Olivia Kim’s Mission at Nordstrom: ‘The Ability to Think and Act Like an Independent is Key’

While Nordstrom is known as a department store giant, what sets it apart is the company’s ability to think small.

Olivia Kim, Nordstrom’s VP of creative projects and home, joined the company eight years ago after nearly a decade at Opening Ceremony, and her initiatives, such as Pop-In@Nordstrom and Space, have helped evolve the brick-and-mortar experience by highlighting emerging talent and new brands.

During the early days of Pop-In in 2013 — the ongoing series of themed pop-up shops — reaction was mixed, Kim admits.

“It was met with a lot of intrigue and curiosity from our customers, but quite frankly, it was also met with a ‘what the f is this?’” Kim said. “It felt really revolutionary for a company like Nordstrom, at that time, to allow somebody like me to come in and disrupt that experience.”

Since Pop-In’s debut, Kim and her team have launched over 65 concepts with partners such as Converse, Disney, Allbirds and The North Face.

Pop-up shops are incredibly common now — and to keep it fresh, Kim has a high standard when it comes to partnerships and finding brands that feel meaningful.

“We want to support and create viable businesses no matter how small they are,” Kim said. “The Pop-Ins are often a beta, and then we migrate those brands to be more of an evergreen part of our offering.”

Olivia Kim, Nordstrom
Olivia Kim

Part of that vision is also evident through Nordstrom Space, an in-store and online boutique dedicated to advanced and emerging designers — allowing customers to discover brands you wouldn’t typically find in a department store. Kim understands that for many of these labels, Nordstrom is their first and only retailer.

“The ability for us to be able to think and act like an independent boutique [is key],” she said. “We want to support their businesses and make sure that they survive in a time when it is really hard to be a fashion designer.”

Space also allows Nordstrom to showcase diversity, along with different perspectives and personalities.

This spring, Kim and team took the Space concept to the next level when they announced an exclusive partnership with Dover Street Market Paris.

As part of the union, upcoming global designers under the brand development branch of Dover Street Market Paris — including Vaquera, Rassvet, Weinsanto and ERL — were highlighted in curated concept shops in select Nordstrom stores and online. This, fall the second installment will launch with new collections from the designers.

For Kim, partnering with another retailer was a natural evolution. “The ability to bring Dover Street Market into our ecosystem is amazing. It only supports our own story and validates what we are doing from a customer lens,” she said.

Next up is Kim’s expansion of the home category, an area that is ripe for growth.

She’s leading the charge with her tried-and-true mantra: Curation is key. “What I’m interested in is offering the customer what makes sense for her life,” she said. “We know how she shops and what she’s buying for herself. What does her home look like?”

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