Footwear News – Kendall and Kylie Jenner are piping hot. And no wonder. They are the world’s most famous and arguably most powerful teenagers — and there is no air conditioning.
It’s a sunny afternoon in Los Angeles and the girls are in a sweltering showroom downtown — an Art Nouveau space in the garment district with nothing but heirloom fans barely mustering a breeze. Both are dressed in figure-hugging, all-black looks. Kendall wears a blouse plunged to the navel with a gold buckled belt, while Kylie is poured into floor-sweeping flared trousers and a crop top. They sit at a long table flicking through their phones, which one imagines are also quite warm to the touch from an endless flow of “likes” from approximately 103 million combined followers worldwide.
They are framed by two models wearing looks from their premiere full-scale independent label, Kendall + Kylie. Completing the scene are racks of the spring ’16 collection, which includes apparel, swimwear and, most importantly, shoes.
Footwear News’ exclusive first look is also the sisters’ first time seeing the line together as a whole. It’s a big moment.
“I really love it. We’ve been excited about this for a while,” said Kendall, 19, surveying the smattering of Polaroids of her favorite pieces scattered in front of her. “We’ve been working on it for about a year, but it’s so cool to see everything in person.”
The full-scale brand, positioned as a contemporary line, with most clothing capped at $250 and footwear ranging from $89 to $160, is being developed by license-holder Indochine International.
After an initial shoe launch with Modern Vintage LLC last season through brothers Rick and Brian Cytrynbaum, the shoe license was purchased by Marc Fisher in June. Moving quickly, Kendall + Kylie Creative Director Chelsey Santry worked with the Fisher team and the girls to have the footwear collection done in time for this week’s FFANY show.
“Kendall and Kylie share a unique relationship with their audience that is uncompromisingly personal and trusted,” said Susan Itzkowitz, president of Marc Fisher Footwear. “They have mass appeal, which young girls and women alike seek to emulate.”
As a part of the juggernaut that is the Kardashian clan, this is not the first time (nor the last) that products have been produced bearing their names. Earlier deals included a juniors’ line with Pac Sun, a collaboration with Steve Madden and a recent capsule collection for Topshop. But Kylie, who it is easy to forget is just 17, sees Kendall + Kylie as their most polished project yet.
“Our collections have evolved with us and our fans,” she said, looking up from her phone when asked what she’s learned from previous adventures in branding. “It’s fun because the clothes and shoes we have created are very different than what we would have done two years ago.” The Madden deal gave them a crash course in footwear. “From him, we learned about what sells, what people are drawn to and also how it’s made,” said Kylie. “We visited the [sampling] factories on Long Island. There are so many elements that go into shoes.”
The new footwear collection will include about 70 styles for spring ’16. Think strappy stilettos, sharp pumps, pointed mules, flatforms and the odd flat sandal, all done in a streamlined palette to complement the apparel’s overall neutrality.
Santry, who first worked with the girls on their Topshop capsule, sees the shoes as an important element for this more elevated brand. “The collection is more sophisticated. It’s much more like what you see them wear,” she said. Having previously worked with another power sibling set — Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen — on their Textile denim line, Santry is keenly aware of both the power and the complexities of the Jenner story.
“The time is different. Mary Kate and Ashley were the first to do it, but these girls take it to a whole other level with social media and how they market themselves.”
Kylie, the most-viewed user on Snapchat at press time, is acutely aware that online platforms can ensure that the collection performs well . “Social media is super-important,” she said. “A lot of people ‘like’ what we wear and what we love. Why not wear your own stuff?”
What Santry did not fully anticipate was how in-the-mix Kendall and Kylie wanted to be. “I thought they would just want to come and in and say ‘this is cool, that’s great,’ but they actually want to be a lot more involved,” she said, noting that despite thorough research, her team has occasionally missed the mark and had the girls veto an idea — something she welcomes.
“I watched a lot of ‘Keeping Up With the Kardashians’ and looked at a ton of shots of them on the Internet. At some point, it felt like stalking,” Santry joked. From there, she and the Jenners had regular in-person design meetings to discuss concepts, colors, fabrics and prints.
It’s clear that shoes are a topic that grabs their attention (away from iPhones), loosens those media-trained strings and brings a sparkle to the sisters’ extremely lashed eyes. Even in the steamy showroom, shoe talk proves to be the icebreaker.
“Growing up, we would always steal my mom’s heels,” said Kendall. “My older sister Kourtney has small feet. There was a time when I was really young where I would fit in her shoes. That was always fun,” added Kylie.
Of course, momager Kris Jenner has this amply documented. “We have really old videos when we were babies walking around in her heels that didn’t fit us at all,” said Kendall, who also dipped her toes into Kourtney’s shoe collection at a young age. “She’s a size 5. When I was growing up, first I would get her hand-me-downs until I grew out of them. Then I would get Kim’s. Once I grew out of those, it was on to my mom’s.”
The Kardashians have influenced a glamorous, perma-camera-ready approach to the Jenner girls’ aesthetic. But when asked if any of their family members have seen pieces of the Kendall + Kylie line, the response is quick. “They haven’t,” Kendall said. “We don’t want their opinion on it because we want it to be very ‘us.’ We don’t show them anything until it’s done and out.” Too many cooks in the Calabasas kitchen can’t be a good thing, I suggest. “Exactly,” she agrees. “We all have similar styles but different tastes.”
Kendall’s more assured mien stems from her success moonlighting as a top model, with contracts from Chanel and Givenchy to Estée Lauder. The duo also star together in the fall ’15 Balmain campaign. And their high-profile adolescence has exposed them to the best footwear. “Just being able to experience all these different shoes that we’ve worn has taught us what we like and don’t like,” Kendall said. “That definitely helps.”
While they see eye-to-eye on most design choices, footwear can divide them. “My sisters tend to wear heels, but I’m super into flats,” said Kendall, noting that the collection will have lower styles as well.
Kylie isn’t having it. “I don’t wear flats. Ever. I don’t own a pair, not even gladiators,” she said. “Just a few sneakers — that’s the only time I’ll wear a flat.” Already, she’s caught on to the distinct power of a little lift. “Heels make me feel so much better. I’m not as skinny as Kendall, so when I’m in heels, it makes my legs look longer and slimmer.”
They both admit to a serious shoe-shopping habit, which is in line with a recent “inspirational quote” post on their @KendallandKylie Instagram. It reads “Life is short. Buy the shoes.”
“They are my favorite thing to shop for,” Kylie sighed. “Some days, I’ll just go to Barneys and try on as many as I can. I love buying shoes,” she mused, citing Gianvito Rossi, whose heels she is wearing, as a favorite. “He’s amazing. Oh — and Alaïa. Expensive, but the best.”
“Yes!” agreed Kendall. “Best shoes. Balenciaga, too — they kill it every time.” She lifts her leg to rest her gold Manolo Blahnik BB on the table near Kylie, who begins to rub her foot. “I really love Manolos. They are super-classic. And they have all the good colors.”
Kendall + Kylie CEO Gary Hunt is banking on the girls’ newly discerning, and let’s face it, expensive tastes translating to more budget-conscious customers. Initially, Hunt is targeting a tight edit of chain and specialty retailers.
“When we first did this, the goal was always to take them worldwide. So yes, we’ve seen the brand change significantly as they have gotten older and their interests have changed,” he said, noting that on the brand’s social media, 70 percent of the sisters’ followers are from the U.S, followed by Canada, the U.K. and Australia.
That potential is hard to ignore. In fact, as Hunt is offering his strategy, Kylie and Kendall are doing a little product-seeding by providing his team with a list of friends they want to gift pieces to immediately. Pink Post-its bearing the names of their inner circle — which includes Taylor Swift, Gigi and Bella Hadid, Hailey Baldwin and Cara Delevingne — are attached to samples destined for highly connected members of what’s been called the new Brat Pack. “People we know who support us wouldn’t wear something if they didn’t like it,” said Kendall.
Santry appreciates them having Swifty & Co. on speed-dial. “They are naturally genius marketers,” Santry said, relishing this relatively low-cost, covetable form of Internet-centric celebrity placement. “Traditional routes aren’t targeted enough to keep up with their following,” Hunt agreed. “I can barely keep up.”
Speaking of keeping up, while it’s still early in the game, chances are the older Kardashians will soon be outpaced by their younger, more socially engaged and agile Jenner siblings.
And if the footwear is anything to go by, they better buckle-up those booties. “We will be wearing it,” Kendall said.
Here, the sisters sound off on fashion, footwear and life in the fast lane.
You, in shoe form?
“I’m a lace-up thigh-high.” Kylie
“I’m like a cool boot heel. Or a bright metallic pump, like my Manolos.” Kendall
“I’m not into clogs. No, you won’t find a Kendall + Kylie clog.” Kendall
“But you know what I like? Prada just came out with the dopest heels with wooden soles. I like the wood vibe, but it has to be done right.” Kylie
What would someone be surprised to discover if they spent a day in your shoes?
“Probably that I’m not that confident — it’s sad, I know. People would be surprised to know that. But I like to think that I rock everything I wear, and shoes can make you more confident.” Kylie
“Maybe that I’m more fun than I look!” Kendall
“Givenchy has really great shoes. And they are actually pretty comfortable.” Kylie
“Alaia! Best heels. I like Chanel’s boots a lot.” Kendall
“Oh, yes — Alaia, too! They are super-expensive but some of my favorite shoes.” Kylie
Craziest runway shoe?
“I wore these shoes for Marc Jacobs that were just like a heel with the top [upper] all just laces. They taped our feet in, and it was super-sticky. I had tape on my feet for like three days afterwards.” Kendall
Sibling with the most shoes?
“Khloe. She has a ton — the most of any of us. Now, she and I are both a size 40. It’s the best. The other day, she had to get rid of a lot of her shoes because she had too many. She gave away 26 pairs, and I almost cried.” Kendall
How has your style evolved?
“Going through puberty, you get tits, an ass and you learn how to dress for your body. That’s something we both had to figure out. You get more confident with yourself and what you like. Everyone’s always changing — liking things for five minutes and then moving on.” Kendall
“Our family did a good job of teaching us to stay humble. I’ve heard this from so many people — you’ve got to find your balance. Make time for work, family, friends.
That’s the key to keeping sane. If you are taking, you can give. So if you take the time for yourself, you’re going to give more when you are out there working.” Kendall