When Kylie Jenner dropped her first collection for Khy on 1st November, style columns and fashion accounts were once again consumed by the prospect of new gossip material surrounding the socialite. However, as my Instagram feed flooded with images of the influencer and speculations concerning what her new business venture would entail, I couldn’t help but ask, does the world really need another business created by the Kardashian-Jenner family?
Let’s take it back to 2014: the internet was rife with the ALS Ice Bucket challenge; the Taylor Swift v Katy Perry Twitter feud and the never-ending Jelena love saga (yes 2014 really was that long ago). Keeping Up with the Kardashians occupied a prime television spot and with members of the family just beginning to expand beyond their roles as TV personalities, it was almost impossible to avoid Kardashian-Jenner mania. In 2014, it became possible to inhabit Kim’s world in Kim Kardashian: Hollywood, and, in 2015, fans were finally able to embody the Kardashian look IRL, overlining with Kylie Lip Kits to mimic the dramatic lip looks of the family’s youngest sister, Kylie Jenner. Since then, it seems that every few months comes a wave of posts teasing “something exciting coming soon”, promising that “this is the project they are most proud of to date”. It’s difficult, then, to imagine Khy as a distinct entity in the sea of skincare, fragrance, denim, lingerie, and swimwear labels that have developed from the Kardashian money-making enterprise.
Whilst Khy might be the family’s most recent fashion endeavour, it follows a long stream of clothing businesses connected to the family. Fans of the show in its early seasons may remember the boutique, Dash, run by Kourtney, Kim, and Khloe, which often provided a backdrop for the drama fuelled scenes of the show. Surprisingly, another early venture into the textile industry was by Rob Jr, the illusive brother of the Kardashian sisters, who owned Arthur George, a brand entirely dedicated to socks. More recently, Khloe co-owns the denim company Good American, whilst sister Kourtney provides the “modern guide to living your best life” in her wellness blog, Poosh.
Through years of partaking in brand collabs and launching new business initiatives, the KarJenner’s are no strangers to controversial campaigns. In 2018, sisters Kendall and Kylie, were embroiled in lawsuits following the release of a collection of graphic tees under the Kendall + Kylie line, including one in which an image of Kendall was imposed onto a photo of Notorious B.I.G. Both the family of the late rapper and the photographer Michael Miller, instigated a lawsuit after neither had been consulted about the use of the image, forcing the sisters to issue a public apology and pull the fashion line.
A year later, Kim founded her brand Kimono, provoking controversy concerning the brand’s appropriation of Japanese culture. Many critics argued the brand’s name ignored the historical significance of the word and was offensive in the connection it made to the shapewear products sold by the brand. Due to the intense scrutiny the line faced, it was renamed Skims and now is one of the most successful Kardashian businesses, valuing $4 billion as of July 2023.
Consequently, it was no surprise that when Khy was released, it was accompanied by a dispute, this time concerning plagiarism. Despite Jenner insisting she wants “people to know how completely involved I am in this” […] “from original concepts, to designing, or co-designing if we’re working with other designers, from picking fabrics, colours, I’ve been in every fit meeting” [see Jenner’s Vogue article with Luke Leitch for more information], the star is currently facing claims made by London multidisciplinary artist, Betsy Johnson to the counter. In a series of scathing Instagram posts, Johnson has accused Kylie’s team of plagiarising concepts and line sheets shared by Johnson’s company six months ago. Considering Jenner possesses an Instagram following of over 399 million, criticising remarks were always too be expected, however Johnson’s claims appear to be particularly problematic due to the heavy emphasis Jenner is placing upon her central role in the project.
However, the dispute does not appear to have significantly hindered Jenner, as she was recently named Brand Innovator of the Year by WSJ Magazine (an accolade previously awarded to her sister Kim). The award praised Jenner’s entrepreneurial vision, particularly regarding Khy and its commitment to producing designs that evoke the luxury of brands such as Bottega Veneta and Balenciaga, whilst remaining accessible due to the diverse size range of the garments and their lower price point (all the pieces are under $200). In the initial collection, the brand also demonstrated its environmental awareness in presenting a series of leather looks, all made from vegan leather. This commitment to design and quality is arguably significantly more prominent than it is has been in Jenner’s previous fashion ventures, particularly if we think back to the disastrous response Kylie Swim received from buyers in 2021, who were appalled at the low quality and non-inclusive products.
Therefore, whilst the collection is in its early stages, it is not yet possible to determine the outcome of this newest Kardashian-Jenner venture. Some critics were quick to argue that, as the line did not sell out upon release, it signals the end of the family’s domination of the ‘influencer’ world; this seems to be quite overestimated, particularly when we consider the multitude of billion-dollar companies currently owned by different members of the family, such as 818 Tequila or KKW Beauty.
However, if we consider the long trajectory of the family’s business ventures, it most probably does not matter the level of success Khy achieves becomes another enterprise will always be ready to take its place, enlisting a new swathe of customers vying for the newest ‘must-have thing’ promised to them on social media. That’s the skill of the Kardashian-Jenner family: as much as you may moan about them or write an article berating their fashion businesses, they remain talked about and you can’t help but find yourself keeping up with them.