It seems that new celebrity brands or endorsements are constantly popping up: Sketchers x Doja Cat, Khloé Kardashian x Fabletics, Billie Eilish x Nike, and now Khy – Kylie Jenner’s new fashion brand dedicated to making clothes inspired by her personal wardrobe accessible to everyone. Jenner described the new brand as “produc[ing] investment pieces at an affordable price point,” something that already seems to contradict itself. Khy’s Instagram account attracted more than 400,000 followers within four days of its launch – something any independent designer wouldn’t dare dream of.
As described by the brand, Khy will work in collaboration with small, independent brands that will each get a chance to design one collection. While some might be intrigued by the prospect of giving smaller designers a stage, the execution of this idea is already under scrutiny, as the announcement of the launch was met with mixed reviews on the brand’s Instagram. Many on social media are already calling out the brand and Jenner for co-opting these designers’ creativity by essentially letting them do the work for her, as early scandals surrounding stolen designs have already surfaced.
[Khy’s] inaugural collection including gloves for $38–retailing for $58 on the site–a dress for $98 and a coat for $198.
Khy’s designs for the “accessibly priced” brand were first revealed in a Wall Street Journal article that showcased Kylie Jenner wearing various pieces from the inaugural collection including gloves for $38–retailing for $58 on the site–a dress for $98 and a coat for $198.
i can’t believe i’m finally sharing @KhyBrand with you. khy seamlessly blends designer fashion with everyday style into highly edited drops, starting with Faux Leather + Base Layers. Drop 001 was designed in partnership with berlin-based @_namilia_ and offers twelve fashion… pic.twitter.com/p0wUewvA74
— Kylie Jenner (@KylieJenner) October 27, 2023
The majority of celebrities establishing fashion brands don’t have a background or education in fashion, so one can argue that they simply stamp their name on a product or brand while using creatives and garment workers to do a substantial part of the work for them. In keeping with the brand’s mission to uplift designers, Khy’s first collaborator is the Berlin-based brand Namilia, which helped create a range of faux leather pieces in sizes ranging from XXS to 4X, priced between $48 and $198.
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Jenner and her sisters continue to prioritize size-inclusivity which is presumably one of the selling points that ties a broad variety of consumers to their brands in the first place. However, sustainability seems to be where these brands routinely falter. Faux leather, the star of Khy’s first collection, is one of the most polluting materials on the market, being derived from fossil fuels, shedding microplastic, and taking several hundred years to decompose while not being as durable as real leather. Fans and critics noted Khy’s use of an alarming percentage of plastics, citing the website’s item specs. Eight out of the nine faux leather pieces in the drop are made of 100% PU leather and 100% polyester lining, with the remaining including 93% Viscon and 7% Spandex in lieu of the polyester lining.
Synthetic leather seems to be a big hit in the Kardashian-Jenner family, as Kourtney Kardashian, one of Boohoo’s sustainability ambassadors, was heavily criticized for her use of the materials for her collections with the British fast fashion giant. According to the Wall Street Journal, Khy’s first collection will also feature “staple pieces” made from nylon and elastane – even more synthetic materials derived from fossil fuels.
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Are Celebrity Brands Taking over?
Celebrity endorsements often seem to overshadow ethical concerns and influence customers into purchasing nevertheless. Skims,a well-established shapewear brand that was co-founded by the same people as Khy, and owned by Kim Kardashian has also faced a long history of similar concerns surrounding the brand’s lack of care for sustainability. Kim is part of the Forbes Billionaire List with an estimated net worth of $1.4 billion and an annual salary somewhere between $50 million and $80 million. Skims’ value is estimated to have reached $3.2 billion in 2022. The brand does not engage in any third-party audits or certifications for either environmental or ethical standards, but rather provides a vague statement about its workers’ wages. Skims also uses the same manufacturers as ASOS, Urban Outfitters, and other fast fashion brands – all while branding itself as high-end. What’s more, in December 2021 it was first reported by the Business & Human Rights Resource Centre that workers making underwear for Skims at a Myanmar-based manufacturer have reported verbal abuse and wage cuts as a result of being pressured to work unpaid overtime. Since these allegations, the Business & Human Rights Resource Centre reached out to Skims in September 2022. There has been no public statement from the brand, and it is uncertain whether Skims continued working with the factory. All of these aspects lead to Skims scoring 0 on our Accountability Assessment – the worst possible ranking.
Eight out of the nine faux leather pieces in the [Khy] drop are made of 100% PU leather and 100% polyester lining.
At the same time, however, the Kardashian-Jenners’ sales speak for themselves. From Skims to Good American (Khloé’s denim brand) and now over to Khy, the sisters have relentlessly constructed a fast fashion conglomerate, trying to become “a Los Angeles LVMH” as the Wall Street Journal calls it. All Kardashian-Jenner fashion brands are co-founded by Jens and Emma Grede, a powerhouse couple in fashion marketing. You simply can’t deny that what they touch turns straight into cash – it just becomes clear pretty quickly that the cash remains concentrated at the brands’ management level, never quite trickling down to the garment workers sewing their clothes. The brand officially launched on November 1, 2023, and already the site is seeing various sizes sold out, with the brand’s $198 Faux Leather Trench, featured in Kylie Jenner’s original instagram post about the brand, being fully sold out.
Skims’ value is estimated to have reached $3.2 billion in 2022.
Of course, it doesn’t stop with the Kardashian-Jenners: There are several other celebrity brands and endorsements worth examining: Rihanna’s brand Savage X Fenty is one of the companies scoring lowest on Remake’s 2022 Fashion Accountability Report. Not only does the brand lack a science-based target to reduce emissions and a Supplier Code of Conduct, but it simply disregards the industry’s demand for any form of transparency, be it ecologically or ethically motivated. Kate Hudson’s activewear label Fabletics (a brand Khloé Kardashian recently joined for two collections) shares more information on corporate social responsibility than Savage X Fenty. However, Fabletics also leaves customers in the dark about their supply chains, not even disclosing a list of its factories and other suppliers – something regarded as an industry standard. One aspect that Skims, Savage X Fenty, and Fabletics all have in common aside from the founders’ celebrity status is their inherently unsustainable drop or VIP club model which is meant to convey scarcity and increase the feeling of needing their products. As popularity for these brands continue to rise, it is unlikely that we’ll see a decline in business models like this. Within the last two weeks, Skims has launched a male clothing collection, introduced its new Ultimate Nipple Bra and has been named the Official Underwear Partner of the NBA. Skims proudly boasts that 10% of sales from the Ultimate Nipple Bra will go to One Percent for the Planet, a global network with thousands of businesses and environmental organizations working together to support people and the planet. The Bra is made of 84% nylon and 16% spandex.
Rihanna’s brand Savage X Fenty is one of the companies scoring lowest on Remake’s 2022 Fashion Accountability Report.
Celebrity Brands And their plagiarism Woes
However, being accused of neglecting discussions on the environment and ethics is not where the scandals surrounding Khy ends. There are already allegations that Kylie Jenner’s brand copied another designer’s creations and now sells them at Khy. Betsy Johnson, designer of Products.LTD, claimed in an Instagram story that she had sent Jenner’s team an email with a concept for a collection including a line sheet six months ago without ever getting any response from Jenner or her team. Khy’s faux-leather trench bears a resemblance to one of Johnson’s pieces, but it is arguably a stretch to call it an exact copy – of course, we don’t know what that email included. As the story unfolds, it will be interesting to see whether these are just allegations or whether Jenner has stolen Johnson’s designs; something that seems disturbingly familiar in the fashion world these days, especially among celebrity and influencer brands like Ashley and Mary Kate Olsen’s The Row or Matilda Djerf’s Djerf Avenue.
Interestingly enough, there have already been several instances in the past where a Kardashian-Jenner sister was accused of copying other people’s designs for commercial use in their brands: Kim ostensibly copied Comme des Garcons and Vetements pieces for her children’s line at the time, Kylie was accused of copying an independent black designer’s camouflage swimsuit for The Kylie Shop, and Khloé even reached a confidential settlement with another brand that had filed a lawsuit and demanded $10 million damages from Khloé’s brand Good American for copying the design of a bodysuit.
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In an interview about Khy, Kylie states “The whole line is really inspired by my personal wardrobe and the different moods that I’m in” – which is to say she’ll draw inspiration from other designers anyway. So presumably, we’re thrown back to a well-established question in fashion: at what point is it inspiration, and where does it cross the line into copying and plagiarism? One way or another, the Kardashian-Jenners should be held accountable for their continuously unsustainable consumption practices, promoting unjust working conditions and essentially building a fashion empire on other people’s backs. It can be frustrating to see celebrities get away with these endeavors simply because of their celebrity status and an unhealthy amount of fans.
Kylie is already a billionaire from her cosmetics brand but will she now just join the ranks of all those fashion billionaires that prioritize making enormous profits over paying garment workers living wages and creating purpose? It would be so refreshing and hopeful for workers and consumers to see billionaires like her using their power to change something for the better.