To the untrained eye, celebrity brands can appear to be no more than supersized adverts. Simply, pre-packaged businesses with a famous face slapped on and marketing strategy based mostly on the existing follower count of the showbiz star.
However, a long list of shuttered celeb-founded and fronted companies (Blake Lively’s blog Preserve, Rihanna’s luxury ready-to-wear brand Fenty, Lindsay Lohan’s Lohan Beach House, we could go on), suggests that cultivating a successful business longterm, even if you're a megastar, isn't quite as easy as putting your name (and a few Instagram likes) on a product.
When even the world’s most beautiful, talented and publicity-generating people can’t effortlessly compel revenue, who can?
Enter Plaistow-born Emma Grede, who is the woman behind not one, but two Kardashian brand behemoths. The once university drop-out is now both Co-Founder, alongside Khloe Kardashian, and CEO of inclusive denim brand Good American (founded 2016), plus she's a Founding Partner of Kim Kardashian’s viral shapewear brand SKIMS.
Both businesses had record-breaking launches, have become internationally-available (you can find both stocked in Selfridges in the UK) and expanded way past their original remits, with Good American now selling footwear and swimwear and SKIMS offering loungewear and underwear.
While yes, having a famous face (or the most famous faces in this case) on a brand sure helps, we also know that, with so much choice available, consumers are more discerning than ever and quick to call BS on products and services that don't serve their needs.
ELLE UK spoke to 37-year-old Grede (who is also a Board Member on racial equality non-profit 15 Percent Pledge and Board Member and Ambassador for feminist non-profit Women for Women International) to learn exactly how she has made a fine art out of celebrity partnerships. She walked us through the importance of actual inclusivity, celebrity authenticity and just a little bit of luck...
Emma Grede on the secret to successful celebrity brands...
'Not all famous people can sell stuff.
'A lot of it is about authenticity and alignment. When you have a brand that has a set of beliefs and a purpose, you can't just stick that together with somebody that can't authentically back up that message. And I don't mean someone who can speak that message, because anyone can learn lines, it's really about your history and how people perceive you.
'There are also people that consumers naturally gravitate towards and some that they don't - I know from 10 years of doing celebrity deals that you can put an A-list actress on a fragrance and it ain't gonna touch the sides, but then you find some female chef from Milwaukee who can sell like a bazillion jeans. It's about audience and authenticity.
'And then sometimes there's also just no rhyme or reason why something works.'
On building business diversity from the inside out at Good American...
'I've been doing celebrity partnerships for a long time, and I started to realise that a lot of what I was being asked to do was to put together very 'diverse' campaigns. Oftentimes, I would cast women [in a campaign] for a brand that didn't make clothes that would fit them.
'I thought, "Wouldn't it be amazing if we created a company where we made clothes for every woman, and the company looked exactly like the 'diverse' campaign, with me at the helm, a Black woman?", and it worked.'
On why some brands really avoid size inclusivity...
'It's a little bit horsesh*t [when brands claim they can't afford to expand their size range]. These huge brands that do research trips to Japan for a zillion members of the design team, they can afford a plus-size pattern maker. So there is a little bit of actually, "do you want that customer?"
On doing 'extended sizing' well...
'There are so many brands that have seen that it can be lucrative to jump on the ['extended sizing'] bandwagon. But, you have to put as much imagination, creativity and technical expertise into plus-size as you do everything else. Unfortunately, I think for a lot of brands, it's an afterthought.
'We never sacrifice what we're doing for the sake of inclusivity. The dress either works for everyone or it doesn't - I'm not giving a longer sleeve and nasty mid length because that's what somebody imagines a girl a certain size should wear. We're out here talking about freedom for all women to make the choices that they want.
'I just don't think it's [right for], typically, a bunch of dudes in fashion companies to make those decisions for women.'
On being invited to work with Kim Kardashian on SKIMS...
'SKIMS was Kim's idea since she was making her own shapewear back in the day by dyeing it with tea bags to match her skin tone. She had a very clear idea. And I imagine that seeing what I did with Good American made me look like a good and attractive business partner to her - there's a trust level there. Kim can choose to work with anyone she wants in the whole world, but I really know product.
'I'm really proud of both SKIMS and Good American for so many different reasons. But mostly, if you walk out on the shop floor SKIMS and Good American will be the brands with the largest size range by far.'
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