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Olivia Kim
The fashion veteran and Vice President of Creative Projects at Nordstrom shares about her life long passion for retail, scouting brands and staying relevant.


For the latest installment of our Lingerie On Film profile series we speak with contributor and fashion veteran Olivia Kim, the Vice President of Creative Projects at Nordstrom.  We had a chance to ask Olivia a few questions about her life long passion for retail, scouting brands, and staying relevant. 

Photo of Olivia Kim in her office

What was it that compelled you to participate in this project?

‘Underpants’ has always been one of my favorite words since I was little. It’s just such an adorable word. No wonder I’m a lingerie junkie. And I’ve been such a fan of Araks’ collection for a while, so it was a no-brainer. She asked, I blushed out of flattery, and immediately said yes. 


Can you share with us about your upbringing and background?  What was your childhood like?

I grew up with my mom and my sister, Grace, and it was always just us. My mom didn’t speak English well, being an immigrant, but my sister and I were both always super chatty—we spoke enough for all three of us. My sister was a true tomboy, and even though she is a year younger, she has been taller than me since I was five.

My mom used to smoke cigarettes in the laundry room and didn’t think we would smell it.

She got a job at Epstein’s, this small department store a few towns away from where we lived, and she worked in the silk scarf department. She befriended this really nice young Brazilian guy who one time went back to Brazil and brought us geodes (rocks with crystalline interiors). It was the first time I had seen those. 

When I would stay home sick from school, we always went to the mall.

In 7th grade, I tried to give myself a cute shoulder bob hair cut, and because I couldn’t really see what I was doing in the back, I wound up with a severely drastic angled do. I cried. My mom let me stay home from school that day and took me to the hair salon to have it properly evened out.

My mom would buy these frozen broccoli and cheese stuffed chicken breasts from a little bald man with a thick dark mustache, who had a small white freezer truck, and he would stop by the house every once in a while. Would anyone ever trust someone selling food out of a truck going driveway to driveway these days?

She learned to make cheesecake, lasagna, and barbeque chicken from a PTA meeting that focused on “American cuisine.”

I grew up playing the piano, violin, cello and trumpet. My sister played the flute and oboe.

I had the blue and white striped Benetton rugby. She had the green and white striped one. It was a pretty all American childhood, LOL.


What excited you as a child? 

Puppy dogs, My Melody, Cool Ranch Doritos, stickers, Stevie Wonder, swimming pools–pretty much the same things now.


Did you have creative ambitions when you were young?

I always wanted to have a “store.” My sister and I would go around the entire house and stick price tags that we had made on everything we could, including all the food in the refrigerator and cabinets, and pretend the entire house was for sale. My mom even got us fake invoice books with carbon paper so we could write out receipts for our “customers.” At a certain point, we would need to “accept returns” when we ran out of things to sell or when my mom needed her spatula back to make dinner. So yes, I always wanted to do something in retail, which I thought was pretty creative.


What did you want to be when you grew up?

A veterinarian or a marine biologist.


Have you had any mentors?  Can you share about how they helped you?

I have met a lot of incredible women of all different backgrounds and ages in the fashion industry. There isn’t something specific that any of them did to help me per se, but just growing up in an industry that is mostly made up of women and women who own their own businesses or who are a boss, is pretty inspirational.


You are the first Vice President of Creative Projects at Nordstrom.  Can you share with us how this position came about?

I met Pete Nordstrom for breakfast, and I was impressed with his ability to share not only all the accolades and achievements where Nordstrom had been winning, but where he felt that they needed help. I thought that was so humble and honest of him, especially coming from the president of a national high-end retailer. We continued to stay in touch. Then one day he asked me if I wanted to come work with them, and he said we could carve out something interesting for the both of us. It has worked out pretty well!


Orange chemise being held over a city scape.


What does the VP of Creative Projects do?

My job is to bring excitement, differentiation and fun to our retail environments both physically and digitally. I curate boutique concepts and find great partnerships to bring to life in our stores and online, which gives our customers something unique in terms of experience and a reason to be curious about us. I get to do that with a very wide lens that crosses categories and price points, and without knowing what will be a success or a flop. There is definitely some risk in that, but we are always learning more about what our customers want, especially when they tell us what they don’t. 


Can you tell us about your projects SPACE and more recently SPACE LAB?

Space is a shop-within-a-shop, which features emerging and advanced designer collections in a highly-curated, boutique environment. As a big department store (Nordstom), we wanted to create a place that felt small and intimate with brands that are typically only found in that one cool store in every city. And Space Lab is something we started a couple of seasons ago to support young talent and give them a platform to be introduced to their peers. 


How do you scout new designers?

There isn’t a set criteria. It really is a gut reaction. We always think of the customer first. We know that our customers are super savvy and up on the latest fashions, so we want to be on the same page as her, but then also introduce her to brands or designers that aren’t already on her radar. At the same time, the quality of the pieces is so important. We stand for supporting young talent, but the end product needs to be made well and have integrity. At the end of the day, we want our customers to be super stoked with what they purchased.


What tips would you offer brands on staying relevant?

Relevancy to me is simply about being authentic and honest to one’s self. If you are doing this because you thought it would be cool, but you would rather be out there rescuing sea turtles, that is an inauthentic reason to be designing clothes. Customers can see through that. They want a connection, not only with the clothing, but with the designers as well.


How do you see the future of fashion in regards to retail?

Exciting and evolving. I’m obsessed with retail and environments, and creating unique experiences within retail environments. No one has a crystal ball as to what is going to happen or what the answer is. That is what is so fun right now. It is all test and learn, like throwing spaghetti against a wall and seeing what sticks, Designers should not be afraid of taking risks, and most importantly, not be afraid of failing. I learn the most when I “eff” up. 


How do you stay inspired?  Are there places you go or people in your life who are sources?

I find inspiration in so many things that I don’t realize it half the time. I can be in a bodega buying an ice cream, and suddenly think about how the boxes of cereal were displayed and about the cat that was hiding in the corner, and that will become a shop concept. Or I could be having a conversation with my best friend about something her dog did that day at the park, and think about pet toys and gear. Inspiration is all around us, and it is more about being able to tap into it when you can. I am also super lucky to be grounded by my husband, who is an idea generator and has the best references. I bounce most of my ideas off of him first.


Any tips for getting out of a creative rut?

Go for a run outside!


How would you describe your personal aesthetic?

I am a creature of habit. I like it simple, not too fussy, and quick. I don’t want to spend too much time thinking about what to wear. I just want to be out the door!


How has living in the northwest affected your personal style?

It hasn’t at all. I haven’t changed the way I dress because I live in Seattle. If anything, the only issues that arise are when I can’t fit in my car because my dress is too big or poufy or structured. In New York, we walked everywhere, so that was never a problem, LOL.


What are your favorite style combinations?

Anything pink and red. Floral on floral. Goth on floral. Goth on polar fleece. White tights and sneakers.


Is there a particular time period in fashion or a sub-culture that you feel a special kinship with stylistically?

I am a kid of the 80s and a teen of the 90s, so I have always loved that 90s grunge and punk rock which ironically came out of Seattle! Floral baby doll dresses with Doc Martens, flannels and fishnets, leather jackets and tartans. I basically love Contempo Casuals and Junya Watanabe.


Can you tell us who some of your muses have been through the years?

Princess Diana, Louise Bourgeois, Maria Callas, Ray Eames, Arundahti Roy, Susan Sontag, Joan Didion.


How do you like living in Seattle? Any recommendations you would like to share?

Come hungry. My favorite thing about Seattle is the food! Tell me when you are coming and we will eat our way through this town!


What is something you have loved for a long time?

My French bulldog, Secret Spy.

A pink bra laid on a black dog

What is something you wish you knew how to do or that you are currently trying to learn more about?

UGH! So many! Where do I start? 


What time of the day do you feel most energetic and what do you do in those moments?

Early, early mornings. I’m usually up around 5-5:30 wherever in the world I am.


Are there any principles that help guide your day, actions, or lifestyle?

Be grateful. 


Can you share a favorite quotation, lyric, or line from a book or song that has stuck with you?

I haven’t been everywhere, but it’s on my list. -Susan Sontag 


What is something that you feel is overrated?  Underrated?

Overrated - Fancy Brooklyn pizza joints.

Underrated - The world clock app on my iPhone!


Can you tell us a joke? 

What did the zero say to the eight? Nice belt.


What is your favorite Instagram account?

Basically all dog accounts.





Are there any podcasts you recommend?

I’m currently obsessed with ‘Cults’. Same people who did ‘Serial Killers.’


Can you fill in the blank? - Beauty is___________. 

Whatever you want it to be.


What does a perfect day look like to you?

One with no meetings.


What are you currently?


Free time 


Stranger Things, Season 1 (I know! I’m super late!) 


To my dog snoring


Come As You Are,” a book about women’s sexuality and the science that debunks cultural myths.


Of Hawaii 

Thank you, Olivia!



Creator of the once beloved retailer Anaise, and now HÉLÈNE, a creative studio offering photography, styling, creative direction, and model management.
Creator of the once beloved retailer Anaise, and now HÉLÈNE,...

The Influencer and entrepreneur aka @AlwaysJudging
The Influencer and entrepreneur aka @AlwaysJudging

Artist, writer and style muse.
Artist, writer and style muse.


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