She’s a self-described hippie who loves Sunday dinners with her family and afternoons outside. But Laura Vinroot Poole has been bringing sophisticated international style to the Southeast for almost two decades. The Charlotte, NC, native — and daughter of former Charlotte mayor Richard Vinroot — has an impeccable eye for fashion that is the force behind upscale women’s boutique Capitol and her recently opened men’s shop, Tabor. We had the chance to chat with Laura about her new store, her favorite designer and, of course, her passion for Southern style. Welcome Laura as today’s FACE of the South.
What made you decide to open an upscale fashion boutique in Charlotte?
After college, I was moving back to Charlotte because my husband wanted to go to architecture school at UNC Charlotte. I looked around and thought that no one was doing anything interesting in fashion in Charlotte. My mom’s friends would go to Neiman’s in Atlanta or New York or down to Charleston for shoes at Bob Ellis. You had NASCAR and Bank of America and all of these large companies — I thought it was weird that people couldn’t shop the way they wanted to in Charlotte. Honestly, I thought, “Where am I going to shop?”
And so you opened your own store?
Yes, we started very small. I had almost no experience. We began in an 800-square-foot space in Phillips Place.
You’re bringing fashions to Charlotte that shoppers often can’t find anywhere else in the Southeast. Did your time outside of the South influence your style?
I went to boarding school up north outside of Boston. A lot of the whole fashion business is in New York or Paris or Milan. And when you’re in places like that, you kind of feel your otherness a lot, which always felt like an advantage to me. Being different set me apart and made me really sure about how I felt about things.
So then it’s your Southern roots that created your style?
I think you never really know who you are until you leave where you’re from. In my opinion, people in the South have better taste than anywhere in the world. People in the South — they bring it. They dress up for the grocery store. I didn’t know that was different until I traveled and went away. I’ve always found being Southern to be a real advantage. I’m confident that I can edit a collection better than most people — and in many ways that’s just innate from being Southern.
Do you see Southern style as something that has changed considerably since you began working in fashion?
People travel more. Your eye travels just with social media and e-commerce. But I don’t know that it’s changed that much. The South is the one place that feels very different from everywhere else on the planet. It really feels like itself. It feels authentic. It feels real.
You recently opened a men’s store, Tabor, in addition to Capitol. What inspired you to move into men’s fashion?
We’ve had the women’s store for 18 years, and the husbands were always like, “When are you opening a men’s store?” I think that it happened because we all realized that the men were shopping other places — like when we opened Capitol. It felt like kind of the same moment.
What can shoppers find there?
It’s pretty standard, but updated and clean. It’s things like Dries Van Noten for men, Thom Browne or Engineered Garments. It’s pretty casual. We have some suiting, but basically it’s more like stuff you can wear on the weekends. It’s classic with a little bit of a twist.
Do you have an overall favorite designer?
Dries Van Noten. He’s the king. You can be such an individual in his clothes. And it’s such a huge collection, but you can edit your own collection to look like nothing else in the world. He has such a sense of color — and Southerners especially love color.
Your job has you on the road quite a bit. Anything you always have in your bag when you travel?
My original baby pillow covered up with a new, crisp, flowery D. Porthault pillowcase. Lord knows what’s inside — I haven’t looked since I was about eight years old! My Paris Metro pass and NYC subway pass. I’m too impatient to wait for taxis or Uber. And Biologique Recherche L’Eauxygenante vitamin-enriched face spray brings my skin back to life after a long flight.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
Esse Quam Videri, or “To Be Rather Than To Seem,” North Carolina’s state motto, has always been close to my heart. I try to remember it in every aspect of my life. My father always said that if everyone likes you, then you’re probably doing something wrong and not being honest about who you are. As painful as that may be, accepting the fact that you can’t be everything to everyone has served me well and allowed me to do what I do best.
Anything people would be surprised to find out about you?
I’m a total hippie. I’m at the Farmers Market every Saturday at 6 a.m. I secretly listen to the Grateful Dead channel on XM — when I’m not listening to Howard Stern, my other secret vice. And I wear Birkenstocks as often as I’m able.
What are three things you can’t live without aside from faith, family and friends?
Sunday dinners with my family. Access to nature — I go crazy without being outside at least a little bit every day. And a great airport nearby — we’re so spoiled in Charlotte.
Thanks to Laura for sharing a bit of her world with our readers. And thanks to Chris Edwards for today’s beautiful photography!
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