How a Nordstrom Fashion Executive Handles Holiday Shopping

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Successful women talk about managing their careers, and their lives. Photo-Illustration: by The Cut; Photo: Joe Schildhorn/BFA Rickie De Sole is a bonafide fashion veteran. She started her career as an assistant at Vanity Fair, followed by three years in PR at Prada. From there, she went to Vogue, where […]

Photo-Illustration: by The Cut; Photo: Joe Schildhorn/BFA

Rickie De Sole is a bonafide fashion veteran. She started her career as an assistant at Vanity Fair, followed by three years in PR at Prada. From there, she went to Vogue, where she remained for twelve years, holding various roles in print and digital until finally becoming Executive Fashion Director of the site in 2020. Then, one year ago, De Sole decided to bring her talents somewhere new: retail. Today she is the Women’s Designer Fashion & Editorial Director at Nordstrom. Her role involves working with teams across the U.S. and in Seattle, and getting in face time with designers and brands in the showrooms and at fashion weeks. One of the most exciting parts of the job, she says, is helping smaller brands grow and giving them a platform with SPACE, the company’s boutique shopping experience. When she’s not connecting with her team, she’s in meetings and at events, or listening to audiobooks and podcasts on her way to work. She’s currently revisiting old favorites like Joan Didion’s The Year of Magical Thinking.  

As the holidays approach, she’s curating gift guides and styling guides with her team (while grabbing a few gifts herself — it helps when your office is above a department store.) So how does a Nordstrom expert shop? Her philosophy is to buy it when you see it, whether it’s something cute for you or a future gift for someone you find impossible to shop for. Just don’t forget you bought it. Another tip: Food and snacks make good, easy gifts for colleagues. After the holiday rush there is downtime, which she dedicates to her family. She lives in New York City with her husband, three and half year old son, and two year old daughter. Here, how she gets it done.

On her morning routine: 
I wake up around 6:30 to the sound of my two small children. Mornings tend to be very hectic around our household, trying to get everyone out the door. I do a quick email scan — I’m one of those people who needs to wake up and check my phone and see if there’s any crisis. If there is, I address that and then move on. I’m very lucky that my husband sets the brew every night so that a cup of coffee is ready first thing in the morning. Despite my mad rush I always carve out time for a quick beauty routine, but it is minimal at best. My mornings are not about me, they’re about my kids.

On a typical work day:
If I’m here in the city and not traveling, I drop the kids off before heading to the office or to market appointments. Nordstrom is a Seattle-based retailer, so mornings tend to be quieter on the meeting front. I prioritize getting in-person meetings and showroom visits done then and saving the afternoon to do more on-the-computer Zoom calls with my colleagues across the country.

I do prefer to do meetings in person. There’s some magic that happens when you meet people in real life. That exchange of ideas is so integral to a role like mine. I work really closely with a lot of different teams at Nordstrom and can often be the glue between buying teams, marketing teams, event teams, and then also certainly liaising with the brands themselves. So much of my role is about bubbling up what’s happening in fashion, whether it’s new brands or trends that we’re seeing. The thing about working in this role, and in fashion in general, is that no two days are the same. I think that’s why we all thrive. Fashion is always evolving and always changing and my day is reflective of that.

On the most stressful part of her job:
The pace of the industry has picked up so much. Coming out of the pandemic we’re still so focused on meetings on the computer that I forget to factor in travel time when coordinating and navigating the endless market schedule and getting around the city. But that’s also what makes my job great. It’s fun, and you never know what you’re gonna see when you walk into a showroom. Brands may surprise you or there might be creative direction changes and suddenly you’re seeing a brand in a new light.

I’m also working with colleagues across the country. During the shows is when I feel it the most, because I’m in Milan and Paris and then I’ve got colleagues in Seattle. Fashion Week always sounds fun and glamorous, and it is, but you have a full workday and inbox. You come home from the shows and dinners and you sit down in the middle of the night to catch up on email while Seattle is still open. That takes some getting used to.

On the importance of being nimble:
If I ever had to give a tagline to how I see my role, from my time at Vogue to Prada, and now my role at Nordstrom, it’s “finding solutions.” A lot of times it’s about reframing. If I’m feeling pushback, I do not back down easily, and sometimes I have to come up with a different approach. It’s about rethinking how I’m going to get what I need to accomplish done.

On the holiday shopping season:
We’re making sure we’re putting the best product in front of our customers. Frankly, I’m all about sparkle and shine. I love a gift guide. I think that’s my editorial background at play because I did so much of that at Vogue. Being able to curate from Nordstrom’s assortment for the holidays is a big part of what I do and what I love about the holidays.

On managing stress:
De-stressing is taking a pause. I try to take emotion out of it, take a deep breath, call a friend, then get back to the task at hand or whatever’s stressing me out. When I have free time, wellness tends to be the thing that de-stresses me, like going to acupuncture or getting a massage.

On winding down:
During my evenings there are a lot of work commitments. Weekends for me are my downtime. I really try to prioritize family time on the weekends. I do always have my phone in my hand, and I think it drives my husband nuts. Even on vacation days I’m available because I hate to turn it off and then turn it back on and have to pick up where I left off. I get more anxious when things accumulate as opposed to taking care of them in the moment.

This interview has been edited and condensed for length and clarity.

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