As the saying in Hollywood goes, behind every great brand, there’s a great manager. In Kris Jenner’s case, make that “momager.”
The Kardashian-Jenner matriarch, who manages her famous offspring’s careers, has been justifiably credited with her family’s success, much of which has been in the fashion arena lately.
In 12 months, Kardashian sisters Kim, Kourtney and Khloé launched K-Dash, a lifestyle line on QVC, and Kardashian Kollection, sold exclusively in Sears; Kim launched Belle Noel, a costume jewelry line; Kris launched her own QVC line, Kris Jenner Kollection; and Kim and Rob Kardashian inked endorsement deals with Skechers and Op, respectively.
“The Kardashians could easily be a billion dollar business worldwide in the next two years,” said Brian Dow, head of the branded lifestyle division and a partner at APA Talent & Literary Agency, which reps all five Kardashian sisters in the fashion and lifestyle licensing arena. APA worked on the Sears Kardashian Kollection deal with Jupi Corp., which has been the sisters’ biggest fashion deal to date, on target to generate $200 million to $300 million in retail sales in the first 12 months, according to Jupi president Bruno Schiavi.
“I see their brand becoming global, in the Middle East, Europe, Asia, South America and so on because the show plays in over 100 countries,” said Dow of “Keeping Up With the Kardashians,” one of their reality TV series. Jupi also has plans to take Kardashian Kollection into international retailers.
Apart from being a champion multitasker, Jenner is a manager by trade. Her first client was her husband, Olympic gold medalist Bruce Jenner, whom she met 21 years ago. After they married, she took over managing his career.
“I started managing all his motivational speaking engagements, his deals with Coca-Cola and Visa, and his first job after the Olympics, which was the Wheaties ad for General Mills. When I married him, I thought, ‘Wow, we could expand this to a whole other level,’ and we did. Bruce is still on the road [speaking], so we must be doing something right,” she said.
Cut to 15 years later: There are two more daughters, Kylie and Kendall Jenner; Kris Jenner’s four children with first husband Robert Kardashian are all grown up, and her son Rob is also involved in the family enterprise. “It was just so easy to transition into [managing] the kids and not even blink an eye,” Kris Jenner said.
“They have the family aspect which no one else has done,” said Dan Levin, managing director of global licensing agency Beanstalk’s Los Angeles office. “That is their differentiating point. They are trailblazers. Who else has been that type of a family brand? They are really omnipresent as a family. They might have different tentacles but at the end of the day, it’s a family business.”
But why fashion when there are so many other routes to take in Hollywood? Apparently it’s in the genes. Kris’ 76-year-old mother, Mary Shannon, continues to own and operate a children’s clothing store in La Jolla, Calif., called Shannon & Co., so Jenner and her daughters grew up in retail. They later went on to open the women’s apparel store Dash in Calabasas, Calif., in 2006 (there are now locations in Miami and New York’s SoHo) and the kids’ apparel store Smooch (closed in 2009).
“It’s something we all love doing, and I’m passing that down to my children. We love fashion and the history of fashion,” Jenner said. Shortly after Smooch opened, E! Entertainment Network approached the family about doing a reality show, and the “Keeping Up With the Kardashians” phenomenon was born. It has even spawned spin-offs, including “Kim and Khloé Take Miami,” “Kourtney and Kim Take New York ” and “Khloé and Lamar.”
With the show lending a spotlight to the girls’ and Kris’ individual styles, licensed clothing deals were a natural step. The first was the K-Dash line with QVC, which launched at the shopping channel’s 2010 Fashion’s Night Out event in New York.
“It would have to be one of the most successful launches in this space,” said QVC’s executive vice president of merchandise, planning and sales, Doug Howe. “We have sold 100,000 units to date, and we have just scratched the surface.”
Ranging in price from $28.50 to $310, the line comprises apparel, outerwear, scarves, belts and handbags. Howe said the network plans to deepen the apparel offerings “because the girls are such fashion icons” and that QVC has also seen a bump in its online business, thanks to the girls’ tweeting about their nine-and-counting live on-air shows.
“We’ve seen the power of social media as it relates to this line,” he said. “And it’s reinforced that our customers are very attuned to what’s happening in pop culture.”
Jenner said her family’s involvement in all of its licensing projects is full on.
“I watch the girls when they start a line and they are involved from soup to nuts because they want to do something that has legs and a future 25 years from now,” she said.
K-Dash maker Mark Locks agrees. “The girls have been hands-on in every aspect of the business, and the return has been huge for us,” said Locks, global president of Tiger J, which produces both K-Dash and Kris Jenner Kollection. “So it was a no-brainer to launch [Kris’ line].”
From Jenner’s strategic and maternal perspective, it was about launching her daughters’ lines before her own, which bowed at QVC’s 2011 Fashion’s Night Out event last month. “It’s always been my dream to have my own line, but it’s also about timing,” she said. At $35 to $130, Jenner’s line comprises classic staples as well as fashion-forward items. The next extension planned is fashion jewelry, bowing for spring.
“We were really impressed when we first met with Kris for K-Dash at how she can multitask and how organized she is. She is really passionate about the business, and she’s great at selling her own line because she is very connected with the customers,” said Howe, adding that two of the five items launched on the Sept. 8 FNO show (a black vest and leopard-print cardigan) sold out immediately.
As for the sisters’ first in-store line — Kardashian Kollection, including apparel, intimates and accessories —“It’s been in stores about six weeks, and the response has been phenomenal,” said Jupi’s Schiavi. Presale items sold out within 48 hours and the first Los Angeles [personal appearance] drew 9,000 people.”
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