At a time when brick-and-mortar retailers are trying to navigate the evolving shopping landscape and a see-now, buy-now consumer demand, what's a high-end store to do?
In the case of Nordstrom, the 116-year-old Seattle-based retailer is betting on under-the-radar brands and a strong sense of discovery to appeal to their existing shoppers as well as grab the attention of a newer, younger clientele that has other thoughts of what a shopping experience should be.
The department store, with 123 locations in the United States and Canada, recently introduced two new concepts at several Nordstrom's flagship locations such as the store at the Grove in Los Angeles. Both are ideas from Olivia Kim, Nordstrom's vice president of creative projects. One concept celebrates emerging designers from around the globe while the other is a curated selection of cult-favorite Korean beauty products. (We'll get back to the former later. It involves a "space" tale.)
In the beauty world, Korean products are one of the hottest trends of the moment in the U.S. Ulta now sells them at stores and online, and Nordstrom's K-beauty pop-up of goods at various locations, including the Grove store, offers more than 500 products as part of the retailer's Pop-In@Nordstrom series.
With Korean beauty items such as banana milk masks, egg extracts, phyto skin care and masks fortified with extractions from volcanic islands, this pop-up attempts to harness the cool factor of the Korean beauty world — and not just with the products but also with the look of the space in which the goods are sold.
In step with the bubbly aesthetic surrounding this sought-after sector of the cosmetics industry, the K-beauty shop's decor features overlapping pink and blue cloud-shaped transparent gels, pink fuzzy yoga balls, splashes of colorful wall art, floor-length mirrors and a pink, spinning K-beauty sign.
The Korean beauty pop-up, open through this month, sells offerings from brands such as 24/7, Abbamart, Color Bucket, Ooh LA LA, Too Cool for School, Tpsy and Vika, with prices ranging from $2.50 to $82. For the final part of Nordstrom's celebration of Korean style, Kim has selected some of her favorite fashion-forward brands, offering another look at Korean labels.
Also at the Grove store, there's another sartorial story emerging — one focused on newer designers and fashion labels.
The Lab is a new concept inside Space, the in-store designer boutique launched in 2015, which carries lines such as Simone Rocha, Koché, Ellery and Colovos. The Lab will act as a seasonal incubator for five different emerging brands at a time as a way to support and showcase new talent.
For the inaugural installment, Kim selected relatively under-the-radar brands. New York-based Eckhaus Latta, which was founded in 2011 by Zoe Latta and Mike Eckhaus, aims to make clothing suited for any age and gender. (The label recently showed its fall 2017 collection during New York Fashion Week, and is known for being at the forefront of that city's underground fashion scene.)
Also in the mix is Vejas, which was awarded a special jury LVMH Prize in 2016. The label is helmed by 20-year-old Canadian designer Vejas Kruszewski, whose reimagined streetwear-inspired collection has garnered quite a cult following.
Then there's Eric Schlösberg, the Parsons School of Design graduate whose eponymous punk-inspired brand is heavily inspired by fantasy and storytelling, along with A.W.A.K.E. (All Wonderful Adventures Kindle Enthusiasm), founded in 2012 by Natalia Alaverdian, who uses Japanese art and culture as a major reference point and inspiration.
And joining them is Dilara Findikoglu, a London-based Central Saint Martins graduate whose clothing has become synonymous with sharp tailoring infused with historical references and social commentary.
Selections from these labels will be available inside five Nordstrom locations, including the Grove, through the spring. As part of the concept-within-a-concept, the Lab will be refreshed with new designers each season.
"The Lab is for the designers who have just launched their collections, did their first show, maybe used their friends as models and showed in a basketball court in the Lower East Side," Kim says. "It's true, authentic and they're creating beautiful collections that we want to share with our customers."
Kim says she sees the Lab concept as a way to not only show new lines, but an opportunity to assist those emerging designers as small fashion businesses that otherwise might not be able to meet the large product orders department stores often require before signing on with brands.
"There are incredible demands on a young designer trying to grow their business," Kim says. "And we wanted to say, 'You may not be able to produce enough of a collection for eight stores right now, and that's OK.'"