With awards-show season just around the corner, Kim Kardashian West hosted a small event at the Hotel Bel-Air on Wednesday afternoon for stylists and members of the press to review her recently launched Skims Solutionwear brand. The direct-to-consumer line, which debuted on Skims.com in September, includes pasties, panties, shorts, bralettes, bandeaus, push-up bras, T-shirt bras and bodysuits ($12 to $80) in a wide range of sizes (XXS-5XL) and skin tones (from sand to onyx).
Before the showcase, Kardashian West has been taking the pieces out for a stilettoed test drive. Earlier this month, she attended the People’s Choice Awards in a Versace python-print dress with Skim’s high-waisted bonded shorts underneath. She also borrowed a sample of the brand’s core control shorts for this year’s Met Gala to help her squeeze into a beaded latex Thierry Mugler dress.
“We had to stitch them and tailor them a little bit,” Kardashian West said, “because they were early samples, but that was so cool because it really shaped everything. I couldn’t have worn that outfit without it.” (A custom-made corset designed by Mr. Pearl provided additional assistance in achieving the form-fitting look.)
Sporting a black Gucci blazer and Helmut Lang pants over a sienna-colored Skims bodysuit, Kardashian West chatted with The Times about the the controversy surrounding the brand’s original name, her Thanksgiving plans, and how her family has made its 15 minutes of fame last much, much longer.
Why did you decide to launch shapewear?
I feel like shapewear has been a decade in the making for me. I’ve always cut up my shapewear, sewed it, dyed it to get the right color tone, so to me, to have shapewear that was seamless was important. A large color range and size range was also really important to me. We engineered our own fabric to make sure that it was extremely comfortable but still really giving the effect of holding you in in all the right places and lifting in all the right places and everything that I really needed from shapewear.
How does your shapewear differ from what’s already out there?
We don’t want to flatten anything. We still want everyone’s bodies to look like themselves and still not feel so restricted. I think sometimes certain shapewear is so hard to get on and then once you get it on, it’s so restricting and you can’t breath. I wanted everyone to feel comfortable and have the right amount of — I say “snatch,” like to “snatch you in” — but [have it] still be really breathable and comfortable.
There was a lot of controversy surrounding the brand’s original name, Kimono, which drew accusations of cultural appropriation when it was revealed in June. In August, you announced the label would launch as Skims. How did you land on the new name?
We went through so many different names. We were thinking, “It’s like skin. It’s on your body. It’s [a second] skin.” But I wanted Kim in it — because that was the reason I [originally] picked Kimono, so I just thought, “Skim,” and then we put an “s” on the end because we kept on always saying, “Can I have my Skims?” … It was perfect and I honestly like the name better. It was meant to be. I learned a lot.
How did that affect production?
That’s why our restock took so long, because I wanted to make sure that we were able to repurpose a lot of the fabric and not have to waste it. I’m like, “If the labels don’t look perfect, the next round when this sells out, they will be perfect,” but it was a decision that I was OK with. It was really important to me that we didn’t waste the fabric.
What are your plans for Thanksgiving — both meal-wise and shapewear-wise?
I will definitely need shapewear. However, I’ll be in our cotton collection [which includes comfortable basics] because I am not big on Thanksgiving food. I don’t really like it. My favorite thing is canned cranberry sauce that takes no time to prepare. I’m super boring on Thanksgiving. I could cook it all, but I just don’t like it. It’s a day where everyone overeats — that’s not my thing. I’ll go for the apple pie. I’ll have a hot chocolate and something else and that’s my sugar, but it doesn’t really matter to me. The family will be together and that’s all that matters.
Speaking of family, you launched Skims with a viral campaign of humorous infomercial clips starring your mom with “The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills” stars Lisa Rinna and Kyle Richards. How did the idea come about?
It was so funny. We were in our kitchen and I was like, “My mom used to do all of these infomercials.” In the ’90s, she would sell candles, fitness equipment, all this stuff that was so ridiculous. I was like, “What happened to those days?” I used to sell product on QVC and I remember Kanye coming to visit me in, like, Pennsylvania. I was on the set of QVC and he was like, “What are you doing? What is this?” I would be out there selling product. We were laughing about it and were like, “Let’s do it again,” so my mom had to host.
Can you explain how the format of the campaign was affected by the late-stage name change?
It was actually a long infomercial that was going to be looping on everything, and then we changed the name Kimono [to Skims after it was already shot]. If you look [closely], it’s everywhere. They said “Kimono” [throughout the shoot], so I had to slice it up into little videos, which worked better for Instagram. If you look at the background, the screen in the background says “Kimono,” so I blurred it.
Earlier this week, your younger sister Kylie Jenner sold a majority stake in her beauty line to Coty for $600 million. You own and operate Skims as well as KKW Beauty and KKW Fragrance. Sister Khloé co-founded apparel brand Good American and sister Kourtney launched lifestyle website Poosh. When “Keeping Up With the Kardashians” first aired in 2007, did you see yourselves as entrepreneurs? What was the end game?
We were just going with the flow and winging it. We did every product that you could imagine, from cupcake endorsements to a diet pill at the same time to sneakers or things that I didn’t know enough about for them to be super-authentic to me. Obviously a diet pill — I was super into fitness and I love cupcakes— like it all made sense a little bit, but it wasn’t my own brand. It wasn’t anything that I would think would be authentic to me. I think that there is some power in saying, “It’s OK to try things out early on.”
When did that strategy shift?
We were really smart and we saved along the way because I was thinking, “Well, if my 15 minutes is up tomorrow, at least I made a little bit of money from this cupcake or whatever it was that I did.” Silly Bandz, you name it,we did it. Then, when we realized that the 15 minutes was lasting longer and longer, we made a plan to save and then we made a [second] plan: “OK, once we have enough money, we do want our own brands. Once we get out of all of our bad deals.” There was lawsuit after lawsuit over partnerships and partners going bankrupt and leaving us, but we were stuck in these deals.
What made them bad deals?
We used to have deals where everything was me, Kourtney and Khloé in a licensing deal. It wasn’t an [individual deal for each of us]. It was “we split that 5%; 5% split three ways, or whatever it was, and then we have to give 10% of our 2%, or whatever the percentage was, to our manager, and then to our agent.” We felt like we were working, but we hadn’t figured it out. So I love having all of that experience, and because of that we were able to figure out how to now start our own businesses and really grow from them and make them super successful.
That’s why I get so proud when it’s a business like this of my own or KKW Beauty and Fragrance. When a lot of the beauty sales in the world are down 20 to 25%, mine is double this year.