With a CFDA award and a Business of Fashion cover profile, Kim Kardashian West has racked up accolades from two of the industry’s most respected institutions in just the past month. While the fashion world’s acceptance of the reality star as someone worth dressing and putting on magazine covers is old news at this point, she’s now being praised for her business savvy — and, it’s worth noting, bringing a lot of new attention to both BoF and the CFDA, neither of which are well-known outside industry circles, in the process.
On Monday afternoon, BoF hosted its first Los Angeles summit with West as a headlining speaker in the outdoor atrium of the recently-refurbished mall, Westfield Century City, which is also (probably not coincidentally) where a KWW Beauty pop-up will open Wednesday; Westfield sponsored the event. Following panel discussions on California-based startups and the business of the red carpet, a Jacquemus-clad Kardashian took the stage with her momager, Kris Jenner — a woman who is understood to be the mastermind behind the entire Kardashian empire. During their discussion led by BoF Founder and Editor-in-Chief Imran Amed, we learned just as much about Jenner’s management tactics as we did about West’s domination of the beauty business.
However, West initially took issue with public opinion that Jenner is responsible for the family’s success. “I don’t know where you got all that credit from, I’m the mastermind. It’s me telling my sisters what to do,” Kardashian sort-of joked. “Not today, Kim,” Jenner quipped back.
“We work together every single day,” explained Jenner of her business relationships with her daughters. “If we’re not filming ‘Keeping Up With the Kardashians,’ we’re working on Kim’s fragrance and makeup, Kylie’s brands, it goes on and on. I think that the girls are all so creative and they know exactly what they want and the last thing that they want to hear from me is what a lipstick component would look like. My job is really to lead in the direction of where their passion is and how to figure out what a business might look like, help get it off the ground, help get it running with a team behind me.”
When asked for her business philosophy, Jenner reiterated a mantra she told me two years ago in Paris: “If someone says ‘no,’ you’re talking to the wrong person, so never give up.”
That begs the question: Once the businesses are off the ground, how does Jenner keep track of them all and avoid conflict? If you think about the cadence with which the family members launched new products or embarked on new ventures over the past couple of years, it almost feels like there’s an art to it, with each sibling being allowed her own moment in the spotlight.
“I have a document that lists everything the girls are going to do for the rest of the year in products. We add to it and subtract from it and make sure one thing doesn’t get in the way of another and it makes sense,” explained Jenner. “You have to put some heavy lifting into exactly how you’re going to roll things out and what makes sense for each girl’s brand and who’s doing what. It’s a daily conversation. It’s a big deal because they have so many things going on; every day I’ll go to work and feel like I’m working at a different company.”
Jenner also pointed out that the girls don’t really get competitive, and conflicts tend to be more personal rather than business-related. “It usually has to do with someone being late and disrespectful,” said West, alluding to a specific issue that we’ll apparently see play out on the upcoming season of “KUWTK,” airing next month.
The famed momager’s other responsibility is, of course, putting out PR fires — something Kardashian has gotten pretty good at as well. “My sister Kendall was caught up in something that she didn’t really have a lot of control over; she wanted to speak out so badly and she was advised not to; I advised her to maybe on our show, where you feel safe, where you’re doing an interview and you can really pour your heart out and explain yourself,” recalled West, obviously referencing the Pepsi commercial incident without naming it directly. “My mom’s gonna get mad at me if I bring it up…just a situation,” she replied when Amed pressed for more details.
The anecdote speaks to how the series has evolved into a platform for the Kardashians to both address controversy and show the hard work they each put into their business ventures, from KKW Beauty to Kylie Cosmetics to Good American. Amed asked whether those businesses will have a life if and when the show goes off the air. Jenner’s initial response? Not gonna happen. “North gets married!” she joked. (West didn’t think that was very funny, saying, “I don’t think that will fly with Kanye.”)
“We used to say, “Season 17: Kylie has a baby, and we just looked at each other like, oh shit, that just happened,” said West. Ultimately Jenner and West agreed that, thanks to social media, they don’t need a presence on television anymore to have successful businesses. “Social media really is its own show; you can have a business with or without having a presence on TV,” said West, “but we love what we do we hope it continues for a long time.”
To watch the noted Calabasas residents’ BoF West discussion with Amed in full, head on over to Facebook.