Explore Seattle

Curating Cool in Fashion: An Interview With Olivia Kim

Nordstrom's director of creative projects shares her picks for food, fashion and sights in Seattle.

Olivia Kim is a busy woman. She seeks out the very best in fresh, cool products from around the world, which means she travels—a lot. Where caught up with the New York City transplant to talk Pop-In Shops (check it out in person at the flagship Nordstrom, 500 Pine St.), fashion and what she won’t leave home without.

What is a Pop-In Shop?

My role at Nordstrom is the director of creative projects, and one of the initiatives I work on here is the Pop-In at Nordstrom. It’s a monthly, curated pop-up shop in our stores. We either introduce a theme or partner with a designer. We bring all this fun, new, cool product. A lot of the time the product is exclusive to us. And every four weeks, we tear it down.

The whole point of it is we really want to have something engaging for our customer. I think that Nordstrom has such nostalgia for so many people growing up, and what we wanted to do was create something that felt young and modern and fun. Maybe we can show them something new and cool.

Pop-In Shop at Nordstrom
A previous Pop-In Shop (Courtesy Nordstrom)

How do you find the great products in the Pop-Ins?

I’m super curious and I travel all the time, so I’m always just bopping around, looking for cool things. Really, it’s things I happen to be excited about at that moment. Whatever I think is fun and happening in fashion, culture, art and then curating that to make sense for our customer. Everyone is always super excited about doing stuff with us.

What can people see at the latest Pop-In?

September is called TMRW TGTHR. It’s about really trying to represent brands that are doing socially responsible agendas. It’s brands that are either creating clothing from 100-percent-recycled plastic bottles to local brands that are working within their communities to brands that are giving back to charity to brands that are fully self-sustained. Within those larger categories we’re doing everything from clothing, accessories, jewelry, footwear, art, technology: a little something for everybody. Everybody has a really good story to tell. We’re kind of contributing to a bigger cause.

What are the most exciting things happening in fashion right now?

I guess I’m really into the fact that fashion is being so conscious right now. It started with the likes of Stella McCartney, and her doing a line that promised to be animal- and cruelty-free. There are so many brands that are taking that stance as well. That’s really exciting. People are finding different alternatives to fur and to leather, and just really being conscious.

I really love the mix of really incorporating art into fashion: I’m a huge art fan, so that’s been really exciting.

Who are a few of your favorite designers?

I love Rei Kawakubo from Comme des Garçons. I really think that Thom Browne from a menswear point of view—I like the fact that he’s always marched to his own beat. I love what Kenzo’s been doing with a relaunch of their brand.

Any must-haves for fall?

Gotta have a really great coat, something warm. I’m supper into outerwear, so I love the idea of having one great parka, one great leather jacket, one great blazer. Having great outerwear is important.

It was impossible to miss that everything on the runway was chunky oversized, yummy, delicious knitwear.

What has surprised you most about Seattle?

I grew up in New York City, so I’m so used to the crowds, the buildings, the architecture. I think the thing that most surprised me is how beautiful it is. There’s so much green everywhere. It’s an explosion of neon Technicolor green when it’s in its prime. Just to see how involved nature is in this city.

I also love how polite everybody is here. People love holding doors for you. It’s so nice.

Favorite restaurant?

The food here is incredible. On any given night I can always go to The Whale Wins in Fremont. I love TanakaSan in Belltown. I really like Oddfellows for brunch on Capitol Hill.

What is your favorite bar?

My favorite bar by far is the bar at Canlis. I love Walt, the piano player, because he plays all these incredible piano songs. They have the most amazing truffle fries, and they have this really fun little Hawaiian drink there. It’s called the Halekulani Cocktail. It’s so nice.

Favorite Seattle landmark?

That giant, red popsicle in Belltown. I think it’s so funny and cute and hilarious. It’s so sweet and fun. That’s what public art should be.

Seattle Art Museum
Seattle Art Museum (©Ben Benschneider)

Do you have a favorite museum?

I love the Henry Art Gallery at UW [the University of Washington]. I think they have really great public programs. It’s a nice, small-size museum. I love SAM [Seattle Art Museum]: in September they have this incredible pop art show coming up.

Favorite local designer?

There’s a girl and this guy, and their studio is called Ladies and Gentlemen Studio. They are a design studio and they do really great small objects, jewelry, furniture, mobiles, home stuff.

What is one thing visitors should check out while they’re in town?

I’d say Pioneer Square. I think that it’s so beautiful down there. The buildings are all historic; it’s so incredible. There’s a lot of great restaurants popping up, a lot of great stores. I like the vibe they’ve got going down there.

You travel a lot. Window or aisle seat?

Window seat, without a doubt.

What’s one thing you always travel with?

Cozy socks. I love this brand of socks called Tabio; they’re from Japan.

What is your favorite way to explore a new place?

Really and truly I love getting lost. I literally put on comfy sneakers and I just start walking. I think it’s the best way. I like just a general direction. Point me in the right direction, but I try not to have too many suggestions of places to go, because I feel like you miss the discovery of the place.

What is your favorite destination?


What about the No. 1 spot on your travel wish list?

The Galapagos, for sure.

Seattle skyline from Queen Anne
Seattle skyline from Queen Anne (©Bernt Rostad/Flickr)

Olivia Kim’s Perfect Day

6:20 am

Wake up, roll out of bed, switch out of my pajamas and head to yoga.
6:30 am

Yoga Life in Queen Anne is my local yoga studio. They have incredible classes and the teachers are super-talented and demonstrative. The classes are small enough that there’s tons of one-on-one, teacher-student interaction.
7:30 am

To Macrina Bakery for a yummy soy latte! I am now officially awake!
8:30 am

And we are off! Road trip! Even when you’re in the car, its always important to pack a bag of essentials: snacks, water, sun block, phone charger, small roll of toilet paper. (You never know!) We’re driving up to one of my favorite towns, Edison.
10 am

Edison, Washington, population 140! And home to one of my favorite restaurants, Tweets Café. Open only Friday-Sunday, this adorable spot has the yummiest salads, cookies, treats, juices and a menu that is always locally based and seasonal. There is also a super, well-curated, antiques-and-found-objects store, Hedgerow, that has eclectic tastes from Americana heritage items to mid-century modern.
11:30 am

Take the ferry from Anacortes headed to Friday Harbor on San Juan Island! Drive on the ferry, get out and sit on the upper level and soak in that Pacific Northwest air.
1 pm

Friday Harbor in San Juan Island is a charming seaport that has a true relaxed and quaint island vibe. There are tons of activities here from whale-watching, kayaking, biking, hiking, but my favorite is the scoot coupe! It’s a tiny electric car that fits just two people. I love driving this all around the island and to Lime Kiln Point State Park, which is considered to be one of the best places in the world to view whales from land. There are trails here that take you through wooded terrain or down to the rocky beach. Explore!
2:30 pm

Head back to town and grab a bite at Backdoor Kitchen. Sit outside in the patio and have a refreshing glass of rosé!
3:30 pm

Back on the ferry!
6 pm

Back in Seattle, just in time to freshen up for dinner!
7 pm

Dinner at Canlis—start with a Hawaiian cocktail, truffle french fries and piano music by Walt at the bar. He plays everything from Depeche Mode to Jay-Z. Canlis is inside a mid-century modern home overlooking Lake Union. There’s not a bad view in the house!
9:30 pm

Quick scoop of vegan ice cream from Molly Moon’s. (They have traditional ice cream in not-so-traditional flavors including early grey tea and  Stumptown Coffee!)
10:30 pm

Adventures galore! Belly full! Good night ...