The reality star and Good American co-founder talks body positivity and building a successful brand that includes all women.
Khloe Kardashian and Emma Grede’s year-old denim label Good American is not only changing the lives of women everywhere sizes 0 to 24, but it’s also having a major influence on the way department stores view plus-size fashion. During an intimate talk moderated by model Leomie Anderson in SoHo, co-founder Grede noted that Nordstrom has credited their brand with changing their retail strategy, “they’ve gone to other brands to ask for more sizes, and they’re changing the way they merchandise their mannequins.” Kardashian said that while she knew that their brand would make an impact, she didn’t expect it to happen so quickly. “Normally, we wouldn’t want competition, but in this aspect, we’re okay with it— bring on the inclusivity.” Below, Kardashian, alongside Grede, talks about why designing for all women is challenging but rewarding and how she didn’t realize that she was considered chubby until Keeping Up With The Kardashians aired on TV.
On making Good American inclusive of all sizes:
Grede: “Just look at us! I was one of four girls and I had women of every size in my family. The women I was surrounded with were always super confident—whoever had the biggest bum won. I think it’s really important now, especially as a mother of a tiny girl, that she never grows up thinking that she should be any sort of way.”
Kardashian: “Look at this room, we’re all so different: our sizing, our shapes, our height. That’s the beauty of what women are. When I was younger, the look was heroin chic, we all loved Kate Moss. I think Kate Moss is fabulous, but that’s never something I could’ve been. When I was younger I was rounder and chubbier. I thought, ‘who can I look up to?’ I loved Victoria’s Secret models, not that I wanted to be one, but they had bigger breasts, and a little curve. Then JLo came around and… she’s the oracle. I totally looked up to her.”
Kardashian: “I never knew I wasn’t an ideal weight growing up—my family never made me feel less than. We all looked different. They put me in more sports than my sisters, but I was more athletic. I didn’t know I was bigger until I started doing our TV show, and once I was in the public eye, people were able to pick me apart. That’s when I was like, ‘oh my gosh, I guess I’m chubby.. or I guess I’m bigger.’ I really commend my mom and my sisters for never making me feel less than. Everyone always ask me, ‘how do you have so much confidence?’ And I’m like, ‘I don’t know!’ I was allowed to wear the body-con dresses, the Herve Leger dresses my sisters wore. I didn’t feel like I was too big to wear that, I was like, ‘I look cute, I look good’. Granted, I should’ve bought a size bigger, but I looked cute.
But just because you’re thin—there’s still bullying and body shaming with skinny girls. That’s how Kendall was all the time. I think people like to say, oh you’re not plus size so you don’t have a problem. But it’s both ends of the spectrum, and thats what were really trying to just stop. It goes so much deeper, it affects how you are in public, how you conduct yourself going into interviews, any of that.”
Most memorable part of starting Good American:
Kardashian: “Our first open casting. I posted one thing on social media and we had 15,000 submissions. We didn’t even have that much info on the post, it was just a manifesto, and it didn’t say it was a denim brand. It just said ‘if you’re a woman who wants to empower other women, show up here’. So many people did. Just seeing how much women wanted to empower others—there was such a thirst for that in the market place. You’re so nervous when you’re starting a brand, but then we were like, okay maybe we’re onto something.”
Grede: “It’s crazy because this will sound so cheesy, but I love every day. I’m obsessed with our customers, and we get so much feedback. I get reports from customer service, and the emails and the letters that we get from moms, like, ‘my little girl is super athletic and she hasn’t been able to find jeans, but these work for her’—I’m crying all the time. We didn’t set out to change the world, but we’ve got an amazing following, and all of these women.”
Her biggest inspirations:
Kardashian: “Definitely my family: my sisters and my mom. I just love the evolution of their fashion sense. Also, Rihanna—she’s just so daring, and can do anything. It’s really inspiring for me because sometimes I wish I could be like that. I wake up one day and feel girly, some days I wake up feel super tomboy and bad ass. Everything translates really well with her. Today I woke up and felt like, I’m in New York, LA is 100 degrees—I needed a little Cruella DeVille.”
Grede: “I love having this vision, and being able to believe in what you do—and see it through. It is massively rewarding and I have no regrets about crossing over from agency life.”
Best business advice they’ve received:
Kardashian: “I come from a family where two heads are better than one, and three are better than two. A lot of people like to do things, and think, ‘oh I’m the leader’ and that’s it—we don’t have an ego in this thing. You hire a team because you’re a team, the team is going to make you better. It’s okay to say, ‘I don’t know what to do in this department’, so let me hire the best person in this field. I think a lot of people have really big egos, and they’re afraid to admit when they’re not the best at something, but that’s why you hire the best at something.”
Grede: “My husband, who is also my mentor, always says ‘make a decision and move on. You’re going to make mistakes. But you need to go on your instincts and stay true to yourself. Stick with that.'”
Best business advice to give:
Kardashian: “You’re always going to hear no, so be prepared for that. If you’re not confident or secure enough in whatever your business is to hear no a million times, you need to become stronger, and believe in yourself because no one’s going to hand you anything. I hear no all the time. Nordstrom wasn’t giving us the place, we had to prove to them—we had to prove why we deserved to be on the floor with the rest of them.”
Grede: “And it’s okay to say no. We’ve heard from retailers, ‘oh we really want to take Good American, but we want it in size 2 through 12.’ We say no. Retailers believe they don’t have the customer, but we tell them, ‘you do they’re just buying your shoes and your handbags’. It’s a huge gamble, it’s about the financial implications, how it’s going to work. It comes down the fact that the retailers just don’t know, because they’ve never tried it. Nordstrom took a big gamble, and it’s obviously worked out for them because the sell-through is great on Good American. Now they’re going to their other brands to ask for extended sizes, and I think it’s tough for the brands. For Good American it was difficult in the beginning, first finding the talent, then the cost of actually developing the range. We have to shoot everything on three models, which means our e-commerce shoot is three times as long, which means it costs three times as much. There are financial implication for businesses but its no excuse, you reap what you sow and we are the poster children for that. I actually think it’s laziness and people having a really old view that what they’re doing is absolutely fine, so why do anything different?”