “We really want to stand behind not just things we’re selling this season but in previous seasons,” Lindman said.

Toteme’s blanket jacket.
Toteme’s blanket jacket.

Toteme’s designs combine American and European sensibilities and embrace the idea of uniform dressing, with most pieces retailing below $1,500.

“The brand was launched in New York and I was so inspired by the Upper East Side ladies mixed with the Scandinavian practical thinking and minimalist language rooted in our DNA,” Kling said. “To me, it’s a nightmare to have the biggest closet with 5 million pieces.”

Part of the brand’s success is that it appeals to both the aspirational and luxury customer, Lindman said. “She used to be aspirational but as we’ve been upping our quality and design and our ways of communicating from campaigns to our positioning, we’ve found the luxury customer in New York or L.A. might buy certain things for us and pair it with more luxury brands. And in Stockholm, our woman looks at us as her top-shelf brand.”

“From the beginning, our price positioning was unique for international but not for Sweden, where we have Acne, for example,” Kling said of the Swedish brand that started in denim but expanded into fashion-forward ready-to-wear and runway shows.

The pair is looking to the L.A. store for insights into the warmer-weather market and how to merchandise for it.

“Our design studio is based in Stockholm and in London. And most of the people working in our office are Swedish. So we are quite strong on our fall collections and outerwear. That’s why this is so important to us. I think in a way, we develop ourselves along with our customers. We’re not done and we’re always working to improve,” said Lindman.

Toteme’s founders in the brand's first U.S. store in Manhattan’s SoHo neighborhood.
Karl Lindman and Elin Kling

Brick-and-mortar stores are more important than ever in today’s volatile retail environment, he said. “We’ve always believed in being able to touch and try on the collection and experience the world.”

Next up, Toteme will open a second New York store at 69th and Madison Avenue, which is planned for August or September, followed by two new stores in Europe, two in Asia, and a remodel of the brand’s original store in Stockholm.

To market the new L.A. store, the team invited tastemakers in for a first look, including on a recent afternoon celebrity stylists Elizabeth Saltzman, whose clients include Gwyneth Paltrow and Julia Garner, and Rebecca Ramsey, who works with Pamela Anderson.

While Lindman is excited to learn more about the world of celebrity dressing through the L.A. store, he said, “It’s more a friend-to-friend effect that’s benefited us so far. We’ve been an insider if-you-know, you- know type of brand and there’s something unique about not being available everywhere. That’s something we want to keep. We are not looking to be everywhere.”

Launch Gallery: Inside the Toteme LA Flagship

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