In today’s social media saturated, “see now, buy now” world of light speed fashion weeks, spotting the next big thing in fashion is tough. Nordstrom’s latest in-store concept space, dubbed “The Lab,” is taking the talent spotting challenge head on, and introducing us to some killer new designers in the process.

“As a retailer or an editor, you see so much throughout the season. You’re just processing, processing, processing,” Olivia Kim, vice president of creative projects at Nordstrom, tells Allure. Rather than drown in it, that sea of inspiration sparked the launch of SPACE back in the fall of 2015. Designed to highlight emerging designers, the mini in-store boutique has showcased works by buzzy names such as pre-Balenciaga Demna Gvasalia and up-and-coming designer Simone Rocha. “Naturally in that evolution of an emerging designer, you don’t stay emerging forever,” says Kim. “There are these brands that the industry has called emerging for a while, who are rapidly become some of the most buzzed about names.”

The rapid success of these buzzy, emerging brands got her thinking about the real mission of SPACE—to showcase and support designers with raw talent who haven’t yet blown up in the cultural zeitgeist or in our Instagram feeds. So she launched The Lab, a space within SPACE that hits select Nordstrom stores today. “I had a handful of designers who were so compelling to me, but I wasn’t positive they fit into SPACE yet. Their businesses weren’t as mature as some of the other designers we have, but there was something really compelling about them that I couldn’t just let it go,” Kim says.

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A look by Vejas for Nordstrom

Courtesy of Nordstrom

The inaugural class of The Lab features pieces that are simultaneously timeless and covetable for the right now world of social media. There’s Dilara Findikoglu, known for her rebel aesthetic and empowered tailoring; Eric Schlosberg, a Parsons grad who mixes punk with a dash of princess-worthy glamour; Eckhaus Latta, the gender-blurring label known for making fashion-meets-art unisex garments; A.W.A.K.E., a Japanese-inspired take on truly unique tailored shirts, coats and dresses; and Vejas, a label known for it’s emotive mix of hard and soft aesthetics. “They all have this rawness and youthfulness that is so interesting, but they also have such ambition, vision, and determination,” Kim says. “I wanted to support them because they have such awesome stories, or there was something in the collections that we fell in love with.”

For Kim, falling in love with an emerging designer is about more than just spotting cool new aesthetics. “There are so many designers out there that make great looking clothes. For me, it’s about the full package—who the designer is, what they stand for, what kind of audience they are trying to reach,” she says. “There’s something in the way they’re passionate and authentic about why they’re doing what they’re doing.”

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A look by Dilara Findikoglu for Nordstrom

Courtesy of Nordstrom

In today’s political climate—and particularly the political controversy involving Nordstrom—Kim finds the “why” behind a designers mission to be even more important. “It is inspiring looking at designers like Dilara, for example, who is an incredibly strong woman and uses her collection as an extension of what she’s trying to do and say,” she says. “She has such a powerful message, and everything she does comes from such a sensitive and strong feminine point of view.”

You can check out the cool new class of up-and-comers online at Nordstrom.com today.

A look by Eric Schlosberg for Nordstrom

Courtesy of Nordstrom

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A look by A.W.A.K.E. for Nordstrom

Courtesy of Nordstrom


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