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GLOBAL BUSINESS SELLING: “ THE KARDASHIANS CAN SELL ANYTHING”


Business Spotlight - epaper ⋅ Ausgabe 4/2019 vom 08.05.2019

Den Auftakt unserer beiden Beiträge zum Thema “Vertrieb” bilden die Kardashians, die wie kaum eine andere Familie die Modewelt so ungebremst beeinflusst haben. SIRIN KALE berichtet über ihre Erfolgsstory.


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On 30 September 2018, model and businesswoman Kylie Jenner (a member of the Kardashian family) uploaded a photo to Instagram. In it, she posed beside a Range Rover in a pink Katharine Hamnett jacket and with a grey Chanel bumbag. Underneath, she wore black cycling shorts, white socks and Joshua Sanders trainers in a silvery-metallic finish. More than four million people “liked” the post. ...

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In Leicester, 20-year-old student Queentonia Ojeke studied the post closely. Then Ojeke did what millions of young women across the country do every day: went online and bought a tweed blazer from the American low-cost retailer Fashion Nova for $30 (€26), which she paired with £8 (€9) chocolate-brown cycling shorts from the British brand PrettyLittleThing. “I love Kylie Jenner,” Ojeke laughs. “As much as I hate to admit [it]. Her fashion is evolving, which is why I like her even more.”


In bedrooms across the country, women apply Kardashianstyle make-up


Corsets. Orthopaedic trainers. Crop tops. Cycling shorts. Cycling sunglasses. Sequinned slip dresses. Lace bodysuits. Neon. Latex. Thigh-high boots. These are all fashion trends the Kardashians have helped popularize internationally. In bedrooms across the country, women apply Kardashian-style make-up. In nightclubs, Kardashian fans wear Lycra and skyhigh spike heels.

Clothing this growing army of Kardashian clones is a fast-growing industry of ultra-low-cost online retailers. There is PrettyLittleThing, Missguided, Boohoo, Nastygal and the US phenomenon Fashion Nova, but newer players, including Oh Polly and MissPap, are also entering the space. For the price of a large takeaway pizza, you can own an outfit that could be from a Kardashian-Jenner’s Instagram post. It is a good time to be a model who resembles one of the Kardashians, too: lookalikes such as Lalla Rania Benchegra, who has modelled for PrettyLittleThing and appeared in campaigns for Fashion Nova, are in high demand.

Reality TV stars

The Kardashians rose to fame in 2007 with their reality TV showKeeping Up with the Kardashians , after the release of the second-oldest daughter Kim’s sex tape. Just over a decade on, they have a combined Instagram following of more than 536 million people, andKeeping Up with the Kardashians has run for 15 seasons.

But the Kardashians weren’t always an unstoppable global fashion juggernaut. For years, they dressed in clothes you could buy in an average department store (their Kardashian Kollection was stocked by the US retailer Sears). Then, in 2012, Kim began dating Kanye West, who introduced her to designers who included Olivier Rousteing at Balmain and Riccardo Tisci at Givenchy, as well as his own Yeezy brand. Gone was the polyester animal print and in was an athleisure-inspired silhouette. By 2014, Kim was on the cover ofVogue in a strapless Lanvin wedding dress.

In 2012, Kim reached a million followers on Instagram: just seven years later, she had more than 125 million. “They are very influential, just because of how much they’re talked about,” says Ojeke. “They’re spoken about; they’re on everything.”

The Kardashians patronize such brands as Boohoo and Fashion Nova, switching allegiances for monetary reward. According to the Instagram marketers Hopper HQ, a single post on Kylie’s Instagram will cost you a cool $1 million; you can have Kim for $750,000. Brands that affiliate themselves with the Kardashians, whether officially or unofficially, experience mega-growth. Fashion Nova was the most searched-for fashion brand on Google in the US in 2018. Boohoo’s UK sales rose by a third to £180 million in the last four months of 2018, with its strong performance credited in part to a successful collaboration with the eldest Kardashian daughter, Kourtney. The success of such companies comes as established players in the UK retail market struggle.

LANGUAGE NOTE

Keeping Up with the Kardashians is the name of a reality TV show about the Kardashian family. The name is a play on the expression “keeping up with the Joneses”. This saying, which uses the common English family name of Jones, means “trying to own the same expensive things or have a similar lifestyle to one’s neighbours”.

Agile business

What makes these retailers so successful? Dr Jonathan Reynolds, a retail and e-commerce expert at the University of Oxford, says they have some distinct advantages. As most are online-only (Missguided has two physical stores in the UK), they don’t pay for retail space, which means they can have shorter product runs and test new products out. “When you’ve got a store, you have to fill it with goods, which means you have to have a big inventory. So they are a much more agile kind of business, which seems to chime today with the fairly instant culture we have.”

Lauren Levin, 25, is a handbag designer from Leeds. Levin frequently hears from customers wanting a Kardashian look. When Kim carried a neon bag in August 2018, Levin had so many requests, she created a replica. “They definitely have a massive influence on my generation,” she comments.

“They can sell anything,” agrees Pamela Church-Gibson, the author ofFashion and Celebrity Culture . She describes them as being at the epicentre of an “alternate fashion system”, which “is not people looking at pictures of fashion shows and interpreting the trends themselves, it’s women wanting to look a certain way, social media providing those images, and new retailers, particularly retailers that use social media a lot, like Boohoo, picking up on these trends and bucking it to their advantage”.

Unrealistic standard of beauty? The Kardashian clan


Yet the Kardashians don’t just sell clothes, but a way of being. “The Kardashians live aspirational and over-the-top lifestyles,” says Amanda McClain, author ofKeeping Up the Kardashian Brand: Celebrity, Materialism, and Sexuality . Dress like a Kardashian and, thanks to low-cost retailers, you can approximate a lifestyle otherwise beyond your reach.

For some young Kardashian fans, social media can be the most important part of a night out, says Emily Hall of social influencer experts the Goat Agency. “They’ll have full-on photoshoots before they go out, because they’re looking for that approval from a wider audience.” According to data from Mintel, 22 per cent of consumers say that social media influences the clothing they buy, a figure that rises to 64 per cent in the Generation Z (under 22 years old) demographic. “It accelerates a cycle of ‘spend-consumption’,” Church-Gibson says. “It is worrying how fast this process moves.”

To make this fashion even faster, brands have relocated their manufacturing back to the UK to shorten the time between seeing an outfit online and purchasing it. Leicester’s once ossifying garment industry is back in production. While this might sound like good news, aFinancial Times investigation recently found evidence of workers being paid below minimum wage. Low-cost retailers use a “‘test and repeat’ strategy”, explains Saisangeeth Daswani of the trends intelligence company Stylus. “They’re producing very small quantities of many different styles, within a short turnaround time of approximately two to four weeks.”

“People are suffering”

Should we care that young women are clothing themselves in disposable outfits? “If you’re buying a dress that costs £8, approximately less than a meal, inevitably someone along the supply chain, if not quite a few people, will be suffering,” says Orsola de Castro of the sustainability campaigners Fashion Revolution. “It’s difficult to make consumers empathize with [garment] workers … they feel their lives are hard enough, and can’t identify with someone else’s hardship.” And while the Kardashians are sometimes celebrated for popularizing a new, more curvaceous “slim-thick” body type, it’s a shape that is arguably as inaccessible as the very slim ideal that preceded it. “They’ve simply helped swap one unattainable beauty standard for another,” says journalist Yomi Adegoke, who has written about the Kardashian influence on how we judge beauty. “The ideal has been replaced with a want for ethnically ambiguous women with curves, but only in certain places. It’s more like a Mr Potato Head approach to beauty, picking the ‘best bits’ from various different races and leaving women of colour, specifically black women, still at the bottom rung when they only have ‘parts’ that are deemed worthy and beautiful.”

Will anyone break the Kardashians’ parasitic stranglehold on the fashion industry? “There’s no end in sight,” concludes McClain. “The only people who may usurp them in the future are the next generation — their own children.”

© Guardian News & Media 2019


Fotos: kitzcorner/iStock.com; instagram

Foto: E! Entertainment/NBC Universal