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If anyone is caught up with the Kardashians at this point, it must be Hoda Kotb. The co-host of the fourth hour of the “Today” show spent Monday through Friday of last week, dubbed “Kardashian week” on air, with a rotation of members of America’s premiere reality TV family. They were filling in as guest hosts for Kathie Lee Gifford. Monday was Khloé; Tuesday, Bruce Jenner; Wednesday, Kris, the mom; Thursday, Kourtney and, finally, on Friday it was Kim, the lady of the four-hour E wedding special, “Kim’s Fairytale Wedding: A Kardashian Event,” which everyone was there to plug.
The special chronicles every last detail of her elaborate August wedding to NBA player Kris Humphries; part one aired Sunday and part two airs tonight.
Gifford happens to be a longtime friend of the family, and is even godmother to the two youngest of the brood, Kendall and Kylie Jenner, but the “Today” gig had less to do with that connection than the creation of a little cross-network synergy, since the Kardashians and “Today” now find themselves under the same corporate conglomerate, NBCUniversal.
Still, what was more surprising: the fact that Matt Lauer, who is known for his stealth evisceration of reality types during interviews, was overtly fawning over Kim, or that the Kardashians were booked for a weeklong stint on an institution of American morning television, period? It’s another example of how the Kardashians have rewritten the book on branding.
“We look up to people like Kathy Ireland and Jaclyn Smith, people who have had long-standing brands,” said Kim, a month before, when she and her sisters were in the midst of another publicity blitz in New York to launch and promote the Kardashian Kollection at Sears.
In between a morning full of radio appearances, taping the “Late Show With David Letterman” and the Sears launch party held at Annie Leibovitz’s Greenwich Village studio, they posed for a WWD photo shoot. They showed up decked in styles from their Sears collection, which looked much more expensive than it is, and designer shoes (Kim, 30, in Louboutin; Kourtney, 32, in Tom Ford; Khloé, 27, in Charlotte Olympia) with a camera crew, and a handful of hair and makeup people in tow.
With all due respect to Ireland and Smith, who are beautiful and have legitimate businesses, they do not have the tenacity of the Kardashians.
“Lamar [Odom, Khloé’s husband and forward for the L.A. Lakers] and I have a unisex fragrance, Unbreakable, which is also at Sears and our Dash stores,” said Khloé. “Kim has three fragrances that are at Sears and our Dash stores. Kourtney is in the process of getting her fragrance. We have our QVC line, which is K-Dash. We have Kardashian Kollection at Sears. We have an Australian handbag collection, which is like our Sears line but sold in Australia. We have ‘Kardashian Konfidential,’ our book, which is being relaunched in November with extra chapters and extra photos. We have a new novel coming out called ‘Dollhouse.’ We have OPI nail polishes called Kardashian Kolors, which will be out in November on Black Friday. I’m working on a second unisex fragrance with Lamar. And we have the TV shows that we all do.”
Don’t forget QuickTrim, Skechers and a multiseason collaboration with Bebe, Kim’s stake in ShoeDazzle, an e-commerce site for shoes, and Khloé and Lamar’s ads for Wonderful Pistachios. There have been jewelry collaborations, Carl’s Jr. ads and one ill-fated credit card deal.
So far, the Sears deal is the deal, which they plan to expand to home, baby and denim.
“This is our lifetime brand,” said Khloé. “It was always our goal but we never thought it would be in a department store. We thought it would be in our store.”
People love to lump the Kardashians in the “famous for being famous” lot. But before they went reality, they were retailers with a small but legitimate business. Kris’ mother had owned a children’s store — Shannon & Co. — in La Jolla, Calif., where Kris grew up. In 2006, the sisters opened Dash, their first clothing store, which has since expanded to Miami and SoHo in New York. Fashion was always their thing.
The store has featured prominently in the six seasons of “Keeping Up With the Kardashians” and four spin-offs, the latest of which, “Kourtney and Kim Take New York,” is filming now through the end of this month. The premise there is newlyweds Kim and Kris Humphries share a two-story suite at the Hotel Gansevoort on Park Avenue with Kourtney, her boyfriend Scott Disick, and their son, Mason. All of the shows capture the females of the family running around town dressed to the nines.
Kris Jenner, the matriarch and family manager, says the fashion/beauty branding lightbulb went off after the first season when requests for fashion and beauty credits came rolling in.
“They truly love fashion,” said Vera Wang, who’s been friends with the Jenners since she and Bruce judged the Miss America Pageant together in 1995. “A lot of times, fashion can be too cool for school and they’re unapologetic about it. I think they encourage other girls to embrace it.” Wang designed Khloé’s custom bridal gown and Kim’s three dresses, as well as all the bridesmaids’ ensembles for the big day. Even before she started designing Kim’s dresses, Wang said there were plans to include versions of them in the next collection, which will be shown in two weeks. She said she didn’t know what the impact of all the exposure had been on her business.