A two-storey boutique in the heart of Charlotte, North Carolina, might not be the obvious place to find the US answer to Colette or Dover Street Market. Capitol is a 6,000sq ft emporium full of fashion brands, haute joaillerie, cult accessories and even couture. “I wanted to fill a niche,” explains owner Laura Vinroot Poole (first picture). “Previously, customers had to travel to Paris or New York to find the latest couture. Now they come here.”
“I have a Southern advantage,” Vinroot Poole says of her relationships with designers ranging from Giambattista Valli – he did his first couture show outside Paris with Capitol – to Alber Elbaz and Marc Jacobs. “Being a fashion outsider has been a plus because people have trusted me from the start. Manners still count and designers like our way of doing business. They appreciate a handwritten thank-you note.” As a result, little-known lines and one-off pieces from A-list designers have been carried at Capitol since its inception in 1998.
The sprawling space is anchored around a stunning courtyard that features a vertical garden by landscape designer Patrick Blanc, best known for his vegetal murals for the Cartier Foundation. The interior is equally dramatic: areas are organised by designer – chic skirts ($1,140) by Erdem Moralioglu here, playful Mary Katrantzou “Poppies” frocks ($1,170) there – and furnished with iconic modernist pieces by Jean Prouvé, Jean Royèr, Charlotte Perriand and Jacques Adnet and decorated in elegant hand-painted de Gournay wallpapers.
Loyal customers and occasional visitors such as India Hicks spend whole days perusing Roksanda Ilincic herringbone dresses ($1,565), geometric coats ($2,115) by Peter Pilotto and Christopher Kane’s boyfriend trousers ($1,170). To one side, there’s a cache of Sabbia Rosa lingerie including delicate silk slips ($1,135) with lace detailing, while another space is devoted to cool, emerging talent – a Vilshenko silk blouse ($1,046, second picture) and floral maxi-dress ($3,060), or Vivetta’s peony-pink cotton shirtdress ($415). When it comes to occasionwear, Vinroot Poole’s enduring relationships with designers such as Kate and Laura Mulleavy of Rodarte mean that custom gowns are also available on request.
Shoes are a particular strength and passion. Python Céline slip-ons ($1,400), chunky YSL platforms ($895) and Rupert Sanderson kitten heels ($595) – “perfect for garden parties” – figure prominently, as do embellished summery sandals by Marni ($580) and K Jacques ($255).
Accessories too are a major focus, from jewellery – opal-studded earrings by LA brand Irene Neuwirth ($15,280), spectacular pendants and cocktail rings (price on request) by Munnu Gem Palace with enormous emeralds and Indian sapphires – to vibrant shawls by Yaser Shaw ($1,100) and hand-embroidered Olympia Le-Tan minaudières ($2,070).
“We do things a little differently here,” says Vinroot Poole. “Whereas in New York you might find the latest Balenciaga collection in black, we offer it in hot pink. Our clients want one-of-a-kind pieces. I want them to make discoveries here and linger for a while.”