Department stores are quickly becoming a go-to for Millennials everywhere, and Nordstrom is leading the pack. That is largely thanks to Olivia Kim, who joined the Seattle-based retail giant after 10 years at arguably one of the coolest labels, Opening Ceremony (nbd). In her role as Nordstrom’s VP of Creative Projects, she gets to use her ability to tap the most under-the-radar design potential for the in-store boutique she curates, SPACE. Kim’s discoveries of the past include pre-streetwear fame Vetements and LVMH-winner Faustine Steinmetz.
Kim’s latest project for SPACE is called The Lab, and it goes even smaller than SPACE, with a view to showcase the rawest talent and help young designers get off the ground. The Lab opened at Nordstrom Eaton Centre in Toronto and Nordstrom Pacific Centre in Vancouver just yesterday, and it includes five designers: London-based, Turkish-born Dilara Findikoglu; Parsons-educated Eric Schlosberg; New York design duo Eckhaus Latta; Russian Vogue fashion director Natalia Alaverdian’s line A.W.A.K.E; and Canada’s very own boy wonder, Vejas. We caught up with Kim to find out why she chose the five designers she did to kick off The Lab, the exclusive designs they’ll be carrying, and her favourite Canadian talents.
How did you choose The Lab’s first five designers?
I don’t have a set of criteria when I look at a collection, but rather I look for the full package—who is the designer, what is their story, what do they stand for, why are they doing what they are doing, who is it for. It’s the WHY that usually clinches it for me. It’s about beautiful clothes, but for me, it has to be more than that. I love each of our designers within SPACE Lab for different reasons. I wanted to represent different aesthetics so we would have a little bit of everything, so it was really about finding five truly emerging brands that have a different audience and different message for what they are doing. Each of them are in different stages of their business, some more mature than others, some have more distribution than others, and some are making their second or third collection.
What are some of your favourite pieces at The Lab?
It’s so hard to pick! Dilara’s tees are incredible. They’re one of a kind and her detailing is insane. I love the fantastical ruffle and romance of the white one-sleeve A.W.A.K.E. top and the skirt—the pockets are removable and Natalia said you can use them as a clutch. How cool is that?
Can you tell me about the exclusive designs?
Dilara created a custom-made pinstripe suit for The Lab with this insanely cool embroidery on it. Her construction and detailing is so impressive. Eric Schlösberg also designed a few pieces that are exclusive to The Lab. He created a two-piece white silk pajama look you will want to wear every day of your life. We also have a pinstripe slip dress with a peek of red lace and asymmetrical straps.
What makes supporting fledgling talent so important to you?
Being a young designer has to be one of the hardest jobs in the world. It’s exciting when we have the opportunity to support an emerging designer by giving them a place to showcase their designs and introducing them to a wide audience. Part of my job is being out there, looking for new things, finding young designers to support and giving them a platform in which they can grow. I really want their businesses to be successful, because if their business is successful, mine is as well.
Who are some of your favourite Canadian designers?
There are so many talented Canadian designers! We have been excited to see some of the brands we’ve been interested in were coming from Canada or had roots there. In addition to Vejas, I love Aurora of Brother Vellies. She is someone we have worked with for years and what she does is so special. We have also worked with Wing of Wwake since we launched SPACE. Her jewellery is incredible.
What’s next for SPACE?
Right now, we’re in market and scouting for our next round of designers for the fall rotation of SPACE Lab season. We go into it with a blank slate and I’m really curious about seeing something new, and we’re always lucky to find new things. Otherwise, we are working on a special capsule collection for May I’m really excited about, and getting ready to bring in more new names with our spring collections.