How Olivia Kim Finds the Hottest Brands for Nordstrom's SPACE Boutique

oliviakim_Space_IG - S 2016

oliviakim_Space_IG - S 2016

And fall finds to shop at the The Grove’s new SPACE shop.

Nordstrom has officially upped its street (style) cred.

With the launch of its new shop-in-shop boutique, SPACE at Nordstrom, the department store is introducing up-and-coming designers as well as more established brands that aren’t necessarily your traditional department store staples. Apparel, shoes and accessories from buzzy brands like Vetements and Marques Almeida as well as pieces from Shrimps, Simone Rocha and Japanese label Undercover represent just a handful of the chic offerings curated by Olivia Kim, vp creative projects at Nordstrom and industry vet slash style icon.  

After successful launches at Nordstrom's Seattle, Chicago and San Francisco locations last year, SPACE has finally landed in L.A. (The collection can also be shopped online.)

Pret-a-Reporter caught up with Kim, the brains behind both SPACE and the retailer's Pop-In concept shops, at the grand opening of SPACE at The Grove to chat about the shopping experience, her secret to discovering the hottest designers and what warm weather-friendly trends L.A. shoppers should be looking for this fall. 

What is SPACE?
SPACE is an in-store boutique dedicated to supporting emerging and advanced designers. What we really wanted it to be was a place that felt, for a big company, really small and intimate. A lot of the designers here are designers that have been recognized with LVMH prizes, they’re up and coming or they’ve been around for a while and are super established, but they’re not necessarily department-store brands. They’re more boutique brands. We really challenged ourselves to say, “Can we be a boutique inside of our own store?”

What are "advanced" designers?
A lot of them are Japanese designers that have been around for a while. Undercover is a great example of a brand that’s been around for a while. They almost have a cult-ish following, but they are not that well-known in the States because they are more directional and more avant garde. In our world I think that it makes sense; we carry really great designer brands and contemporary brands, but there’s some white space, and this is what’s in between there.

How do you bridge the gap between the undiscovered, directional designers and the everyday customer?
We really want to be a platform where we can introduce these brands to our customers. So all of the spaces have what we call a space ambassador. Their job is to not only know everything about the brands but also to educate our customer and talk to them about materials and how these things fit. 

SPACE: Inside SPACE at Nordstrom at The Grove. (Photo: Courtesy of Nordstrom)

What’s your secret to discovering brands?
A lot of them are friends or friends of friends that I’ve been following for a really long time. Or brands that I’ve loved so much that have been around that I’ve had a hard time finding places. To be able to bring that to Nordstrom has been a really exciting project for me.

I’m always super curious so I read all my emails, I look at everything — like anytime someone texts me or DMs me on social media I look at it all, and we’ve discovered quite a few brands from people who have an amazing aesthetic and who haven’t been out there before. But we want to be a place where we’re really open to brands, whether they’re getting press or buzz or not, because that’s kind of what makes this exciting.

So you’re saying that DMing you, head of creative projects, actually works? Any examples?
Yeah, so we’re partnering with Franny E (a fine jeweler who focuses on one-of-a-kind pieces.) She’s based out of Vancouver. We’re doing a really small exclusive capsule with her for the launch of our Canadian stores. But she reached out to me based on some of the press and some of the other brands that she knew we were carrying and she thought she’d be a great fit.

That’s awesome! I’m guessing a lot of the younger designers feel like a department store is out of reach.
I think it’s also really scary for a lot of those young designers. Department stores come with a lot of rules. There's a lot of guidelines and shipping and you’ve got to do this and that — and part of SPACE and being a small boutique and that sort of small mentality is to tell designers, “Don’t worry about some crazy net 60 terms. We can help you and work with you.” We want to support their business and help make their business a viable one and grow. 

What are some L.A.-specific fall trends that people can be shopping at SPACE despite the heat?
The denim trend is still here and it’s getting so much better. We’ve got some brands that are really rooted in denim like Marques Almeida. I think there’s really awesome denim pieces from Simon Miller; they do a Japanese-type denim. I also love the sort of romantic goth thing that’s happening right now. We have a designer called Lea Peckre, from Paris, and she does these amazing long-sleeve mesh dresses with underlays, so that’s an easy L.A. thing. And L.A. people actually love coats! They love just having their coat. We have tons of coats that you can just throw on your shoulders.