After 20 years of establishing shopping destinations so adored that people board planes to shop her curation, Laura Vinroot Poole can only be described as a powerhouse. From the initial design of the store to the tailored experiences she offers her customers, Laura considers every detail whilst creating a space.
This meticulous approach to her business as well as her appreciation of travel, both for work and for pleasure, is what makes her eye for design, art and interiors so rare. Now stocked at Laura's flagship store, Capitol, Lee Mathews is excited to share some photos of Laura's beautiful home in Charlotte and her thoughts on all of the above.
Capitol in Charlotte has been a well-regarded fashion destination for many years. Who is the 'Capitol woman' and how would you describe her style?
I’m so happy to say that the Capitol woman ranges from teens to women in their 90’s. I have a beautiful client who is 95 years old. We have been in business for over 20 years and the most wonderful thing about that is being able to follow a woman throughout her life and support her in all of her milestones. We have worked with young women from their debutante ball to their college graduation, first job interview suit, wedding gown, baptism suit and on and on. To have real, long-term relationships is truly the joy of this business for me. I think we attract women who love unique things and aren’t afraid of standing out in a crowd. Our clothes are not for people who want to hide in the corner.
You live and work in the town you grew up in. How has it changed and has the fashion and style changed with it?
It can be a challenge to live in the town you grew up in...it’s not easy to reinvent yourself because everyone has known you since the day you were born! I’ve always had a real sense of civic pride in living here...my father was the mayor when I was growing up and it was instilled in us from an early age that we were always to leave things better than we found them. When I started Capitol, it was in large part because the women here had to travel to other places to shop for fine clothing and jewellery. My mother and her friends made bi-annual trips to New York and Atlanta to shop. I wanted to offer all the beautiful things that one may wish to find in my hometown. Once I noticed that women from Atlanta and New York were actually making pilgrimages to Charlotte to shop I knew that I had really built something special.
Your husband is an architect and worked with you to design your stores. Can you tell us about this process? What does it take to design the perfect retail space?
My husband has created all of our retail spaces and renovations...6 in all. It is hard to believe that we stayed married through the process but I was lucky enough to marry an architect who listens to my concerns and more importantly, loves great retail. We also have always had the ethos that inviting someone into one’s shop should be the same as inviting them into one’s home. It should be warm and generous and respect (and often raise) their taste level. We always place antiques and art from our own collection into our stores and invest in special features like our Patrick Blanc vertical garden and De Gournay hand-painted silk wallpaper. If we are to compete with the ease of e-commerce, the experience of walking into a store should be transporting. It should be an escape from the monotony of everyday life and should delight you at every turn, from the edit of clothing on the rails to the silk velvet-covered chairs in the dressing rooms to the greeting and high-touch service of a salesperson.
You travel a lot for work and for pleasure. What draws you to a place when deciding where to visit?
After the recession in 2008, it was clear to me how precarious business was for me and fashion as a whole. It made me appreciate it in a new way and enjoy all that it encompasses, especially the amount of time I spend travelling and often being away from my family. I travel to Europe 6-8 times per year and have learned to enjoy the gritty monotony of taking the metro in Paris and hopping on a streetcar in Milan. I have even meditated my way into enjoying an 8-hour flight. After a couple of weeks fully engrossed in the market, I now take a couple of days on my way home to decompress and un-focus my eyes and see something that I haven’t seen that is unrelated to fashion. I used to rush straight home to be with my family but I was so depleted that I had very little to give when I returned. I travel to places like Istanbul, Madrid, Jaipur, Venice, London, Rome, Marseilles, and Antwerp to visit churches and look at paintings and wander in cities to recenter myself and remember why I’m here in the world. Fashion can be all-encompassing and harsh and I need the time to get back to who I am and what I love.
You also collect some beautiful artworks – can you share any of your favourites and why they are so special to you?
I could spend the rest of my days gazing at the magnificent portraits at the Prado in Madrid. I realise that what I love the most are the silks and ermines and the pearls of the gowns and the breathtaking hues of Zubarán and Goya and Velázquez portraits, which I guess is essentially still fashion, but at least I can say that I’m true to who I am!
Can you run us through your suitcase essentials?
My carryon essentials are a silk eye mask, a navy Yaser Shaw fine cashmere shawl, my baby pillow covered in a crisp and clean D. Porthault pillowcase, and Biologique Recherche L’Eauxigente vitamin facial spray. My suitcase essentials are Le Monde Beryl Venetian slippers in velvet, an easy black dress like my favourite Lee Matthews from last spring that I can dress up or down, a classic Celine blazer, my Marie-Helene de Taillac 22 carat gold and tourmaline charm necklace that I never take off, and a real paper book in case my electronics fail. I’ve had too many 8 hour flights with broken televisions to ever be caught empty-handed.
You have recently opened a new store in Brentwood, California. What did you do differently from when you opened your original store?
We tried to bring our Southern gentility and warmth to Southern California while also respecting the climate and culture of where we are. We outfitted the shop with a beautiful built-in Perriand desk for our Perfumer, H perfumes, and a Prouvé daybed, as well as a tropical De Gournay screen that we added an opossum in order to bring a little of our Southern culture to California. While we haven’t figured out a way to build a Patrick Blanc wall inside the shop, we have lined the walls with beautiful plants that are thriving and happy in the bright California light.
What city has your favourite architecture?
Los Angeles! There’s so much to see and they are very respectful of their architectural history. Rudolph Schindler’s Kings Road house is my favorite building on the planet and I love to stay at the Sunset Tower Hotel and take a daily walk through the grounds and peek into the windows in the early morning and imagine how incredible and it must have been in the context of the 1920s. It is a total dream and daily inspiration.
Why do you think travel is an important thing to pursue? How has it shaped you as a person and as a business woman?
Travel has been important to me since I was very young. I lived in Marseilles for the summer when I was 16 with an incredible Orthodox Jewish Algerian family and the collision of cultures there impacted me so much that I’ve never really gotten over it. I love port cities because of the literal import and export of not only goods, but also culture, food, and language. In a way, I feel like that is what I have been charged to do in my life. I travel all over the world to find the most beautiful things and bring them back to the incredible women in my hometown. I absolutely adore my job and I know how rare it is to love what you do...I appreciate it every single day.
Laura wears the Ginger Puff Sleeve Dress.