Need Supply & Totokaelo To Close Their Doors Amidst COVID-19

Eliza Huber

In an announcement that undoubtedly broke the hearts of every Raf Simons, Marni, and Maison Margiela fan hailing from Seattle, New York, or Richmond, both Need Supply and Totokaelo — sister retailers under the parent company NSTO — will be permanently closing their doors following financial troubles caused by the pandemic. “Need Supply and Totokaelo have made the difficult decision to wind down their businesses and operations in an orderly fashion,” Corey S. Booker, a lawyer for NSTO, confirmed to The Cut on Tuesday. This news comes as a loss to a fashion community — one that already often overlooks young, daring designers.

Need Supply opened its doors in 1996 to sell vintage Levi’s to the fashion-minded in Richmond, Virginia. It wasn’t long before Chris Bossola, the founder and CEO of the company, expanded the lineup that, prior to this news, included popular brands like Ganni, Maryam Nassir Zadeh, and Nanushka. In 2008, its e-commerce site, which has also become known for its artful editorials, went live, offering the expertly curated selection to a worldwide audience. 

Jill Wenger, with her unique sense of style and vast knowledge of under-the-radar brands, opened indie retailer Totokaelo in Seattle in 2009. Within six years, it was profitable. The multi-brand retailer, which has store locations in New York City and Seattle, is often likened to Dover Street Market and the former fashion mecca Opening Ceremony, which also closed in January to focus on its in-house brand after being acquired by New Guard Group. Like DSM and OC, walking into Totokaelo was akin to entering an art exhibition, rather than a store, with clothing from some of fashion’s most prolific and experimental designers, like Haider Ackerman and Yohji Yamamoto, lining the walls of the aesthetically pleasing spaces. 

In 2018, Bossola joined forces with Totokaelo, with backing from Cormack Capital. According to BOF, the partnership was designed to help both multi-brand retailers compete with more solvent companies like Net-A-Porter and Matches Fashion.  

Unfortunately, despite being a seemingly successful business prior to the pandemic, Need Supply and Totokaelo, like many in the industry, have suffered financially during COVID-19. The former’s plans to open a Brooklyn brick-and-mortar store were put on hold during quarantine and eventually tossed out completely. As noted in BOF, both stores’ inventories — which lean more toward split-toe boots and extra-large tote bags than at-home loungewear — didn’t align with what most consumers are buying right now. Need Supply was forced to slash prices early in the sale season to offload unsold spring merchandise. 

In a fashion era when Opening Ceremony and Barney’s New York no longer exist, and independent brands like Sies Marjan have no choice but to shut down, news of store closures come as little surprise. Still, Need Supply and Totokaelo will be sorely missed. 

Refinery29 reached out to both retailers for a comment, but have not yet received a response at the time of publishing.

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