Nordstrom’s in-store designer boutique SPACE, developed and curated by Vice President of Creative Projects Olivia Kim, has introduced "The Lab," an incubator project to showcase and support new designers in select stores and online.
The five designers selected for the inaugural season include Eckhaus Latta label's Mike Eckhaus and Zoe Latta; LVMH Special Jury Prize winner Vejas; punk designer Eric Schlösberg; Natalia Alaverdian’s idiosyncratic fashion project A.W.A.K.E.; and London-based Turkish designer Dilara Findikoglu.
The Lab will feature new designers each season, showcasing their collections at stores in downtown Seattle, at The Grove in Los Angeles, on Michigan Avenue in Chicago, in Canada in Vancouver and Toronto and online at Nordstrom/SPACE.
In 2015, Kim launched the Space boutiques at Nordstrom stores in San Francisco, Chicago, Los Angeles, Nashville, Vancouver and online in an effort to feature her specially curated fashions. The effort is now taking a page from Silicon Valley’s concept of accelerating promising new ventures, with exclusive and custom-made items signature to each designer’s aesthetic.
"There are incredible demands on a young designer trying to grow their business, and we wanted to say ‘you may not be able to produce enough of a collection for eight stores right now and that’s okay,’” Kim said in a statement. “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. It’s true, authentic and they’re creating beautiful collections that we want to share with our customers."
Bringing in and nurturing differentiated merchandise in this way is a key move for a retailer in the struggling department store space. Nordstrom’s willingness to invest in new projects (and in this case, new designers) helps it stay at least somewhat above the fray as department stores struggle to find their place in consumers’ minds, Retail futurist Doug Stephens told Retail Dive last year.
“I think that Nordstrom has a very good sense of self,” he said. “They understand who they are and what makes them strong, but at the same time they don’t rest on those laurels. And they are a company that is in touch with technology. They aren’t afraid to try new things and experiment.”