Olivia Kim’s Ultrafragola mirror marked a personal milestone for the professional tastemaker

What makes a purchase “worth it”? The answer is different for everyone, so we ask some of the coolest, most shopping savvy people we know, from small business owners to designers, artists and actorsto tell us the story of one of their most prized possessions.

Who?

Olivia Kim has always enjoyed creating environments. Though you might recognize the tastemaker’s name from the days she spent leading creative at Opening Ceremony or her Nike-exclusive collaboration with Nordström (where she currently serves as VP of Creative and Home Projects), the multi-hyphenate has always been keen to curate collections that reflect her eclectic design ethos. “I don’t like one vibe, it just doesn’t feel very special to me,” she says, referencing her love of bold color combinations and unique texture. “I like the idea that there is beauty in the mess.” Now based in Seattle with her husband, the couple’s four-year-old daughter, and her mother (who lives with the family full-time), Olivia uses her talent to define “the next big thing” for Nordstrom’s retail experiences. , making sense of an endless influx of inspirations by insisting that what matters is “just how you put it together”.

Olivia (pictured in her Seattle home) calls her Ultrafragola mirror “one of my favorite things I own”, adding that it’s the only full-length mirror in the family home

Photo: Carina Srobecki

What?

The only object that Olivia will never part with is her Ultrafragola Mirror. Originally designed by Memphis Pioneer Ettore Sottsass in 1970, the photogenic mirror has had a viral moment in recent years thanks to endorsements from celebrities such as Frank Ocean, Kendall Jenner, Bella Hadid, and much more. For Olivia, however, the piece has always been iconic. Describing its unique shape and playful neon glow as “timeless”, she compares it to a classic watch or the perfect black dress that never gets old. “I love that this mirror got its fame and glory, considering that when it was designed, people laughed at it,” she says.

Although she recognized earlier the inherent cool factor of the mirror and the avant-garde genius of Sottsass, Olivia has a democratic attitude towards design that she admires. “I think design should never feel like it’s so valuable that it can’t be shared,” she says. Practicing this belief, the mirror’s youngest fan is Olivia’s daughter, Cleo. Set in the middle of the family’s busy living room, the esteemed light fixture has an unexpected admirer in the energetic four-year-old, but mainly because “pink is her favorite color”.

When?

A lifelong admirer MemphisOlivia puts her finger on her fixation with the 1980s design movement on the colorful Esprit stores of the same decade. “I’ve always wanted to be able to afford Memphis furniture, but you kind of have to earn your way up there,” she explains. She also acknowledges that it’s not exactly the most convenient (or affordable) option. When she launched Space at Nordstrom in 2015, Olivia knew the mirror would be a key element in bringing to life the retail experience she had envisioned.

With the in-store boutique focused on spotlighting emerging and advanced designers, she captured the essence of the boutique by outfitting the space with recognizable fixtures – like pieces from the Memphis era – mixed with the work of young emerging talents in design. Living vicariously through store mirrors at first, she eventually acquired one for herself a few years later while hosting a Memphis Milan Exhibition at Nordstrom’s flagship in Seattle. “It was just the right time to be able to have him in our house too,” Olivia recalls.

From Milan with love: arriving from Italy in an “incredibly massive”;  wooden crate adorned with designs of Ultrafragola's signature waves, the furniture could only be unboxed with the help of a crowbar, Olivia recalls.

From Milan with love: Arrived from Italy in an “incredibly massive” wooden crate adorned with designs of Ultrafragola’s iconic waves, the furniture could only be unpacked with a crowbar, Olivia remembers.

Photo: Carina Srobecki

Where?

Even though Olivia knew the Ultrafragola was what she wanted to bind space, finding the mirrors proved to be quite the challenge. Made in Italy by Poltronova – the same Italian furniture makers who first produced the reflectors in 1970 – each massive Ultrafragola had to embark on a long journey across the Atlantic before reaching a Nordstrom display case. Determined to go all the way, she enlisted longtime friend Keith Johnson, an original Memphis collector and president of Urban architectureto help.

Keith first brought Memphis to the United States in 1981 after attending his original debut in Milan, eventually becoming a close friend and business associate of the late Ettore Sottsass. Later expanding his curated offerings to Poltronova items in 2011 (including, of course, Ultrafragolas), Keith recalls bonding with Olivia over their shared love of radical design and all things Sottsass. After working out the logistics with Poltronova, he was able to procure all of Nordstrom’s Ultrafragolas in addition to Olivia’s.

Why?

Olivia's mirror pairs well with Knoll's Bertoia chairs and some of Cleo's favorite toys.

Olivia’s mirror pairs well with Knoll’s Bertoia chairs and some of Cleo’s favorite toys.

Photo: Carina Srobecki

Standing in the living room surrounded by all of Cleo’s toys, the mirror is less intimidating and strikes an unexpected up-down balance that she loves. “It’s something that really brings us joy,” says Olivia. “It’s pretty silly, but it still represents an artist and designer who we have so much respect for and who meant a lot to me, personally and also professionally.” While many may associate the Ultrafragola’s current ubiquity with social media notoriety and celebrity hype, it will never just be a trend for Olivia. “It’s easy to go take a selfie if you find one,” she says. “But being able to live with it on a daily basis and have your daughter dance to Whitney Houston in front? Like, that’s so cool.

Original Ultrafragola mirror designed by Ettore Sottsass for Poltronova

$9339.00, 1stDibs

Ultrafragola mirror by Ettore Sottsass

$11500.00, 1stDibs

For those interested, the Ultrafragola Mirror by Ettore Sottsass is also available for purchase through Nordstrom Home NYC. Please call 212-295-2000 for more information.

Originally appeared on Architectural Summary

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