Jeffrey Kalinsky is taking a step back at Nordstrom Inc., where he has been executive vice president of designer merchandising for the last eight-and-a-half years.
This story first appeared in the December 11, 2013 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
Kalinsky, who wants to flex his creative muscles, is planning to focus part of his time on projects outside Nordstrom. He’ll also continue to operate his two namesake stores, Jeffrey New York and Jeffrey in Atlanta, which Nordstrom bought in 2005, naming Kalinsky director of designer merchandising while he remained president and chief executive officer of Jeffrey Inc.
“I’ve always loved working on product,” Kalinsky said. “I’m not a designer, but I like using my experience in retail to influence product.”
Lifestyle brands, where he could provide input on men’s and women’s apparel and accessories, are of most interest. “The only other thing I’d really get a kick out of doing is styling a few well-known people,” Kalinsky said. “I think that would be a lot of fun.”
Kalinsky said that “if there were a particular designer I really loved who needed help financially, from an investor point of view, and needed help from a retail standpoint so that they could have a better product and better business, I could nurture them.” He said he could also present investment options to Nordstrom, adding, “I have always brought opportunities to Pete [Nordstrom, president of merchandising,] that I thought would be beneficial to the company and I will continue to do that. I could see Nordstrom investing in a young American designer.”
Pete Nordstrom said he was open to Kalinsky’s ideas. “I learned a long time ago, it’s good to be open-minded,” he said. “That door’s always open. I fully anticipate we’ll continue to work on stuff. As a recent example, we hired Olivia Kim [as director of creative projects. Prior to that, Kim was vice president of creative at Opening Ceremony]. That’s because Jeffrey introduced us to her. It wasn’t like we had a specific job we were filling. If not for Jeffrey and that introduction, it wouldn’t have happened. Also, Jeffrey was responsible for the Jason Wu collaboration we had in the last year. Freeing him up to pursue more creative things will ultimately benefit us.”
Kalinsky will retain many of his responsibilities, including choosing the product for Nordstrom’s marketing campaigns and twice-yearly, 16-page advertising portfolio in Vogue. “I’ll continue to be involved in the designer marketing in general,” he said. “I’m going to support the ‘By Jeffrey’ edits for the Web site and some p.r. initiatives. I want to continue to be a part of the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund. I’ll work on special strategic things for Pete, like collaborations such as Miss Wu. We need to continue those. I’ll also be involved in the flagship remodels and, as we enter Canada, different store planning and strategic decisions about designer shops.”
Kalinsky will no longer be chief designer merchant, as reflected in his new title, vice president and designer fashion director. “I’ve been the person out there knocking on the distribution doors on behalf of the company,” he said. “I won’t be that person. I won’t be signing off on the divisional budget each season. But I’ll be there to support all the merchants as they would like.”
Nordstrom said the company will hire someone to take over the responsibilities Kalinsky is relinquishing. “Ultimately, for us to continue to make the progress we want to make, we have to invest against that,” Nordstrom said. He maintained that the company’s progress in bringing designers on board “has really been fantastic. It’s beyond what we initially thought we could accomplish together.”
Kalinsky’s move was called “a natural evolution from where we started,” by Nordstrom. “He still has a chance to make a very big impact going forward. He’s developed all these great relationships internally and he has the relationships externally. When we invested in his business, we said, ‘We want to be able to leverage your talent.’ Jeffrey has always been very honest with all of us in a very constructive way.”
As for Jeffrey New York, Kalinsky said nothing will change. “Very early on, we said if [retail expansion] is something you want, we will absolutely support it,” Nordstrom said. “If it’s something you’re not in favor of, that’s fine, too. That’s not why we invested in your company.”
“I have no desire to expand,” said Kalinsky. “I’m happy with my two children. About the only thing I think I have to do is get some sort of e-commerce.”