We can’t bash or boast billionaire Kylie Jenner’s brand – yet

The launch of a celebrity brand is both mundane and rousing. Though it’s rarely groundbreaking when a public figure announces their new entrepreneurial project, due to the sheer frequency of them, we’re almost pressured to add our opinion regardless. Conversations circulate, complimenting inventiveness and speculating failure – and we, as their around-the-clock audience, are enticed to pick a side because after all, it’s a part of pop culture, a phenomenon which relies on commentary. Most recently, Kylie Jenner, the 26-year-old reality star responsible for her $1bn eponymous beauty company Kylie Cosmetics, declared her next career move in the fashion industry with her own clothing line, Khy. And there’s been a lot of talk.

The moniker being motivated by her childhood nickname, Khy presents a line of mod items priced reasonably. To create the clothing line, Kylie partnered with her mom, Kris Jenner, as well as the impressive investor duo Emma and Jens Grede, co-founders of numerous celebrity brands such as Skims, Good American, and Brady.

Khy aims to bridge the gap between quality and affordability with versatile pieces priced low, but high enough to forego the assumption of cheap garb. Between a bundle of faux leather outerwear with a subtle air of raunchiness, to nylon basics meant for layering, the fashion muse, along with designers Nan Li and Emilia Pfohl from the Berlin-based brand Namilia, crafted the first drop, surpassing $1m in sales within the first hour on 1 November, per a People report.

“For this line the main goal is to bring major fashion pieces, and work with these amazing designers and have it be accessible – having everything in this first drop be under $200 dollars was very important to me,” the innovator told Vogue writer Luke Leitch.

In conversation with the Wall Street Journal Magazine for its “Innovator’s Issue” ahead of the line’s debut, Kylie revealed she intends to rotate in a myriad of guest creatives from smaller brands to collaborate with throughout the year, with new drops to come every couple of weeks. However, the overarching concept for each collection will reflect her personal wardrobe and taste – this first, “001”, blending edgy character with biker chic. Her intention is allegedly to provide consumers with options suitable for every mood, which means we shouldn’t expect all pleather moto all the time.

For me, the beauty mogul’s new venture drove a discerning fact to the forefront of my mind – luminaries are never going to stop creating namesake brands due to their financial standing and privileged connections, no matter their industry expertise or lack thereof. And this certainly rings true for the Kardashian/Jenners, a family with a growing appetite for commercial businesses.

Admittedly, I was frustrated by Kylie’s decision to be an architect of her own label, knowing there’s a torrent of independent designers out there who’ve been working on contemporary projects for years that deserve to be recognised just as much. For smaller creators, increasing brand visibility is challenging, while celebrities automatically have a widespread presence. But does that mean we should shame Kylie for utilising the mass following she’s built to advertise her new line? Can we compare the work of autonomous creatives to that of public figures? No.

Because celebrities will inevitably take advantage of their notoriety, we need to be careful with how we talk about their business ventures, ensuring we aren’t lending fruitless attention to irrelevant points, unnecessarily boasting them or prematurely bashing them.

Kylie’s made it clear she plans on using her presence to spotlight the lesser-known designers she appreciates. And though she plans on drawing attention to these brands through collaboration, focus still settles on the creator of Khy – her. Regardless, the work under Khy shouldn’t be compared to the independent inventiveness of niche clothing lines.

According to Mosha Lundström Halbert, a fashion news writer and founder of “Newsfash,” an innovative media company, just as we can’t put celebrity clothing brands into the same category as renowned fashion houses like Gucci or Balenciaga, we can’t compare them to smaller designers who started their career in school. The industry presents us with a platter of concepts, and they shouldn’t be grouped all-together.

“Just because something is fashion, just because a company creates clothing doesn’t mean that it’s a fashion brand,” Halbert told The Independent. “My expectations for brands that celebrities come out with are very different than how I look at a brand by a designer who has either come out of a fashion school or worked in the industry.”

“I think we can’t lump everything together just because they’re all creating clothing and accessories. I don’t see this as in competition with other established fashion brands, especially when you look at the price point and how many brands are already on the market,” she continued. “Small designers need to be focusing on their own work and not... worrying about what Kylie Jenner is doing. Like, there is completely different lanes.”

The target audience for an independent designer isn’t the same for a celebrity creator. Famed figures, like Kylie, with millions of followers, are hoping the mass of people who show a dedicated intrigue in their personal style, reccomendations, and taste will want to purchase clothing with their name on it.

“The most important thing to understand is that celebrity launches stand for ‘launches for the masses’. Whereas, most small designers have their niche audiences that are more community-driven,” Bernard Garby, a popular fashion news TikToker, pointed out.

As someone who works on the commercial side of luxury goods, Garby reiterated to The Independent that there are different markets underneath the vast umbrella of fashion. “They are two complete opposite markets with two absolutely different target audiences. Therefore, my advice to smaller brands is to focus less on competition and focus more on growing their communities and developing their loyalty because that is their key to success,” he said.

“If you’re a small designer with big commercial dreams, in fact, watch those celebrities and look at how they commercially approach and navigate their launch and get inspired by their work and see if there is anything you can adapt to your own business from their strategy,” Garby added.

Whether we should speculate the success or failure of Kylie’s clothing venture, it’s too early, even though the reported sales so far suggest a favourable outcome. But there are a few factors that support both sides – the first being her unique selling point.

At 17, Kylie capatilised on her love of makeup, noticing a need for matching lip liners and lipsticks as a frustrated consumer herself. During this time, she was also vocal about feeling insecure concerning the size of her lips, constantly overlining them before she got temporary filler in 2015. Therefore, the decision to outset a makeup brand was motivated by her identity. Her first product – a selection of lip kit duos – catalysed her entire empire. In Garby’s opinion, Kylie’s first company was “organic”.

When we look at the streamline of successful businesses born from the Kardashian/Jenner family – Skims, Good American, Poosh – all were built based off an “organic” or intimate selling point. For Kim, making shapewear sexy reflected her longstanding sentiment of being unafraid to wear what you need to, to feel comfortable and confident in your figure. For Khloe, someone who’s spoken candidly about battling body insecurities amid public scrutiny, Good American focuses on size inclusivity, wanting to represent and empower women with a range of different body shapes. And Kourtney, the sister who’s avowed her love for wellness openly, invented Poosh, a “modern guide to living your best life,” according to her.

“Looking at the Kardashians, it’s actually really interesting. They’ve tried a lot of businesses that haven’t panned out,” Halbert remarked. Between Dash, the family’s retail chain born in Calabasas which eventually closed in 2018, to “The Kardashian Kard,” a prepaid MasterCard debit card, the ravenous reality bunch weren’t always triumphant in their enterprises.

So, if having an intimate devotion or being established in a particular niche has proven to help Kardashian brands prosper in the past, does this mean it won’t be long before Khy goes under?

Speaking to Vogue, Kylie pointed to the personal anecdote which drove her to create Khy, ensuring consumers understand this venture isn’t all that arbitrary. Like so many, Kylie was a “Tumblr girl” during her teen years, drafting mood boards to mirror her current obsessions. Dubbed “Kalifornia Klasss,” the adolescent used the platform to realise herself then and the woman she’d become. She was “King Kylie,” and Khy has every bit to do with that persona.

“It is really significant. King Kylie for me was less about what I was wearing, and more about how I felt in that era. I just felt confident, free, and I didn’t care what anyone said,” she said. “I think that there’s a lot of power in that and I’m definitely channeling my King Kylie energy this year.”

Aside from having a unique selling point, Garby noted how pertinent product quality is, especially inside a competitive market. A celebrity can be a known fashion muse, model, or aspiring designer, but a brand will never truly thrive if the quality of the product is poor. “Establishment can help you drive awareness - but in the end - it comes down to the actual product that they try to sell,” Garby noted.

Based on the current selection of faux leather items, made from thermoplastic polyme, which can take up to 500 years to decompose, can emit toxic chemicals once discarded, and have the potential to shed microplastics while being used, per a Nomomente analysis, I personally don’t see how Khy differs from other designs already out there, with the cropped leather jacket and strapless midi dress seemingly familiar to what you see priced similarly at Zara.

Nevertheless, Kylie’s not alone, being backed by Emma and Jens Grede, the all-too-competent pair who are already responsible for the continued achievement of other Kardashian brands. Emma, who grew up in London, co-founded Good American with Khloe, and Safely, Kris Jenner’s line of natural cleaning products. Meanwhile, Jens, originally from Sweden, partnered with Kim as a co-founder of Skims, driving the company value up to $4bn in the years since it’s initial launch, according to The New York Times.

As of now, details on Khy’s subsequent drop, “002”, remain under wraps as an omnipresence of anticipation looms over an eager audience waiting to see what the brand will offer next. While we can only really judge Khy off of personal style preference, quality, and fit, time will tell whether it’s just another celebrity brand doomed to fail or whether “King Kylie” will irrevocably shape understated luxury and fashion fads to come.

The Independent has contacted Kylie’s representatives for comment.