Skims Plots Its Next Moves: ‘We Don’t Have the Luxury of Failing’

At first, Kim Kardashian’s workplace, nestled within the hills of Calabasas, Calif., simply outdoors of Los Angeles, seems unassuming. That includes double-digit-high ceilings and stark concrete flooring, the area is sparse however meticulously designed, with sculptures solid in numerous metallic and stone and gallery-worthy canvases depicting the feminine type positioned all through.

The cavernous workplace is large enough to suit Skims’ lofty ambitions. The model’s newest enterprise comes within the type of swimwear, a brand new class that Kardashian, Skims co-founder and product maven, has been teasing on social media for weeks.

“I even needed to cease tagging [Skims], I do need there to be a pleasant factor of shock for it,” Kardashian advised BoF of the content material she’s shared along with her 291 million Instagram followers. “I’ve actually needed swim for a very very long time.”

So have Skims’ clients: Swim is the most-searched class on Skims’ web site — greater than the classes it already carries. Kardashian describes the swimwear she’s examined and designed like “legos,” the aim to let clients construct their very own units based on the components of their physique they wish to intensify or cowl up. The preliminary swim launch consists of 19 kinds — long-sleeved crop tops, bike-short unitards, basic triangle tops amongst them — accessible in seven strong colors, together with the skin-toned choices that Skims clients have come to anticipate in addition to cobalt and periwinkle. Along side the road’s e-commerce launch, the group has a Miami pop-up deliberate — its first within the metropolis following pop-ups in Los Angeles, Japan and Dubai.

Kardashian and Skims co-founder and CEO Jens Grede anticipate swim to be a win for Skims. If these expectations are met, it’ll be one other win for a model that, by many measures, has already confirmed profitable. In a Sequence B funding spherical, accomplished in January and led by hedge fund Lone Pine Capital, Skims raised $240 million at a $3.2 billion pre-money valuation. A sold-out Fendi collaboration helped lay the muse for worldwide growth, constructing upon an present US-based retail partnership with Nordstrom to incorporate Selfridges within the UK and Galeries Lafayette in Paris. Skims grew gross sales 90 % year-over-year in 2021 to roughly $275 million and expects to hit $400 million in 2022.

However loads of companies have found that runaway success in a single class doesn’t mechanically translate into dominating one other. Regardless of the benefits that Skims has to date loved — fortuitously launching loungewear on the top of the pandemic, for instance — long-term success is much from assured. Each choice Kardashian and Grede make to any extent further is extra vital than the final.

“Why do you increase cash in a extremely worthwhile firm?” Grede requested, seated in entrance of a tack board with Skims swim material swatches and SKUs connected to it. “To ensure that the corporate has all choices accessible and is ready to take this chance … We don’t have the posh of failing.”


Skims (the model’s unique identify, Kimono, was modified in July 2019 after shopper backlash) first launched in September 2019. Its preliminary providing, shapewear, distinguished itself from the market with a visible identification that was equal components horny (with kinds that might be worn outdoors of garments), aspirational (taking cues from luxurious branding) and inclusive (colors mirrored quite a lot of pores and skin tones at an inexpensive worth). Kardashian labored because the brains behind the product design and general model, whereas Grede assumed the function of operator.

A couple of month after the preliminary launch, Skims introduced its first loungewear assortment, which might develop right into a broader providing of way of life merchandise together with bras, underwear and different fundamentals.

Earlier than Skims, Spanx was arguably the one family identify within the shapewear market. Different manufacturers, like Hanes’ Maidenform, bordered on matronly. Your entire class was shrouded in regardless of the reverse of aspiration or intercourse enchantment is.

Quick ahead to at the moment, shapewear has ballooned to grow to be a multi-billion greenback market. Opponents have crowded the area, many taking cues from Skims — Jockey, an underwear model with shops in outlet malls even trademarked the phrase “Skimmies” for its shapewear.

“You can not promote your solution to success … Promoting is actually vital as part of it, however sales-driven advertising has by no means constructed manufacturers.”

Two-and-a-half years after launch, nonetheless, Skims is trying far past the product with which it’s grow to be synonymous.

“One of many misconceptions [about Skims] is probably that we’re extra of a shapewear model. We’re a solutions-oriented firm and shapewear occurs to be one in all them,” Grede stated, indicating an even bigger technique shift: For Skims at the moment, underwear makes up a better share of gross sales than shapewear.

Specializing in a broader ethos relatively than a singular product has allowed Skims to evolve. Signalling aspiration — by working with globally-renowned creatives like photographer Donna Trope, who has produced imagery for Chanel and Tom Ford — and inclusivity — by means of fashions like American Paralympian Scout Bassett — helped put Skims forward of the snoozy division retailer shapewear part.

To make sure, these endeavours aren’t low cost nor simply replicable. Skims spends greater than half of its advertising funds on brand-building efforts — commissioning in-demand photographers and creatives, marquee billboards and headline-making collaborations with the likes of Fendi or the US Olympic group. Kardashian continuously tags Skims on her Instagram, often strolling viewers via a brand new product line in her house closet. (That sort of influencer advertising would price one other model tens of 1000’s of {dollars}, not less than.) Skims’ model work, plus Kardashian’s promotion on social media, have made efficiency advertising all however pointless.

Within the fourth quarter of 2021, Skims added 400,000 new clients and is on observe so as to add two million by the top of 2022, Grede stated. In accordance with retail intelligence platform Edited, Skims operates at a 32 % sell-out and 68 % replenishment charge — increased than any of its rivals. (Savage X Fenty, Rihanna’s lingerie model, replenishes inventory at a charge of 15 %, whereas Aerie replenishes inventory at a charge of 43 %.)

“[Performance marketing] can be very ineffective for us as a result of we’re all the time working out of inventory,” Grede stated. Apart from, he doesn’t consider it fits Skim’s long-term objectives.

“You can not promote your solution to success,” he added. “Promoting is actually vital as part of it, however sales-driven advertising has by no means constructed manufacturers.”

Few different younger DTC manufacturers — particularly these and not using a celeb founder — are able to eschew efficiency advertising. The truth is, attributable to its excessive price, many need to wean themselves off of it as their major technique of driving buyer acquisition.

The hope is that these brand-building efforts will enable Skims to face by itself, with or with out Kardashian on the centre of each new marketing campaign — although Kardashian is an lively co-founder with no plans to step again. The standard of the product — one clients admit to loving, typically begrudgingly — helps on this endeavour.

“Anybody which may view this as a celeb model, that orders merchandise as a result of they’re curious, immediately realises that this can be a very critical model and our high quality is so top-notch and all the things about it’s so thought out,” she stated.

A Trusted Associate

Though a lot consideration has been paid to how Kardashian helps Skims keep related, Grede has spent years constructing vogue companies, cementing himself squarely as a go-to celeb model operator.

A tall, 44-year-old Swedish Californian transplant, Grede first made a reputation for himself with the posh advertising agency Wednesday Company Group, co-founded with Erik Torstensson in 2003, of which he offered a majority stake to Omnicom’s BBDO in 2016. In 2012, Grede and Torstensson launched Body denim; the model surpassed $100 million in gross sales by 2018.

skims swim pool kim kardashian campaign

Round that point, Grede started constructing Skims within the shadows with Kardashian forward of its 2019 launch. His spouse, Emma, had already teamed up with Kardashian’s sister Khloé Kardashian to co-found attire model Good American, and in 2021, the pair helped Kardashian-Jenner matriarch Kris Jenner and Chrissy Teigen launch cleansing provide model Safely. In 2022, Grede stepped outdoors of the Kardashian-Jenner industrial complicated to co-found Tom Brady’s eponymous model alongside Public Faculty co-founder Dao-Yi Chow.

“[Jens is] nice at transferring information and expertise from his different companies to assist lay the imaginative and prescient for what we’re attempting to perform at Brady,” Chow advised BoF in an electronic mail. “He has this uncommon present of left-side, right-side considering and may see the artistic and enterprise aspect of issues equally with nice perspective and perception.”

Regardless of his work in vogue, Grede finds inspiration for Skims outdoors of the trade, trying to Nike’s pursuit of performance-driven merchandise; Amazon’s logistical prowess; and Apple’s high-minded design.

“I’ll belief in Jens for all the distribution and numerous the enterprise aspect, and so I feel we work very well that approach the place he utterly trusts me [with design,]” Kardashian stated. “There’s magic in having companions that you just simply belief to do their job one of the best ways and so they belief me to do my job one of the best ways and we don’t get in one another’s approach.”

‘Retaining Up’

Nonetheless, Skims shouldn’t be exempt from the challenges any younger firm faces, not to mention issues borne out of a provide chain disaster and an inflationary atmosphere not skilled in half a century.

Unrelenting demand and disrupted supply schedules have made it troublesome for Skims to maintain its best-selling merchandise in inventory for even half the 12 months. The loungewear stock that had been deliberate for fall 2020, for instance, didn’t arrive till spring 2021.

“We don’t wish to be disappointing clients and it positively results in buyer frustration,” Grede stated. “We’ve needed to reside with actually lengthy delays … they ended up trickling in in direction of April and Could when nobody needs to put on pyjamas. That was only a actuality and it was a very cussed downside.”

Skims’ doesn’t have the choice to ease on the fuel; Scaling up is the one path ahead to keep up Skims’ model fairness with clients and earn its traders multiples on their preliminary funding.

For many attire companies to scale, they need to extend stock buys, which already comes with a six-month lag time for a lot of manufacturers based on the standard provide chain dynamics, stated Sam Kaplan, companion at Iris Ventures and previously Burch Inventive Capital. (Kaplan was not concerned in Skims’ fundraising.)

“The availability chain is terrifying proper now, interval, finish of story,” Kaplan stated. “The reality is, nobody actually is aware of when these provide chain points are going to relent or in the event that they’re going to … basically alter the availability chain panorama.”

Skims is evolving accordingly. It moved a lot of its manufacturing out of China throughout the pandemic, though it nonetheless depends on a world community of companions based mostly in Turkey, Sri Lanka and Italy along with what it produces within the US. Even amid struggles to maintain product in inventory, simply final week it introduced the launch of two-hour supply in Los Angeles, regardless of not having any bodily retail places to fulfil orders.

“We’re constructing an organization very quick within the public eye and we wish to meet everybody’s expectations.”

Each class and worldwide growth — two of Skims’ objectives — additional put the model in danger if they’re unable to fulfil orders or meet buyer expectations. One other topical menace looms in inflation. Skims, in contrast to different vogue manufacturers, has not but raised costs, regardless of will increase within the worth of uncooked supplies and transport prices.

“As an entire, we in all probability wish to get cheaper, no more costly,” Grede stated. If Skims can proceed to scale, their prices will likely be much less, after all. The model is targeted on delivering worth to its clients whereas additionally making certain its manufacturing companions are in a position to pay honest wages, he added.

Regardless of the challenges, each Kardashian and Grede — who collectively maintained a majority stake within the model after the newest funding spherical, with Kardashian as the biggest particular person shareholder — are embracing Skims’ fast-paced progress.

“I see the fundraise as a continuation of Skims’ evolution right into a category-defining, international way of life model,” stated Nick Brown, co-founder and managing companion at Imaginary Ventures, a Skims backer. “This has been Kim and Jens’ imaginative and prescient and aim for the model since day one and this fundraise is one other step in direction of reaching it.”

Grede stated there’s no stress to enter new classes, though Skims’ authorized group has filed a handful of patents for numerous merchandise, together with menswear (hats, leggings, shapewear, boxers and extra) and laundry care (detergent, dryer sheets, material softeners and the like). Everlasting Skims retail shops are “completely a aim sooner relatively than later,” Kardashian stated, whereas an IPO “in some unspecified time in the future sooner or later in all probability would make sense,” based on Grede.

“It took Nike 12 years to succeed in $100 million; It took us six months,” Grede stated. “We’re constructing an organization very quick within the public eye and we wish to meet everybody’s expectations.”

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