For Here Magazine Issue 07, Olivia Kim, vice president of creative projects at Nordstrom, unpacks her contradictory nature, love of vintage, and new motherhood for a fresh take on fashion and travel.
Olivia Kim’s world is a riot of color. Combing through her suitcase uncovers a rainbow-striped velvet jacket, a vintage tee emblazoned with Einstein, and pearl earrings painted to look like ghosts. Much like all that she has layered into a carry-on, Kim herself is a vibrant force contained in a small package. In 2013, Kim moved from her native New York to Seattle, leaving behind a position as vice president of creative at Opening Ceremony to take on the role of vice president of creative projects for Nordstrom.
Since then, she’s devised a series of curated “Pop-In@Nordstrom” shops for the department store, bringing in brands like Hay, Gentle Monster, Everlane, and, most recently, Away for short-run shopping experiences. Pop-In themes have included K-Beauty, Mexico, and tech. To further shake up the store, Kim launched Space, an entirely new department focused on established designers and emerging underground brands. In the summer of 2018, Kim and her husband also became first-time parents to a baby girl, Cleo. On top of all this, she’s constantly on the road—whether to London for fashion week, to LA for photoshoots, or to Tokyo for buying trips—forever striking a balance between charmingly eclectic and beautifully grounded.
How do you go about packing for a trip?
When I think about packing, I’m all about contradictions. Some people focus on having certain staples. They tend to leave their bag packed a certain way. I don’t do that, despite the fact that I travel so much. I pack at the last minute, and I just kind of grab things that are either new to my closet or things that I know fit me really well. I love a T-shirt, jeans, a great pair of earrings, and a cool handbag as a travel look. It’s casual, easy. In general, I’m an under-packer and always try to leave extra room in my checked suitcase to bring something back.
Do you have any routines or rituals when you travel?
The first thing I do after checking into a hotel is to grab my workout clothes and head to the gym. It gets my energy going, gets me acclimated to the time zone, and it forces me to drink a ton of water. Also, my skin care routine is crazy. No matter how small my bag is I always pack full-size toiletries. Even if I’m just going for a night I have to bring all fourteen steps with me—it’s how I know to start and end my days. It’s so funny because I’m a super contrarian person. I love to hate everything I do, and these are some of the only things that I’m pretty rigid about. I don’t like routines, I don’t like people telling me what to do, I don’t like following directions. But, especially when it comes to my face, I find the routine to be important.
How does fashion factor into your travels?
Some of my favorite cities, like Tokyo or Seoul, are favorites because of the shopping. In Tokyo, I love the vintage shops in neighborhoods like Shimokitazawa and Koenji. The Japanese do vintage so well, but it’s all American brands. They have the best versions of Ralph Lauren vintage, the best versions of American band T-shirts. They’re coming to the States and scouring all the flea markets, then taking it back to Japan—and then I’m there buying it and bringing it back. The carbon footprint of those T-shirts is pretty crazy. I think vintage is fun in the sense that it’s always a hunt, and when you find something it often feels like it’s one of a kind because no one else is going to have exactly that.
Any other cities?
I love Paris. Shopping in Paris is so fun. I like the vintage stores, but also the multi-branded stores like Merci. Le Bon Marché is my favorite department store in the world. They’re bringing new stuff to the table all the time. When I’m shopping at other department stores, I think about how they’re sharing their story with their audience and how that’s relevant or transferable to the Nordstrom customer here. It’s so interesting to see the brands they’re curating, how the store smells, the music they’re playing. All that is helpful in informing the things that we can be doing for our customers, too.
How do you seek out new brands for SPACE?
It’s a little bit of online research, like scrolling through Instagram and seeing what people are into. A lot of it is friends; maybe a friend has a friend who’s doing this incredible jewelry line. Or we go to meet that designer and she’s wearing an amazing skirt made by someone else she knows. I love it. It’s like we’re really starting to build a community that feels authentic.
The girl who makes my ghost pearl earrings, I met her in Bon Marché. We were both trying on the same Simone Rocha skirt, and I instantly fell in love with her. Her name is Marisa Jiwi Seok and [she] told me she was a jewelry designer—her line is called Jiwinaia. I feel like things like that happen all the time, but if you don’t travel you never have those beautiful happenstance experiences.
Now that you have a daughter, are you thinking about traveling any differently?
I haven’t traveled since Cleo was born. To be completely honest, I’m nervous about it, just because I don’t want to miss her. Before, I felt that I had all the time in the world and I could spend ten days in any given city, but now my whole life is focused on being more efficient. If I were to take the same trip and condense it down to five days instead, would I still be able to do everything that I want to do? I’m excited to eventually take her along, though. I hope to teach her that travel is an incredible experience, and to be really grateful for the chance to do it. I know not everyone gets to travel as much as I do, and I’ve never once been ungrateful about the opportunity. Like, yes, you’re schlepping here and there for work, and it can be annoying and tiring, but I always look at the positive. Who is ever going to be like, “Oh, I feel so bad for you, traveling to Paris six times a year and Tokyo twice”? No one is shedding tears for me, and I’m so fortunate to get to do these things.