Kim Kardashian is worth an estimated US$1 billion, thanks in part to her thriving business empire. One of her companies, the shapewear brand Skims, just raised a US$270 million funding round that valued the brand at US$4 billion, The New York Times reported. She also launched beauty-fragrance brand KKW, skincare brand Skkn and private-equity firm Skky Partners.
For the uninitiated, here’s how Skims became the most revolutionary thing to happen to shapewear since Spanx:
The media personality and socialite Kim Kardashian is best known for the Reality TV show Keeping Up with The Kardashians, which aired on E! until 2021. She is the daughter of Kris Jenner and Rob Kardashian, the lawyer who defended OJ Simpson during his murder trial.
In a video from The Wall Street Journal Magazine, Kim Kardashian explained that she couldn’t always find shapewear that matched her own skin tone, so she started Skims to provide women with options for different body types, skin tones and ages.
“I really wanted to launch my own shapewear that took all of the designs that I was cutting up myself, that I was dying myself,” she said.
Originally, the brand was going to be called Kimono. But when people complained that the name disrespected Japanese culture, Kardashian renamed it Skims. Behind many Kardashian brands is the power couple Jens and Emma Grede, who have developed multiple celebrity companies.
The Swedish entrepreneur Jens Grede co-founded the denim brand Frame in 2012, which became a multimillion-dollar company. He then co-founded Skims with Kim Kardashian and is the company’s CEO. His wife, Emma, is also a founding partner and the chief product officer. Together, the Gredes formed a holding company – aptly named Popular Culture – and have been at the helm of several celebrity brands, including Khloé Kardashian’s denim brand Good American, Kris Jenner’s cleaning products brand Safely and Tom Brady’s apparel brand Brady. In September 2019, the company launched its first “fits everybody” collection to offer shapewear and underwear for a variety of body types. The initial products sold out within minutes and TMZ reported the company earned an estimated US$2 million in sales from its launch but Skims has not confirmed that figure.
Skims quickly gained popularity for its inclusivity and messages promoting body positivity. The brand has found success with a marketing strategy that regularly features top influencers and celebrities from SZA to former Victoria’s Secret models.
A social media maven herself, Kardashian, 42, has regularly starred in her own campaigns and posts tutorials on how to wear specific products such as body tape. As of the time of writing, Skims has more than five million followers on Instagram and 1.1 million followers on TikTok.
In 2020, Kardashian celebrated Skim’s first retail partnership with a fashion show in a New York City Nordstrom store, featuring models of a wide range of sizes, heights, ages and skin colours to reflect the company’s ethos.
Skims leaned into pandemic demand for loungewear and gained a US$1 billion valuation. In December 2019, the company launched its first cosy collection, featuring loungewear such as robes, pyjamas and two-piece sets made from soft materials. By the time the pandemic began and shoppers weren’t so much in need of shapewear, the brand had launched a second collection of loungewear. In 2021, Skims opened its first pop-up location at The Grove mall in Los Angeles. Later that year, the brand held a pop-up shop inside the Paris department store Galeries Lafayette Haussmann. It featured beige-pink walls and displays that were curved and soft, “reminiscent of body forms and the curves of a body”, the designer Willo Perron told Dezeen. In March 2022, Skims launched a swimwear line with bathing suits in 19 styles and seven colourways. Each piece came in sizes from XXS to 4X and was priced between US$32 and US$108.
Skims raised nearly US$400 million in venture capital funding from 2019 to 2022. Stumbles by Victoria’s Secret created a hole in the lingerie market and venture capital poured into underwear start-ups. Before launching, Skims raised a US$5 million seed round in 2019, then raised US$154 million in Series A funding in 2021 and a US$240 million Series B round in 2022.
In March 2023, the company expanded into activewear with its performance collection featuring leggings, tanks and bike shorts in its signature neutral tones. Prices started at US$118 for a pair of leggings and US$78 for a racerback tank top.