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Nordstrom’s Designer Hunter on Her Favorite Finds Around the Globe

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Nordstrom’s Designer Hunter on Her Favorite Finds Around the Globe
In the colorful world of Olivia Kim, fashion and travel go hand in hand. As the vice president of creative projects for Nordstrom, she hops around the globe in search of the most forward-looking designers—and since she knows her brand’s next great idea could come from anywhere, she’s ready to be inspired as soon as she hits the ground. “I need to get in with a new city as soon as I get there,” says Kim. “That means dumping my bag in a hotel room and walking, whether I know where I’m going or not.” The designs she brings back to Seattle turn up at the retail giant’s in-store pop-up shops called Pop-In@Nordstrom; her boutique-within-a-department-store, Space; and The Lab, which features collections from edgy, emerging designers. Whether she’s strolling the streets of Paris or scrolling through Instagram at the Tokyo airport, Kim’s travels feed her imagination. Here are a few of the things that inspire her, from her favorite suitcase to one of her best flea-market finds.
By Sarah Purkrabek, AFAR Contributor
Courtesy of Simone Rocha Store
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    Fashion Made Personal
    Simone Rocha is somebody who’s able to take everything she’s going through in her personal life and translate it into garments,” says Kim. “For example, after she had a baby, her entire collection was about birthing and newness.”
    Courtesy of Simone Rocha Store
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    Silent Flight
    Kim loves noise-canceling Bose in-ear headphones—perfect for blocking out background chatter (and screaming babies) on a crowded airplane.
    Courtesy of Bose
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    Portable Tunes
    Her watermelon-colored Jambox portable speaker—made exclusively for one of Nordstrom’s early Pop-In shops—always has a space in her suitcase.
    Courtesy of Nordstrom
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    Wild Designs
    “My favorite thing about designer Dilara Findikoglu is that she’s this complete wild child, an überly creative magical being,” says Kim. “She does everything from reconstructed T-shirts with conical boobs to baby-pink tweed scarves embellished with blood-red jewels—you know, like female anatomy. There’s something so beautiful and grotesque and human about it all.”
    Courtesy of Dilara Findikoglu
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    The Design Boss
    “My favorite designer of all time is Rei Kawakubo,” says Kim. “She’s the mother of avant-garde, conceptual fashion. She’s been running Comme des Garçons for a long time, and she does it in a way that’s so boss. She doesn’t do many interviews, but she’s very hands-on with her fashion house. And for somebody at her age [74] to still be doing what she’s doing—and still be a revolutionary—is pretty amazing.”
    Photo by IMAX
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    Bringing Denmark Home
    On a recent trip to Copenhagen, Kim discovered Hay, a Danish stationery and tabletop design company. “They have this store called Hay House,” she explains. “It’s two floors, and it’s meant to look like a home. We ended up designing an entire Pop-In shop at Nordstrom based on recreating that experience.”
    Courtesy of Hay House
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    Stylish Stay
    As often as Kim checks in and out of hotels, it takes a lot for one to impress her. But she was enchanted with the all-trailer accommodations at Caravan Outpost in Ojai, California. “They have 11 Airstreams in this little lot with strung-up lights, a giant communal movie screen, and a fire pit,” she says. “It’s the cutest thing ever.”
    Courtesy of Caravan Outpost
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    A Walk in the Park
    “There’s nothing more beautiful than an English park. Regent’s Park in London is so meticulously maintained, it feels like stepping into a different time,” says Kim.
    Photo by Jamie McGregor Smith/Gallery Stock
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    Coffee Break
    Rose Bakery in Paris has the best coffee in the world,” says Kim. The wide selection of pastries includes classically decadent French pastries—rose and lemon cake, sticky toffee pudding—as well as healthier options, such as Kim’s favorite, multigrain scones.
    Photo by Aya Bracket
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    Lamp Lady
    “I’m notorious for bringing home lamps and other big or oddly shaped objects,” says Kim, who hunts for vintage Nesso lamps at the Clignancourt flea market in Paris.
    Courtesy of Stardust
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    The French Coast
    Kim likes to add pleasure to her business travel when she can. She and her husband headed to the small coastal city of Biarritz, France, after Paris Fashion Week this year, surfboards in tow.
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    Surfs Up
    “My husband and I love to surf,” says Kim, “and we have a small quiver of different boards, including a Christenson Fish with glass-on fins and a foam longboard from Catch Surf.”
    Courtesy of Christenson Surf Boards
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    A Powerful Read
    The second novel by author Hanya Yanagihara, A Little Life, is a cry-your-eyes-out sort of read. “I’m still so touched and traumatized and moved and saddened by it that I cry when I think about it, and it’s been a year since I read it,” says Kim. “I actually reached out to the author over Instagram to tell her that. It’s just such a powerful book. It will be made into a movie that’ll never be as good as the book.”
    Courtesy of Creative Commons
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    Her Best Book Friend
    “I just read The Great Gatsby for the 12th time on my flight back to Seattle from London,” says Kim. “This sounds cliché, but some of my favorite books, like this one, wind up being like best friends. They’re so comforting: You know what to expect, and they still make you happy or sad or whatever you felt when you first read them.”
    Courtesy of Creative Commons
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    Growing up in New York City didn’t prepare Kim for the rugged beauty of the Pacific Northwest. “People told me about Nirvana and coffee,” she says. “Nobody told me about the mossy rain forests, or the driftwood that has been tumbled in the ocean so much it looks like bones. La Push, a little community on the Washington coast, is especially impressive—they have a lot of oceanography camps parked out there, which, as a science nerd, really excites me.”
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    Queen of the Hills
    “I live in this super hilly neighborhood in Seattle called Queen Anne,” says Kim. “When I run there, it’s mega hard, but I love that I get to look at the old houses. I’m always taking mental notes to come back later, sans running gear, to take a closer look.”
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    Mornings in Paris
    When in Paris, Kim seeks out the Seine River on her early morning runs. “I’m literally out there with the garbage trucks,” she says with a laugh. “I always try to get lost, because at the end of the day there’s the river and this giant landmark called the Eiffel Tower; it’s easy to find my way back to the hotel.”
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    The Coolest Kicks
    “I don’t feel normal if I don’t run, so I make it a point to do it every morning, even when I travel,” says Kim. Her kicks of choice for the variety of terrains she covers? “Always Nike.”
    Courtesy of Nike
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    Running the Big Apple
    “The West Side Highway in Manhattan has been there my entire life, but I just started running on it recently,” she says. “New York has been having these incredible, wowza-moment sunsets lately, so that’s part of the allure.”
    Photo by Jay Lazarin/Getty Images
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    Forging a Path
    “There’s something really nice about going to a place and figuring it out on your own: finding your own favorite breakfast place, your own favorite walk, or your own favorite running path,” says Kim. “I always try to find something new in a foreign city, even if it’s somewhere like Tokyo, which I visit every six months or so. Last time I was there, I followed that feeling to the Sendagaya neighborhood. It isn’t on the well-trodden tourist path, but it’s full of cute shops and great restaurants.”
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    Cuckoo For Curry
    Owned, coincidently, by the founder of fashion brand A Bathing Ape, Curry Up in the Jingumae section of Tokyo, serves Indian-style curry in a design-forward space. Kim discovered the restaurant—which quickly became a new favorite—on a recent trip to Japan.
    Photo by Curry Up
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    Packing In Style
    Her ultralight, ultra-durable, hard-shell suitcases from Rimowa’s Salsa Air series have four 360-degree wheels that easily maneuver around airport corners.
    Courtesy of Rimowa
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    Flying Flawlessly
    Kim is an admitted germophobe who likes her plane seat clean. “I don't want to sound neurotic,” she says, “but literally the minute I get on the plane the first thing I do is I take out these antiseptic wipes and clean every surface. Then I can sit down, put my phone down, and get out my nasal spray and my Aesop Ginger Flight Therapy, an oil you put on your pulse points that stimulates your senses. It’s a whole routine.”
    Courtesy of Aesop
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