Rob Kardashian has taken his first toe-dip into the fashion arena, following in the footsteps of celebrity siblings Kim, Khloé and Kourtney, who've used their reality TV fame — and family name — as a launch pad into myriad endorsement deals, clothing collections and fragrance formulations.
But instead of going big, the lowest-profile member of the family (whose biggest gig to date outside of "Keeping Up With the Kardashians" was a memorable stint on Season 13 of "Dancing With the Stars") has started small — but loud — with a colorful collection of men's dress socks that debuted at Neiman Marcus in time for the holiday season.
The Arthur George by Robert Kardashian collection consists of some 37 styles of brightly colored, boldly patterned cotton-nylon-Spandex blend socks made in Italy. They are festooned with camouflage, zebra patterns and graffiti, emblazoned with polka dots, geometrics and assorted stripes and adorned with a sea of symbols such as horseshoes and briefcases.
Following the model of charity initiatives such as Toms Shoes and Warby Parker eyeglasses, for each pair of $30 socks sold, a pair of socks will be donated to the Hayward, Calif.-based nonprofit Family Emergency Shelter Coalition.
Taken altogether, the line as a whole feels a bit loud for the shirt-and-tie crowd, but a single pair peeking from the ankle of a perfectly hemmed pair of dress pants dilutes the effect to something closer to an appropriate dash of just-gotta-be-me attitude. (And, let's be honest, should we expect anything less from a member of America's first family of focus-pulling?)
The debut offerings seem to be resonating at the register. Neiman Marcus declined to provide specific sales figures, but a representative said the firm had been "very pleased with the response to the line." And plans are already afoot to expand in a spring collection to additional retailers and a dedicated e-commerce website, AGSocks.com, set to launch Feb. 1.
In early January, the only non-alliteratively named Kardashian decamped to a padded leather banquette at the Bob's Big Boy in Burbank — sans posse, PR handlers or camera — to talk socks, the family name and what he's been up to lately.
Wearing baggy gym shorts, a T-shirt from streetwear brand the Hundreds that shows inked forearms (much of it the artwork of friend and tattoo artist Mr. Cartoon) and a blue L.A. Dodgers baseball cap, the 25-year-old hardly cuts the figure of a fledgling fashionista. Then he starts talking.
"For the last few months, I've been doing all fashion all the time," he says with a boyish enthusiasm. "Swatches, swatches, swatches. I've been tweaking the packaging on the socks, I've been tweaking the length, I've been going over designs — we're adding men's boxers and pajama bottoms next season, as well as women's tights and leggings."
There are several reasons he started with men's socks. One is personal.
"I personally have a thing for socks — they're something I've always been fixated on, even when I was playing sports or working out. If you look at pictures of me at [Khloé and Lamar Odom's] wedding, you'll see I was wearing colorful socks."
Another is simple business strategy.
"There aren't a lot of competitors in the sock business," he said. "You've got Happy Feet and you've got Paul Smith, but to be honest, when it comes to high-end dress socks, are there really that many?"
The third is a desire to earn his stripes. "This is really just my way of getting my foot in the door," he says. "I'm building a brand and I'll eventually be doing other things. But I felt like I needed to start out at the bottom — literally."
That's why he named the line Arthur George. Arthur is his middle name; George the middle name of his late father, O.J. Simpson lawyer Robert Kardashian.
"Even though my name is on the packaging too, that was my way of distancing it — just a little bit — and taking everybody's attention away from that whole Kardashian brand — in a slight, subtle way."
He's quick to acknowledge the trade-offs of Kardashian-konnectedness.
"I'm very fortunate, and I understand the name recognition, and I'm appreciative of that," he says. "[And] I've been getting feedback about my women's line from my sisters. I was just talking to Khloé today, and she was giving me some feedback about the leggings. They'll say things like you need to worry about this or that material, or something to remember for girls with bigger butts."
But he calls the family's prominence "a double-edged sword. People only know what they see on TV, so maybe they assume negative stuff, or they think I didn't put any work into it and just put my name on it."
Kardashian says he's got lots of fashion-related irons in the fire, though he's reluctant to share the details. "There are some things I'm working on in the fashion world where nobody will even know my name is attached to it," he said. "I'll be happy with that. They'll fail or succeed on their own."