Class privilege, wealthy, innovative, fraudulent, trendsetter and appropriation are just a few of the words Howard students used when asked what comes to mind when they think of Kim Kardashian-West.
Earlier this month, Kardashian-West’s clothing brand, SKIMS, took social media by storm when a baby pink version of the infamous boxer-style loungewear set was released.
Timelines on every app were flooded with people either looking at the sold out page or celebrating the two-piece they had just secured. While Kardashian-West’s hold on popular culture is undeniable, her relationship with Black consumers is particularly interesting.
SKIMS seems to have an overwhelming amount of support from young Black people.
Junior sociology major Kendra Wilson attributes this popularity to the rise of BBL culture. Short for Brazilian Butt Lift, BBL culture refers to social media’s obsession with perfectly cinched waists and round bottoms.
“People look at SKIMS and it appeals to our generation. There’s a focus on an hourglass shape and romanticized afrocentric features – the shapeliness of a woman,” said Wilson.
Kennedi Wilson, a University of Tennessee-Knoxville student and avid SKIMS customer, finds the brand empowering, “I think what gravitated me more towards buying SKIMS and being interested in SKIMS collections was definitely the size range. Even if you’re petite or on the thicker side it flatters your body.”
“Realistically, the hype of SKIMS is that it is a celebrity shapewear brand, and when people think of Kim Kardashian and what she represents they think about her body – you know, what she looks like. They think about her fashion style and the trends she ‘sets,’” commented Kendra.
Launched in Sept. of 2019, the SKIMS debut collection featured thousands of shapewear and loungewear apparel. The brand racked up $2 million in sales in just minutes.
The “fits everybody” business model and the minimalistic, cozy aesthetic SKIMS hosts could be attributed to its success during a global pandemic in which consumers everywhere longed for new ways to “dress” up their everyday lives in quarantine.
Kennedi Wilson says she owns at least $550 worth of SKIMS.
“Since I’ve gotten my SKIMS package, that’s all that I wear. I probably wear SKIMS once or twice a week because the sets are just comfortable.”
SKIMS has remained in high demand since its debut. In its first year, the waitlist had three million customers. The affordable price point and inclusive nature of SKIMS has made the brand extremely accessible.
According to Vogue Business, the SKIMS team has kept up with its rapid growth through robotics technology. SKIMS, along with a small group of fashion retailers like Nike and ASOS, are trying out “autonomous mobile robots across its fulfillment centers to make its warehouses more efficient.”
Kardashian-West’s continuous position at the forefront of fashion and beauty trends and now technology are helpful to her brand, but her problematic past has implications.
From cosmetic surgery to box braids to overly-tanned skin, the Kardashian family is regularly shamed for cosplaying as Black women.
“They’ve been called out for cultural appropriation for over a decade now, and it’s no secret that they’ve adopted many styles that Black women or Black culture have created and made them more palatable,” says the journalist who coined the term “blackfishing,” Wanna Thompson in a TIME magazine article.
For this reason, it’s difficult for many to separate the art from the artist when it comes to the Kardashians.
“Personally I don’t think Black people should support the brand, especially so proudly” says Howard student Sandra Ihougan.
“I choose to support brands like Fenty because of the blatant disregard Kim has for Black culture and the inability to give credit to the places where she’s obviously taken ideas or ‘inspiration’ from, so I completely understand why people would want to be hesitant.”
“Why would I want to contribute money to someone who obviously shows that they don’t care about my culture and what I have to offer?” Kendra Wilson says.
Though Kennedi Wilson acknowledges that “going on social media and seeing the controversial stuff” makes her second guess supporting Kim, she wouldn’t necessarily say she’s trying to appropriate Black culture.
“Personally for me, whenever I see Kim on social media, I personally have never seen anything that degrades the Black community in any way and if I did, that would obviously change how I felt about the brand.”
The 40-year-old multihyphenate has significantly diversified the “intimates” market, for her shapewear collection alone has up to nine color options.
“I always try to see what I’m obsessed with and what’s a necessity in my life. If it’s not perfect, then how can I try to make something that is? One huge gap that I felt like was missing in shapewear was just color range. There was probably one shade of nude, a black and maybe a darker nude — if that,” Kardashian-West told Vogue.
In filling the gap, SKIMS grew sales 90 percent year-over-year in 2021 to roughly $275 million and expects to hit $400 million in 2022 reports Business of Fashion.
A lot can be said about Kim Kardashian, but she certainly knows what she’s doing.
Copy edited by Chanice McClover-Lee