Nordstrom is as evergreen, intrinsic and synonymous with the Pacific Northwest as well, trees. Part of Olivia Kim’s job as Vice President of Creative Projects and Home is to keep delighting customers with new in store experiences, fashion discoveries, and cutting-edge partnerships with well-known brands and emerging designers. Kim developed the first Pop-In@Nordstrom shop in 2013 carving out real estate in main-line stores to build immersive temporary boutiques that spark curiosity and energize shoppers. With the success and popularity of the Pop-In shops it is no surprise that Kim’s influence has expanded. She created a new department called SPACE and recently became VP of Nordstrom Home.
When Bellevue Lifestyle caught up with the warm and adventurous retailer to talk about her work and life on the west coast she was very direct,“I love Bellevue!” Olivia and her family, which includes her young daughter, and possible next gen fashion lover, spend a lot of time on the Eastside which to her feels diverse and very family friendly. Whether they visit Lake Sammamish or sample our wide variety of small Asian restaurants she notices lots of people of color and a wide diversity of food. Nordstrom has always been a leader in diversity, equity and inclusion, that, together with Kim’s personal experience and background impacts her approach. “As a woman of color, raised by immigrants, and being a woman in general, has always influenced the stories I try to tell in our stores.” Kim employs a deliberate broad search and inclusion of designers, makers and artists from an array of backgrounds because, she says, “Our stores become more interesting with more interesting people.”
Just in time for a renewed focus on fashion, Nordstrom Bellevue Square shoppers are about to get more SPACE, and its not the billionaire boy’s club kind. SPACE is the department and in store boutique first launched by Kim in 2015. Developed as a white space opportunity for exploration by customers and a platform for emerging designers, SPACE is a sort of start-up lab that allows Nordstrom as a company to work closely with small brands, empowering their vision and helping them to build viable businesses through collaboration, mentorship and even handholding where necessary. SPACE employees are trained as brand ambassadors through Space Camp, an investment in education that requires lots of time to cultivate passion and knowledge where Brand Ambassadors touch, feel and learn to celebrate makers and designers. And while the intention is to empower employees to educate and guide customers, Kim says that from the beginning the “Funny thing is that customers were teaching us. They already knew (because of Instagram) that fashion designers are the new celebrity.” SPACE brands are already available in Bellevue, situated comfortably near established designer brands all who welcome and support new talent. But Kim is excited about the expanding the boutique’s footprint with a minor makeover at Bellevue Square because “The Bellevue customer is cool, young and diverse. It’s become a city in its own made especially interesting because of industry.” The design of each unique boutique underscores Olivia’s passion for art and interior design with carefully selected featured artists and contemporary and vintage furnishings from designers like Faye Toogood and Ettore Sottsass.
Post pandemic fashion trends are on everyone’s mind as we figure out what to keep and what to toss from our long, strange time at home. Kim believes trends are similar to a year ago. As we anticipate and engage in a return to gatherings there are two camps: people who can’t wait to glam up and go all in on a return to dressing, or those who took this time to thoughtfully edit their closet, simplify and focus on intentional choices and investments. While Kim’s personal style has remained relatively consistent, she didn’t wear heels as much. Like so many, Kim recently “Put on a pair of shoes and nearly fell over.”
Instagram has also helped home become a trending category. Tapping into the all-time high interest in making our personal environments more beautiful and comfortable. Kim has stretched her focus to include discovery and delight for the Nordstrom HOME customer; “It’s an additive for our customer. They come to us for home and style. We’re thinking about who our customer is…how can we inspire?” With more square footage and collaborations featuring previously direct to consumer brands such as Food 52, Kim is devilishly coy about what is next for HOME customers, but it definitely includes brand new fixtures and a very exciting holiday experience. Based on her past successes and personal influence on the Pop-In@Nordstrom shops and SPACE, it won’t be at all surprising if Nordstrom Home at least in part reflects her experiences as a new parent, west coast transplant and passionate gardener. “I garden a lot here; I am obsessed with it. Seattle and the weather make me confident.”