Nordstrom social-media maven shares a passion for fashion
July 26, 2011
By Warren Kagarise
The palatial Nordstrom flagship store almost doubles as a closet for Sanda Belaire, a designer saleswoman at the downtown Seattle landmark.
In a 21st-century spin on renowned Nordstrom customer service, Belaire uses Facebook, Twitter and other tools to invite others to explore the fashion fantasyland, exchange ideas about the latest looks and select items for customers. The longtime Issaquah-area resident seamlessly melds chic and geek as a designer saleswoman and social-media maven for the Elle-and-Vogue set.
“I’m a firm believer in keeping up with technology,” she said. “You have to keep up with the world or it leaves you behind.”
Belaire shares snippets — a fire-engine-red Gucci dress, a Dolce & Gabbana lace sheath, a Jason Wu coat trimmed in ostrich feathers and velvet Miu Miu pumps attached to oversized bows, not unlike gifts beneath a Christmas tree — in iPhone photos posted to Twitter and Tumblr, popular social media sites.
“Twitter is another door into the store,” she said.
In 2008, Belaire joined the microblogging site and, a year later, created a popular account dedicated solely to style. The smartphone snapshots and 140-character musings reach almost 3,000 followers nowadays.
“I love meeting and engaging with people and have met great people through Twitter,” she said. “I’m a social person — social media is a great way of meeting new people.”
The brief bio — 160-character limit — posted on Belaire’s profile also includes a pronunciation guide for Sanda.
“I’ve been called Sandra or Sand-a most of my life but it rhymes with Wanda,” she said.
Sanda means “moon” in Burmese.
From Cher to Carrie Bradshaw
Belaire’s interest in fashion predates the shift to social media — and even the 26-year career she crafted at Nordstrom.
“I remember seeing Cher on the Sonny and Cher variety show and being fascinated by which Bob Mackie creation she would wear each week,” she said. “Cher was very much the Lady Gaga of my generation in terms of pushing the fashion envelope.”
In life-imitates-art moments, “I designed and sewed Cher clothes for my Malibu Barbies,” Belaire said. “I drew fashion illustration and portraits throughout high school and was struck by the artistry and beauty of well-designed clothing.”
So, just out of high school, she joined Nordstrom. (Belaire is 47 and looks 20 years younger.)
On the Web
In all of the years spent on Nordstrom sales floors, she noticed some trends repeat like reruns on late-night TV. In the same timeframe, fashion also evolved into a more democratic institution, in part because “Sex and the City” turned Manolo Blahnik into a household name.
Like Carrie Bradshaw, Belaire often mixes designer duds and discoveries from vintage-clothing shops. (Belaire dons “Costco clothes” — often a T-shirt and leggings — on days off.)
Belaire — outfitted in a Chloé dress beneath a scarlet Jil Sander coat, and perched atop Marni heels from Stella Vintage in downtown Issaquah — said smart selections offer a crucial confidence boost.
“Clothes can be a superficial thing, but if you feel good internally, you present that externally,” she said as the flagship store readied for Nordstrom Anniversary Sale, a Christmas-in-July event for fashionistas.
Role revolves around fashion, friends
The emphasis on social media and technology is important, but old-fashioned customer service remains a key part of Belaire’s job.
“There is no typical day for me at Nordstrom, which I love,” she said. “Each day is full of the variety of new customers, friends and, best of all, new merchandise.”
The married mother of a young son and daughter said style can fit into any budget. Still, temptations abound in Nordstrom — acre upon acre of accessories, clothes and shoes.
“The rewards are the relationships you form. My customers and coworkers have become lifelong friends,” Belaire said. “The fabulous fashions, shoes and handbags are a reward and a challenge — it’s hard not to spend my paycheck back in the store.”
Belaire, born in Myanmar, or Burma, settled in the Issaquah area 17 years ago after a stint in West Seattle.
Belaire’s children attended Maple Hills Elementary and Maywood Middle schools. Between responsibilities at Nordstrom, she volunteers at Maple Hills in the library and in the art docent program.
The social-media connection is a part of life beyond the marble floors at the flagship store.
“People say, ‘How do you have the time for Twitter?’ I actually find it time saving,” Belaire said. “I generate content from people, blogs and news that I follow so I can scroll and receive instant information all in one place. It makes the world much smaller, as I can follow people from all over the world. It’s the best morning read on the Metro from Issaquah to Seattle.”
Warren Kagarise: 392-6434, ext. 234, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Comment at www.issaquahpress.com.