Nordstrom Live Comes to Life
At this immersive event, our best brands engage our best people in fashion conversations that inform the exciting season ahead.
By Britt Burritt
"I paint fashion stories," says Misa Hylton, the iconic stylist behind hip-hop legends like Missy Elliott, Mary J. Blige and Lil' Kim's most memorable looks. Hylton is speaking to a sympathetic audience—Nordstrom star stylists and sellers from stores across North America—all gathered at Milk Studios in New York for a week of runway presentations and discussions with fashion designers, founders, editors and stylists.
"Everyone wants to feel special. It's up to us to make that happen," Hylton tells the room about the role of fashion experts. She's presenting with luxury label MCM, whose leather goods have devoted fans among logo lovers and rap musicians. Attendees hang on Hylton's styling cues and deep dive into the influence of hip-hop on fashion. At the end of the week, the several hundred employees will take this information back to their stores to share with colleagues and customers, along with other insights culled from the over 40 brands attending Nordstrom Live.
The palette for painting fashion stories this spring is joyful exuberance, according to Nordstrom Senior Fashion Director Shannon Schafer. "No more chromophobia! Embrace color this season," she urges the crowd (who don't seem to need encouragement to wear bold styles themselves). "Think dreamy pastels and tangy sorbets," she suggests.
Men's Fashion Director Ryan Guinn shares similar trend forecasts. Preppy cuts and stripes invite even more exuberance for the gentlemen this season. "This is all about impact color and impact scale," says Guinn, suggesting stylists play with proportions by mixing different colored and sized patterns. VP of Men's Fashion Sam Lobban then speaks about the evolution of menswear at Nordstrom and announces future (yet under wraps) exclusive designer collaborations and capsule collections.
New-to-Nordstrom brands like Alex Mill and ANINE BING share styling insights for creating an everyday uniform. "Edit your closet and just have those badass pieces," Anine Bing tells attendees. "I love a good blazer. You just throw it on over anything and it instantly makes you look better." Customer favorites like the globetrotting romantic Ulla Johnson, LA-cool Staud, the urban moms of Veronica Beard, Italian menswear line Boglioli and Brooklyn sneaker company GREATS present this season too.
"What Nordstrom does well is the education process of the sales team for each individual brand," says Ryan Babenzien, founder of GREATS. "You all ask a lot of good questions."
"So many of the brands we partner with are just as customer obsessed as Nordstrom is," says Aleks Arteaga, a department manager in Austin, Texas. "That's totally the backbone of our brand."
Introduced by a string quartet playing Led Zeppelin's "Immigrant Song," Vans Global Brand President Doug Palladini reinforces this shared motivation by revealing that he worked the sales floor at a San Diego Nordstrom store throughout college. "It taught me how to serve the customer and what good retail really looks like. It's amazing now that I work for Vans to walk in there. We have a sense of pride when we come into your environments and see our product so well represented, and the same sense of serving the customer."
Nordstrom Live occurs in both spring and fall, and will expand to include designer collections this October, coinciding with the opening of Nordstrom's Tower in Manhattan. The immersive event shapes the customer experience by bolstering employees' brand and trend know-how. Every presentation is captured digitally and made available as a platform to all Nordstrom employees via a digital app that's as easy to scroll as Instagram.
"Being here among these fashion industry experts makes you feel like you're part of that family," says Torey Thorpe, a sales manager from Nordstrom Montgomery Mall in Bethesda, Maryland. "I feel like I can leave here today and go back to my store and empower them to send that same message to their customers, help them get excited about the brands just like I am now."
And it's not all product talk. This season Nordstrom Live's runway presentations included size 2, 12 and 16 models. On the heels of her own walk in 11 Honoré's New York Fashion Week show, plus-size model, journalist and entrepreneur Lauren Chan led a panel including Nordstrom Director of PR Pamela Lopez; designer Tanya Taylor; Patrick Herning, CEO and founder of 11 Honoré; and Nicolette Mason, founder of Premme, to discuss progress made and to come around size inclusivity.
Nordstrom now carries over 200 extended-size brands and is committed to representing more on the floor and in its marketing. "We realized we have an opportunity to serve our customers better if we just have more sizes," Lopez shares. "So we went to some of our best brands and asked them to make more."
"You make that sound super easy," Chan responds.
"It was super hard work," Lopez answers her honestly. But it's been well worth it.
"Inclusivity in sizes, gender, color and even culture, I think Nordstrom is leading the way and designers are following," says department manager Patty Sanjurjo of Palm Beach, Florida. "It's just amazing that I am in a company that is creating that path for fashion."
Join the conversation! See and shop the looks at Nordstrom Live Spring 2019.