It’s surprising that Charlotte Wenzel isn’t an artist. Her store, Palace, is filled with colorful, bold textures and artifacts that range from clothing to home goods. Carefully curated and designed, the shop invites you into its arms, and subsequently leaves yours full.
Since moving to Portland in 2011, Palace has provided me with countless birthday, Christmas, and anniversary gifts, which is not only a testament to the products, but to its owner, as well. A true Portland gem, Palace opened in January 2010 in its previous space off of Southeast Belmont and 34th. Setting her intentions on making clients feel as if they were stepping into a secret space, Charlotte’s Palace was born. Now in its fifth year, and in a new location off of Southeast Burnside, the shop has expanded, but has maintained the same panache as its predecessor. I have one hell of a crush, and so much respect for this inspirational lady.
SOLIS: You’re so busy, Charlotte!
WENZEL: I just knew this would happen. I showed up this morning and there was already a line formed outside the door.
SOLIS: Well it gave me time to try on a Rag & Bone dress that I now can’t live without. This whole month is so full of weddings, dinners, and events that I don’t even know how not to shop right now.
WENZEL: I love that dress. I just love navy and black together.
SOLIS: Your color palate within the shop has always been one of my favorite things about the space, everything is so well color blocked and organized. What inspired you to open Palace in the first place?
WENZEL: Well it was kind of a chain of events. I always thrifted when I was younger, and when I moved here from California, I found out that you could sell what you thrifted to other stores. So while doing that, I also became a full time eBay seller, and then eventually opened a vintage shop with my friend, Honey. We called it Rad Summer. It was my first brick and mortar experience, and I really enjoyed the act of putting a space together. After it became a collective, I decided to part ways—just because I would rather learn from and take credit for my mistakes, than share my successes and failures with a group. So I left the collective, and went on a trip a week later to Europe with my husband. It was the best thing for me at the time, because having worked full time since I was 15, I didn’t really know what to do with myself. I was anxious because I realized I get so much of my self-identity through my work.
SOLIS: So a lot of drinking under the Eiffel Tower––I’ve done it and it can be very therapeutic––but is that how you decided to jumpstart a new business?
WENZEL: Well, when we got back to Portland the space on Southeast 34th had been vacant for about six months. It had been a record shop beforehand, and every day it just really nagged at me that it was still empty. So I thought, “Well, if I can learn how to sell new clothing, it could be an exciting new challenge.” So I got the space, and all of a sudden I was doing another store.
SOLIS: Was the plan always to incorporate vintage with new?
WENZEL: Yes. I wanted the vintage and new clothing to feel equally special, and I wanted to only carry vintage that was timeless. I want to carry pieces that although they may have been made in the 70s, they are still relevant to fashion today.
SOLIS: What woman isn’t searching for a sense of timelessness––to be a classic, yet modern woman? Would you say your personal wardrobe is inspired by the same mantra?
WENZEL: [laughing] Japanese kids are literally my biggest style inspiration. For me 8- to 10-year-old Japanese kids are style geniuses.
SOLIS: Kids in general can be so inspiring when it comes to art and design.
WENZEL: I agree. That is where I draw a lot of inspiration for my interiors, probably because I like spaces to feel accessible and warm. I’ve been to shops where I feel out of place or not welcome because of the stuffy and uninviting atmosphere. I just knew that I never wanted someone to feel that way in my store. Hence, the warm colors and textures that envelop the space.
SOLIS: I really enjoy how you showcase female artisans, and how you represent women. I always feel an underlying sense of feminism in Palace, and it feels so refreshing.
WENZEL: Thank you! There was this cool moment that happened while watching a documentary on Kathleen Hanna, The Punk Singer, and I became so pumped with her tenacity and with women in general. There are many aspects of being a woman that are challenging and difficult, and so often we don’t have the support we deserve. After viewing the documentary, I vowed that if I had an opportunity to support other women, I would take it.