Keeping up with the Kardashian empire: A brief guide to the family business
“Keeping Up With the Kardashians” is more than a TV show — it’s an empire. And when the reality show shuts down June 10 after 20 seasons on E!, the family’s entrepreneurial machinery will keep on humming.
The relationship between series and the empire has been there from the start, with the former seen as a potential boon to the family’s retail businesses before sparking even greater ambitions. “I thought, ‘This will be so great for the stores,’” mom Kris Jenner tells The Times’ Yvonne Villarreal in her oral history of the pilot episode. “Kim and I would set these goals every year. And [in 2007, the year ‘KUWTK’ premiered], we set a goal to develop her first fragrance, which was Kim Kardashian. That was the start of what we saw the potential could be down the road.”
Jenner’s business education, she said in a 2020 sit-down for Goldman Sachs, came “through osmosis” while married to the late attorney Robert Kardashian, whose friends included producers, studio heads, executives and, um, O.J. Simpson.
Kris Jenner, Kim Kardashian and TV insiders look back on the start of a celebreality empire in our oral history of ‘Keeping Up with the Kardashians.’
Still, connections aside, the work ethic of “the girls” has been instrumental to the family’s success: Without them, even the best ideas would fall flat. Social media has played a major role as well. In addition to promoting the family brand, members of the Kardashian-Jenner clan are paid to plug products online. ( Reports have put Kylie Jenner and Kim Kardashian‘s per-post takes in six- and seven-figure territory.)
Over the years, the family has made headlines with both successes (Kylie’s a billionaire! Or maybe not?) and missteps involving their entrepreneurial endeavors. (Witness the cultural-appropriation criticism that came after Kim thought it was a good idea to trademark Kimono for her new shapewear line. Deep breaths: It got rebranded.) But through it all, the family is still earning big bucks, nudging its net worth as a unit firmly into three-comma territory.
So how have Kim, Kylie, Kris, Khloé, Kendall and Kourtney made money through the years? Here are some of their entrepreneurial efforts.
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America’s first family of reality TV will end ‘Keeping Up With the Kardashians’ in 2021. But the subgenre known as ‘celebreality’ has been waning for years.
Kim, Kourtney and Khloé
Even before the October 2007 premiere of “KUWTK,” the Kardashian sisters opened their Dash boutique in Calabasas in 2006. Part of the reason they did the show in the first place was to promote the boutique. Shops in Miami and New York City followed in 2009 and 2010, and the original moved to West Hollywood in 2012. The mini-chain, which sold clothing and accessories, lasted until 2018, when the L.A. store finally shut. (The Miami location, which closed in 2016, had its own reality TV stint as well in three seasons of “Kourtney and Khloé Take Miami” and the lone season of spinoff “Dash Dolls.”
The three sisters cut a deal with Sears in 2011 to offer the Kardashian Kollection of clothing and accessories. But it was seemingly doomed from the outset after a report came out accusing the family of using sweatshops with squalid conditions to manufacture their products. The items were cheaply made and ultimately deeply discounted, and the sisters had no control over quality. They pulled the plug in early 2015, and Kim told the New York Times last year that they made little out of the deal: just 6%, split three ways, with 15% of it going to their agents and 10% going to momager Kris.
Then there was Kardashian Kids, which offered trendy clothes — think leopard prints — for kids in sizes up to 5T starting in 2014. The kids wear is now unofficially available via Poshmark, ThredUp and other online thrift stores.
Kris runs Jenner Communications — which manages all of her offspring — and is an executive producer of “Keeping Up With the Kardashians.” She’s also been executive producer on spinoffs including “Khloé & Lamar” and the odd Quibi parody series “Kirby Jenner.” Don’t ask about that last one.
She influences the family brands, including low-profile son Rob Kardashian’s Arthur George socks collection, as well as their launches. And we’ll give Kris credit for the Kardashian Kloset, an online resale store featuring clothing, shoes and accessories from big-name designers “hand-selected by each family member” from the “famous Kardashian-Jenner family closets.”
Kim has credited soon-to-be-third ex-husband Kanye West, whom she started dating in 2012 and married in 2014, with changing her approach to business so that her efforts align with her beliefs and goals. So while she’s still taking in money from sex tape “Kim Kardashian, Superstar” and mobile game “Kim Kardashian: Hollywood” — your goal, player, is to increase your fame and reputation! — her business focus has changed.
Currently starring in Kim’s portfolio: the successful sKims shapewear line, recently valued at $1.6 billion; cosmetics line KKW Beauty, estimated to be worth $1 billion; and KKW Fragrance, which in addition to multiple Kim-spawned scents also includes collections tied to Kris, Kendall and Kylie.
Kylie’s taste in makeup was all the rage in 2015 when she started selling Kylie Lip Kits, saying the items were born of insecurity over her own lips. The line got a generous boost from her millions of social media followers, who raced to buy the limited quantities initially available. Eyeshadows and blushes were quickly added, and Kylie Cosmetics was born. Now the products are available at Ulta Stores. Kylie — who was only 9 when “KUWTK” debuted — sold a majority stake to Coty Inc. in late 2019 for hundreds of millions of dollars.
Kylie Skin launched in May 2019, promising products that are free of parabens, sulfates and, well, cruelty. They are also gluten-free and vegan, should you be tempted to snack. (Please don’t eat the skin products, folks.) And on Wednesday, Kylie quietly announced a new venture, Kylie Baby, in an Instagram post featuring 3-year-old Stormi Webster, her daughter with rapper Travis Scott, taking a bath.
In 2016, trading on nightmare memories of growing up with nothing to fit her larger frame, Khloé partnered with British marketing exec Emma Grede to launch Good American, conceived as a more size-inclusive denim line. The brand has since expanded to include all sorts of clothing, including swimwear and shoes. The line promises jeans in sizes 0 to 24, while shirts and other items come in sizes up to 8 — or as it’s known in Hollywood, 4XL.
Kendall Jenner has a job outside the family circle: She’s a big-time model. The 25-year-old has walked in a number of shows as a Victoria’s Secret Angel and hit designers’ runways all over the world.
In 2019, she acquired a stake in the Moon oral care line — which promises to elevate brushing your teeth to an “oral beauty experience” — and created a teeth whitening pen to her own specifications. She has also started pitching her tequila brand, 818, which was announced in February and got picked up by a U.S. distributor last month. (And attracted immediate backlash over ads that some saw as appropriating Mexican culture, badly, for profit.)
Kourtney was never as excited as her sisters were about “KUWTK,” as revealed in mom Kris’ 2011 memoir. Still, despite being chided by her family over the years for her supposedly subpar work ethic, she does have a lifestyle website, Poosh. In addition to a shop, Poosh offers articles on health and fitness, life and style, home and entertaining, and — of course — Kourtney. Wanna learn the secret to her daily matcha latte? Gotcha covered — plus you can buy the secret matcha-latte tool in the Poosh store.
Kylie and Kendall
While the Jenner sisters’ core careers have gone in different directions, the two came together in 2013 with an eponymous clothing line, Kendall + Kylie. Actually, it’s billed as a “global lifestyle brand,” meaning it includes shoes, handbags and eyewear in addition to trendy apparel aimed at the youngs. The brand is available at PacSun, Nordstrom and on the Kendall + Kylie website, where items include vegan leather jackets, acrylic rompers and snakeskin bike shorts. Bikinis too — with a gold lamé one currently on sale.
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