Read TIME’s Interview With Kim Kardashian

8 minute read

British people have a name for their royal family that grasps at its weird status as both a family and a money-making enterprise. They call it ‘The Firm.” The U.S. has dispensed with the monarchy, but it still has The Firm. They’re known as the Kardashians. The Kardashians live lives of fairy-tale glamor and opulence, their influence powered not by a factory or an investment portfolio, but by making the most fascinating version of themselves. And they work hard at it.

Unlike the monarchy, the Kardashians are at liberty to market their name and have done so liberally. The most successful of these name-trepreneurs is Kim, the middle daughter. She has created many brands, but it is her shapewear line, Skims that has really caught fire. It took in $500 million in revenues last year, according to CEO Jens Grede, and sales were up 86% year over year in April, at a time when the sector was down generally. Founded in 2019, it was valued early last year at $3.2 billion. (That’s $2 billion higher than iconic shapewear brand Spanx ever rose.)

In this interview, Kardashian, who is on her first ever TIME cover this week representing Skims as one of TIME’s 100 Most Influential Companies of 2023, discusses the role she plays at Skims, and how the brand has changed the way people see her, and how it led to her founding her own private equity fund late last year.

This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.

Tell me a little bit about what a day at Skims looks like for you?

I’ll get up, I’ll work out, I’ll take my kids to school and then I’ll come straight here to my office and have Skims meetings about what our next campaigns will look like and what our next commercial will look like and photographers and directors that I want to work with and who I think will be good for what campaign. Then I’ll have a full fit meeting that will take maybe an hour to two hours. And I’ll have a fit model to see it on a different body type. I always like to see it on myself. I know how I like things to feel. There’s never been a product that I haven’t seen and approved. Maybe one time, when there was a supply chain issue, where I said ‘O.K. we need this product. Let’s do it in a ribbed material.’ I don’t happen to be the biggest fan of ribs and now it’s our best-selling fabric. So of course, I’ll keep it but that was surprising to me.

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Did you notice a tipping point, where you thought, ‘Oh, this is going to be so much bigger than my other businesses?’

Obviously you dream big and you have big hopes but this definitely exceeded everything that I ever imagined especially starting as primarily a shapewear brand. I’m also the kind of person where I never get too excited, but there are those moments. I remember I walked into some Hollywood party and there were a lot of well-known people and one of the girls, an actress, she literally yelled ‘Skims!’ as soon as I walked in the room, and someone just lifted her top and goes, ‘I’m wearing a Skims!’ I don’t know if it’s called imposter syndrome or whatever, I still always feel that, but I think it’s part of what keeps me going. I never dreamed that this would be my life.

Do you think Skims’ success has changed the way people see you?

I do. I think at the beginning when I didn’t really understand where my path or my career was going because I was just kind of winging it, I would do licensing deals with a lot of different companies that would contradict themselves, like a cupcake brand with a weight loss pill at the same time. I wanted to eat that cupcake, but I also wanted to lose weight. I think people maybe have appreciated or seen growth and an evolution. And I think that people can see the work in it.

Beauty standards have expanded, but let’s not pretend they don’t exist. You’re the model for many of your campaigns. Do you worry about aging?

I understand that maybe in my 50s I’m not going to be wanting to pose in my underwear and do campaigns all the time. Some days I feel confident, some days I don’t. I am mindful of that. Having a sustainable brand was always the goal. I love being a part of the campaigns, but I am very realistic that it’s not sustainable forever to be in every single one of them. I mean, I hope we all give ourselves as much grace as possible. We’ll do anything we can to look as young as we can. We’re not going to go out not trying, but I am realistic that there will be a time when I might do certain campaigns that are pajamas and robes and more covered up.

Skims was launched in 2019. In 2021, it was valued at $1.6 billion, and then nine months later at $3.2 billion. Is that kind of success important to you?

I do think it’s important when people want to invest. It validates that people believe that you will be successful, and they will invest themselves to help grow the business. I’ve learned so much about that space. Especially having started my private equity fund and learning about the companies that they invest in and what it really takes to grow a business.

Tell me a bit about SKKY Partners; what sort of companies are you hoping to invest in?

Anything from consumer brands to even [the] food and beverage space; anything from fashion and retail to beauty and haircare. We have a really good team; my partners did the investments in brands like Supreme and Beats by Dre and were able to build them up and sell them and there’s something really culturally relevant about those. In order to ultimately make an investment, we have to feel we really believe in the culture behind what the brand is. I’ve been on both ends; I’ve been on the side where I’ve had investments that have been great relationships, and I’ve had investments that maybe a partner didn’t really understand the DNA of what I was about. I’ve just done so many licensing deals and deals that just haven’t worked out. And I feel like I can really support them on the other end to really be a founder’s investor. I think we have a different perspective and a different advantage that people are really recognizing in this space.

Do you think that without Skims you would have been able to start a private equity fund?

I don’t think I would have had the curiosity and the information to understand what a real good investor brings to the table. I’m close with ours, and I have a lot of friends in the business now and I’ve learned a lot and I don’t think I would have understood it enough. Skims has taught me everything.

You’ve had so much success. What do you still feel like you will have left to prove? Why are you still working so hard?

I think I’m just a curious person. And I just like to learn. There are times when I get a bit overwhelmed, which is really rare. And I will take a minute and just say ‘Can we clear my schedule for a day? I just need to be with my babies, and I just need to take it all in.’ I am getting to a place where I feel like there’s nothing more precious than time. I think sometimes people don’t realize how important time is and live their life as if it’s endless. I think I’ve realized that for a really long time because of my dad passing when I was 22. I do have limits and it’s not that I feel like I need to prove anything. It’s that I just genuinely like trying new things and seeing what I like and don’t like and sometimes I like to do things that are just uncomfortable. I think sometimes you need a little kick in that way to see what you’re really made of.

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