“You are coming into our home. Welcome.”
If the walls of an EVEREVE store could talk, that’s what Kari Ihle would want them to say. The director of environmental design, planning, and maintenance for the clothing store wants to create spaces that interact with the customers passing through, and her role affords her that opportunity. From design to construction to upkeep, Ihle has a hand in every step. “It’s fun that I get to do everything,” she says. “To lead the process from start to finish is exciting and invigorating.”
Working across the spectrum helps Ihle be a better leader. Her collaborative team of three realizes EVEREVE‘s vision, a reimagining of retail experience and “joy to customers, one outfit at a time.”
While originally aimed only at new moms, the company recently expanded its reach, bringing the promised joy and styling to a wide range of customers. Despite the broader clientele, the company remains focused on “complete individuals.” Each store is segmented into “shops” with clothing aligned by color or “look,” with every area intricately planned. Ihle arranges seating areas by checkout counters and children’s play spaces by dressing rooms to enhance the friendly atmosphere, inviting guests to stay a while. The dressing rooms themselves boast layouts that facilitate shoppers and stylists working together to create looks and manage choices.
Ihle’s profound belief in the happiness that EVEREVE brings to its customers is born of a personal experience she had. The first time she went shopping as a new mom, her baby became inconsolable and she was immediately overwhelmed. “I had these thoughts like, ‘Maybe I’ll never be able to shop again.’ It felt like everyone was staring at me and judging.”
Not long after this, she went into an EVEREVE (then Hot Mama) store. “It was totally different,” she remembers. Everyone was excited to see her child and offered to help out and hold the baby. The calmness and comfort she felt inspired her to take a part-time job with the company for a while. In 2014, she was asked to move into her current position.
Ihle’s job demands that she stay current on a huge expanse of skills and that she has a hand in all of EVEREVE’s properties. Overseeing the internal process and operations for new store design and layout also means working with external partners, architects, and general contractors. Once stores are up and running, Ihle is on point to make sure everything goes smoothly. When something even as basic as lightbulbs going out or restrooms not functioning, she makes sure problems are resolved. To achieve all this, she recognizes that “our vendor partners are part of the team,” and she fosters relationships to ensure that expectations are clear and met.
Partners that consider environmental impact are essential to Ihle’s team. Since 2010 she has held a LEED accreditation, and sustainability is a passion for her. She recognizes that her field has a massive impact on the environment. Ihle is in the process of growing a local think tank chapter of architects, general contractors, engineers, designers, property owners, city officials, and other industry leaders interested in considering environmental directions in the profession.
In her own work at EVEREVE, Ihle examines ways to infuse sustainable practices into spaces she designs. For example, EVEREVE no longer distributes plastic water bottles, instead installing or retrofitting bottle filling dispensers in stores. They work with suppliers to decrease plastics on job sites and intentionally partner with companies that have their own environmental standards.
EVEREVE has also made huge changes to their back of house spaces. Instead of built-in cabinets, under Ihle’s direction, the company opts for more mobile shelving and wall systems. This has resulted in an increase in efficiency. It also means that Ihle can have everything moved when they shift spaces, instead of ripping out and putting in new cabinets. She says, “We are making new plans for moving and altering,” explaining that the company will continue to look for design choices that increase efficiencies and sustainability.
As EVEREVE continues to remake their image Ihle has partnered in efforts over the past two years to introduce art into store environments. Partnering with artists like Ashley Mary and Kristi Kohut, Evereve has added murals and other pieces to the internal and external spaces of some stores. Pictura was a key partner in the design of its custom wallcovering for the fitting rooms.
All of this work happens in partnership. “I am very proud and feel fortunate to be able to support these companies and individuals through the work I do at Evereve,” Ihle says. It’s not every retailer that allows and encourages you to look outside of the typical and least expensive avenues for finishes and design work, much less seeking out companies that are woman-owned, local, small businesses to help support their own growth.”
For Ihle, her work not only brings joy to EVEREVE customers, it brings joy to herself.