As director of creative projects for Seattle-based Nordstrom, it’s Olivia Kim’s job to curate cool for the department store’s monthly themed Pop-In shops, whether she’s discovering made-in-Africa antelope fur shoes by Brother Vellies in New York or calling on downtown L.A. design destination Poketo for quirky home products.
“I love the hunt. And I try to bring a sense of fun, adventure and exploration through new products, designers and an interesting experience in our stores — something that’s disruptive and people can get excited about month after month,” says Kim, 38. Her efforts have brought dozens of new vendors into Nordstrom stores. Her finds include exclusive products from Italian plastic furniture designer Kartell and artsy, textile-focused Brooklyn, N.Y., clothing label Ace & Jig.
On March 20, Nordstrom was scheduled to launch its “Magic Hour” Pop-In shops just in time for the music festival season. “My first big memory of music and style was when I was at Woodstock in 1994, during a revival of the festival, and the Red Hot Chili Peppers came out wearing lightbulbs on their heads. It was such an experience,” says Kim. “I love the 1990s and that whole glow-in-the-dark vibe, and that’s what this is based loosely around. So we’re partnering with Dylan’s Candy Bar on Technicolor treats, we’re carrying clothing from Wood Wood based out of Copenhagen and jewelry from Rodarte in L.A. It’s all coming together in one environment.”
Known for her tattooed arms and offbeat look (the day we meet she’s dressed in hand-painted Rialto Jean Project denim, an RTH button-down shirt and Brother Vellies fur booties), Kim moved to Nordstrom in 2013 after 10 years in New York as head buyer for boutique “chainlet” Opening Ceremony. She’s managed to focus her keen eye for style on her new hometown, where she lives in a 1918 Craftsman bungalow in the Queen Anne neighborhood.
We caught up with her, in between her travels to New York, London and Paris for men’s and women’s ready-to-wear and couture shows, over lunch at one of her favorite places, Il Corvo Pasta, to chat about some of her go-to destinations in the Emerald City.
“Whether you are coming for technology or art and culture, it’s exciting,” she says. “Anyone who lives here can tell you how fast things are changing. But there’s no pretentiousness.”
Il Corvo Pasta | “Every morning, they post pictures on their website of what they’re serving. They only serve three homemade pastas a day. They open at 11 a.m., you order at the counter, and by noon you can’t get in. And they close at 3 p.m.” 217 James St., Seattle; (206) 538-0999, ilcorvopasta.com
Ba Bar | “People rave about their Moscow Mule in the copper cup (you can buy the copper cup too). But I rave about: 1. Their tofu bowl and cucumber salad. 2. Their hours (this place is open until 2 a.m. on a school night. Do you know how rare that is here?) 3. Their morning homemade pastries and Vietnamese coffee.” 550 12th Ave., Seattle; (206) 328-2030, babarseattle.com
Assembly Hall | “This food hall — the whole ground floor of an apartment complex — from Seattle chef and restaurateur Tom Douglas is my favorite lunch place, coffee bar and juice bar. It has a cute florist inside, and I love all the magazines and cards along with the groceries.” 2121 6th Ave., Seattle; (206) 812-8413, assemblyhallseattle.com
Maximilien | “Grab a drink at this French restaurant and enjoy the amazing view of Elliott Bay, whether you are sitting inside or out.” 81A Pike St., Seattle; (206) 682-7270, maximilienrestaurant.com
Olympic Sculpture Park | A “beautiful public outdoor park along the waterfront with works by some of my favorite artists, including Louise Bourgeois, Richard Serra, Claes Oldenburg, Ellsworth Kelly, Louise Nevelson and Alexander Calder.” 2901 Western Ave., Seattle; (206) 654-3100, seattleartmuseum.org
Seattle Public Library | “Designed by Rem Koolhaas, it’s an architectural landmark.” 1000 4th Ave., Seattle; (206) 386-4636, spl.org
Henry Art Gallery | “They have a James Turrell Skyspace … and an in-gallery meditation hour once a week.” 4100 15th Ave. NE, Seattle; (206) 543-2280, henryart.org
Palm Room | “Brandon [Peterson], who owns this [plant store] is magical. He and his staff talk about plants and with the plants. He’s currently designing my front yard, and all my cacti, succulents and greenery inside my house are from here. And we both have a huge fondness for obscure and irregular ceramics.” 5336 Ballard Ave. N.W., Seattle; (206) 782-7256, thepalmroom.wordpress.com
Indian Summer | “Great vintage store with a super curated selection. I have never not found something when I’m here.” 534 Summit Ave. E., Seattle; (206) 588-0717
Rare Medium | “Gallery and store dedicated to Polaroid cameras and the art of photography. They find old cameras, refurbish them and resell them. It has a bit of a cult following, especially if you are old-school like me and still love the surprise element of film cameras.” 1407 21st Ave., Seattle; (206) 913-7538, landcameras.com
Fremont Vintage Mall | “Eclectic mix of furniture, tchotchkes, clothing, stuff from the 1950s forward. I love going here on Sunday afternoon and walking the Fremont flea market as well.” 3419 Fremont Place N., Seattle; (206) 548-9140, fremontvintagemall.com
Atlas Clothing | “I’ve found amazing old Betsey Johnson dresses, Michael Jordan T-shirts, Levi’s jean shorts and other awesomeness here each and every time.” 3419 Fremont Place N., Seattle; (206) 323-0960
Nordstrom | “This is the birthplace and our flagship. I walk the store every day. I’m curious about the people who are in our stores — tourists, locals, employees — and I love listening to what they have to say, what they are buying and how our salespeople are engaging with customers.” 500 Pine St., Seattle; (206) 628-2111, shop.nordstrom.com
Filson | “Seattle is home to heritage outdoor outfitter Filson. They proudly still manufacture a large number of their products here in town. They have a beautiful store on 4th Avenue and an incredible facility on 1st Avenue that houses production for all their bags and luggage.” 1555 4th Ave. S., Seattle; (206) 622-3147, https://www.filson.com
OUT OF TOWN
Seaplane to San Juan Islands from Lake Union | “It’s just a 45-minute flight. Land in Friday Harbor, rent a Scoot Coupe and drive it around the islands. Or bike if you are feeling adventurous. Such cute shops and cafes too, including the Backdoor Kitchen.”
Edison, Wash. | “Rent a car on the way back from the San Juan Islands, and drive through Anacortes to Edison, which is one of the cutest littlest towns I have ever seen. Every store on the five-store street, Cains Court, rocks. The locally sourced food at Tweets Café is beyond delicious. Hedgerow is a super-cute antique store and sells really great local items, including cooking sea salt from the San Juans. Lucky Dumpster is an art studio featuring work by 80 local artists, including my favorite, Aaron Murray. I discovered him in this shop, and we carried his work in our Pop-In shop in September. He is a teacher in Seattle too. And I know it’s anti-cool to love bread these days, but Breadfarm Bakery will change your mind.”
This story is part of the Los Angeles Times’ Image Magazine spring fashion and travel issue.