Nordstrom’s Olivia Kim

In life there are people that can make you feel unproductive. There are also people that can make you feel uncool. We felt both sensations upon meeting Nordstrom’s Director of Creative Projects – Olivia Kim. After getting over the immediate shock of meeting someone so simultaneously quirky, eccentric and all-around-awesome, we realized Kim is the perfect representation of the renowned brand she was the first employee for, Opening Ceremony.

Kim also embodies so many of the brands she’s collaborated with throughout her career, from Chloe Sevigny, to Rodarte to Topshop. We immediately recognized her stamp on the brands she’s helped launched like Suno, Pamela Love and Patrik Ervell. It seems there’s not much in the world of fashion Kim hasn’t done including her most recent Pop-In @Nordstrom (a pop-up series she launched in 2013), as well as Space, Nordstrom’s new in-store boutique which opened in August, curated by Kim herself. This style maven took time away from her busy schedule for what she thought was an interview, but for us was really just life advice we needed…

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From start to finish, what would be your ideal food day?

Asian, Asian, spaghetti, and then Asian.

In your opinion, what makes a great brand? 

When the brand has a great story to tell and the clothes do all the talking.

If you’re a new brand coming into the fashion industry, what should be your first priorities? 

Have a buddy system. Have someone who can support, advise, help, and just be there for anything and everything including financing, production, fabric sourcing, sales, costing, marketing, PR, etc. so that you can be your very best creative self.

What is your personal definition of good content?

Peeling back a layer by asking questions that may not be so comfortable but can connect you to something you didn’t know before. In that, there is a bond – a personal connection or an association. [You feel] like, “I’ve totally been there before too.” I ask a lot of questions and I love getting to know people. That’s the best content out there – people themselves.

What’s it like being at the helm of a department store in the 21st century? 

Exciting, exhausting, challenging, rewarding, and so fun. I’m so grateful for the opportunity to share what I can with our customers.

What inspired your most recent Nordstrom pop-up? 

I’ve always loved brands that have histories and stories with deep roots. It is incredible to see how relevant they still are and that they have become classics. I wanted to celebrate those brands – and the newbies that have been inspired by them too – and do it in a fun way.

What are your thoughts on brick-and-mortar shopping versus e-commerce? Is one better than the other? 

I’m one of those people who genuinely loves shopping. I love going to a store, taking it all in – from the music, to the smell, to the overall scene – talking to sales people, touching the clothes, even examining the shopping bags! It’s why I love what I do. I love creating environments that make customers want to come and visit our stores and be inspired or just have a good experience. At the same time, I’ve loved trying to figure out how to recreate all those tangible elements into an online shopping experience and I think that’s through compelling content and product. Shopping in stores and online are one in the same to me, they just show and tell it differently. I don’t think one is better than the other. I think it depends on how you want to shop with us. Sometimes, the customer wants to have the full blown experience and spend hours in our stores and make an occasion of it with her friends or family. Other times, she wants to do it in the comfort of pajamas. We want her to be able to choose. It’s like choosing your own adventure.

How important is it for a brand to be on social media and why? How should they go about tackling it?

Social media is so instant and has such a broad reach; it’s almost impossible not to have a presence on it today. And it’s all in real time, which is so incredible. The customer can literally see a post, and go shop it directly or leave a comment and engage in a conversation with us or with her friends. I think the only way you can do it is honestly and with a voice of authenticity. People can see right through something that isn’t.

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More personally, what are your own favorite brands right now?

Anything Simone Rocha does, anything Miuccia Prada does, and anything Rei Kawakubo does.

What’s always in your bag? 

My phone, some sort of lip balm, drivers license, and some form of payment (either a card or loose cash). My purses are always small so there isn’t much room in there – just enough for the necessities.

What are your morning and nightly beauty routines? 

I’m a bit embarrassed to say. It’s a really long and admittedly excessive ten-step process of creams, potions and lotions and I’m 500% sure that I’m overdoing it. But I guess it makes up for the fact that I wear zero makeup, so time-wise, I break even. Here we go:

I wash my face with Tatcha Rice Powder. I splash on Biologique Recherche 1970 Lotion. Then I rub in the following, in this order: Sisley ‘All Day All Year’ cream, Tatcha Radiant Deep Brightening Serum, Sulwhasoo Capsulized Ginseng Fortifying Serum, Tatcha Ageless Renewing Cream, Sulwhasoo ‘Timetreasure’ Renovating Eye Cream3LAB ‘Perfect’ Sunscreen (rain or shine) reapplied throughout the day, and Sulwhasoo Luminature Essential Finisher.

Your go-to breakfast…

Coffee to go in a matte black Klean Kanteen. I honestly take it with me everywhere.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?

Perfection isn’t progress. You have to get stuff out there, even if its only eighty-percent of what you originally thought it was going to be. You can’t learn anything from holding on to an idea or concept and trying to make it absolutely perfect. Put stuff out there and see what happens.

The worst advice you’ve ever received and why…

Fake it till you make it. I can always tell when someone is bs-ing me, can’t you?

The brands killing it on Instagram and why…

@natgeo is forever inspiring. I’m completely awestruck by this place we live on. @officialrodarte. It’s been so awesome knowing those girls since the beginning and seeing them continue to kill it season after season. Hearts only. @frank_the_funnyfrenchie is the cutest and the biggest Frenchie I have ever seen! @mollymgoddard is my newest obsession. @alex_dymond, my partner-in-crime.

What are your favorite cities for food? What restaurants do you love in each? 

In Seattle, Ba Bar, Canlis, Matt’s in the Market, Café Goldinblack, and Anchored Ship Coffee Shop. In Portland, Prasad and the best make-your-own-bowls ever. In Los Angeles, Café Gratitude, the farmers market at The Grove, M Café, and Corner Place in Koreatown. In Honolulu, Marukame Udon, and all the food trucks on the North Shore. In New York, The Odeon, Sant Ambroeus, Shanghai Café, Quantum Leap, and EN Brasserie. In London, The Wolseley, and Rosa’s Thai Café.

In the same vein as ‘what is the new black’ what’s the new potato right now? 

Viola Davis is the new potato!

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*Olivia Kim, photographed at the Calexico Food Truck in New York, NY by Danielle Kosann. Olivia wears a Miu Miu sweater and skirt, and Saint Laurent shoes.

If you liked reading about Olivia Kim, check out these interviews with Pamela Love, Carly Cushnie and Michelle Ochs, and Rosie Assoulin. We also explored Manhattan with Rachel Antonoff and chatted with Rachel Comey