Vetements’s inky hoodie or hirsute Simone Rocha brogues, hitting the shelves of a Nordstrom near you? It’s a reality that comes to pass tomorrow as the department megalith launches Space, a new, permanent series of stores-in-store and sibling e-shop from the mind of director of creative projects Olivia Kim. The mission is simple enough: to highlight industry youngbloods, some of the best and brightest, Marques ‘ Almeida, Isa Arfen, and Faustine Steinmetz among them. They’re balanced out by a handful of more established voices like Acne Studios and Anthony Vaccarello that might have previously slipped under the radar of Nordstrom’s customers.
It’s a big move for the Seattle-based company to bank on the tastes of its clientele for newer, more offbeat labels, but one that’s backed auspiciously by the success of Kim’s Pop-In@Nordstrom series. Earlier this month the retailer posted strong second-quarter sales (poised to hit $ 20 billion by the year 2020), in stark contrast to the generally bleak landscape of department stores.
We caught up with Kim to talk about curating Space, storytelling, and why novelty is the new normcore.
When did the idea for Space first crystallize?
February. It really came about quickly, and I think that’s the name of the game with things I’ve been working on here at Nordstrom. They’ve been about super-quick turnarounds, putting things out there, and trying to test and learn from them. I have a really small and nimble team that allows me to do that, and I think Pete [Nordstrom, the company’s copresident] has done a great job in snowplowing that path for me, to say, “Hey, do what you need to do and let’s try and put some things out there.”
What was the selection process like for the designers you’ve chosen to feature? Or was it just a matter of “this is what I want to be wearing now”?
There definitely was a selfish tone to all of it! I wanted to be able to buy them here at Nordstrom, but a lot of them were designers I had been following since the beginning, or had been friends with since they had launched their collections, like Marques ‘ Almeida and Simone Rocha. Then there was a good mix of brands that had been established for a while and they didn’t have really great distribution here in the States—they were being sold at a couple of boutiques around the country. There was no set criteria [though]; we didn’t want to check off a box. Space was really meant to be a platform to introduce our customers to another aspect of what designer fashion could be, this advanced and emerging designer world.
How did you present the idea to the designers? Did they have any initial reservations about the undertaking?
Once we started reaching out to all these designers and meeting them in market, it fell together so beautifully. As a company, we don’t have an awareness issue—everybody knows who Nordstrom is, and I think that these designers had a lot of respect for what we were doing in the retail landscape in America. For many of them, they loved the idea of working with us, but they were intimidated by how they could work with us. They imagined we were this really big company that had all these rules and regulations. With some of these smaller designers, there’s definitely a little bit of hand-holding that we’re excited about: helping them figure out how to ship internationally, invoice, or to work on payment terms—things like that, that are basic business practices for big stores. In a way I feel like it helps them understand the business of retail in a much easier way; we’ve been able to weed out all the unnecessary stuff. So part of it was really serving up Space to be a true boutique within our department stores, to say, “We can act like a boutique, we can work with you, we can find different ways of partnering with you that feel comfortable for you.” Once we got around that, it was really easy and everything just kind of fell into place.
What is your approach to presenting more avant-garde talents, like Faustine Steinmetz, in a context that will resonate with Nordstrom’s wide customer base?
I’ve discovered that [our customers] are the most curious and the most inquisitive out there. They want and they expect more from us, so being able to present a very boutique-like setting on our designer floor with the adjacency to designers they might be familiar with—the Célines and the Saint Laurents and the Givenchys—then having this dedicated space that’s focused around younger brands that we’re incubating and putting up on a platform, to say, “This is the next generation of what’s going to be big.” All the Space boutiques will have a dedicated salesperson to help educate our customers and give them information about why we’re doing what we’re doing. I think that’s going to be a huge thing for us—bringing our customer along on that journey.
In terms of the aesthetics of Space, what message did you most want to convey?
I wanted to convey that there was a really curated environment—that it wasn’t just about having a blank canvas and then putting some clothes out on a traditional department store floor, but that everything was really considered, the clothing and the accessories, [but] also the art, the furniture. That there were elements that we could call out that were also part of a fun experience, that it didn’t only have to be this endless sea of clothing.
What about the current retail landscape made now the right time to launch this project?
I think that as the world becomes smaller and smaller because of the Internet, and because everything feels a little bit more accessible, retailers are challenged to find ways to differentiate themselves from one another. For us, it felt like a really good time to be able to say, as a company that offers products from Uggs to Alaïa, that we could offer another segment of customers this emerging advanced designer world that often can feel under-penetrated inside of department stores and traditionally becomes more of a boutique business.
From a retail standpoint, what do you see as the chief influence on customers today? Is it celebrity? Is it street style?
I think that what’s influencing retailers—or at least what I’m being influenced by—is this really authentic, genuine sense of style that people are coming out with right now. There was normcore, and now I’m feeling like everything is coming back. It’s this idea of “I’m an individual and this is how I express myself.” That comes with the mixing of brands and adding elements of your own creativity to things. That’s what feels really modern and cool to me at the moment.
The post Simone Rocha Comes to Nordstrom: How Olivia Kim Is Reworking the Department Store Paradigm appeared first on Vogue.
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