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Meet Emma Grede, the exec behind Kardashian apparel brands Good American and Skims

June 14, 2022, 12:55 PM UTC

Good morning, Broadsheet readers! Rite Aid is taking on its drugstore competitors, Sarah Palin is making a political comeback, and one executive is behind the rise of the Kardashians’ Good American and Skims. Have a great Tuesday.

– Keeping up. Last week’s episode of The Kardashians featured a new face: Emma Grede. The longtime executive behind some of the reality TV star family’s biggest brands made her onscreen debut on the Hulu show, helping Khloé Kardashian choose models to appear in an ad campaign for her clothing brand Good American.

Grede has served as CEO of Good American since 2016 and later added the role of chief product officer for Kim Kardashian’s apparel and shapewear brand Skims ahead of its 2019 debut. Over the past six years, she’s built Good American into a $130 million business on track to exceed $200 million in revenue in 2022. Originally launched as a denim brand, Good American now sells a range of apparel and has pioneered size inclusivity; the brand was the first to feature multiple models of varying body types wearing its garments on its site. At Good American, Grede oversees a team of about 100 people, while at Skims, she’s purely focused on the brand’s products. (Skims is reportedly on track to bring in about $400 million in sales this year.)

With a background in talent marketing, she was aptly prepared to work alongside cofounders who happen to be among the most famous and influential women in the world. But Good American and Skims shouldn’t be considered celebrity brands, argues Grede, who was raised in the U.K. and moved with her husband and four children from London to Los Angeles for her current positions. “I don’t think Skims and Good American at the scale we are today can be considered celebrity brands. A lot of celebrity brands fail,” says the CEO. “Our focus is on providing best-in-class product. It’s brand above all else. It’s product over everything else.”

Emma Grede is the business exec behind the Kardashian brands Skims and Good American.
Courtesy of Good American

What’s particularly telling, Grede says, is that both brands can survive without their respective celebrity backing. While customers may check out a brand that’s tied to a famous face, they won’t return if the product doesn’t meet their standards, she says. This year, the Kardashian brands are playing an ever-growing role in the family’s on-screen narrative. The Hulu incarnation of the show, which debuted in April after the 2021 end of the E! network series Keeping Up With the Kardashians, has so far featured Grede’s work at Good American, a Skims photoshoot, and the offices at Kylie Cosmetics. (Grede is also the cofounder of a third Kardashian brand, Kris Jenner’s cleaning products business Safely.) Last week’s episode even divulged some business stats, with an offhand mention from Grede that Good American had sold 37,000 units of a pair of shorts. “The reason you’re seeing the brands take a front-row seat in that way is because the girls are at the stage of their life where their brands are what they do every day,” says Grede. “Their businesses are just so intertwined in their everyday lives.”

As for Grede’s everyday life, she often works on both Good American and Skims on the same day but schedules her time by themes, such as product or marketing. The companies share a campus, making it easy for Grede to dash between offices, but she says there’s no overarching strategy between the businesses. “It’s every brand for itself.”

If three jobs weren’t enough, Grede also serves as chairwoman for the Fifteen Percent Pledge, a campaign launched by designer Aurora James that pushes retailers to devote 15% of their shelf space to Black-owned brands. Grede reached out to James to help with the nonprofit work, offering her connections in the retail industry. “I can get pretty much any retail CEO on the phone,” Grede says. “They will take my call and they will take it seriously.” So far, 28 retailers have committed to the pledge. “It’s not just a nice-to-do,” says Grede. “It’s actually a contractual commitment.”

Grede has big goals and high standards for the brands under her remit. Good American will only sell its products through retailers that commit to offering the full size range of 00 to 32, which included a recent fast-fashion partnership with Zara. She’s also ensuring that the brands don’t waver due to changing, fleeting trends. The skinny jean is not dead, she insists: “It’s a fit that works for so many women’s bodies.”

Running a celebrity-founded business isn’t so different from how most modern brands interact with talent in marketing and on social media. “Our brands really operate in popular culture. There is an intersection with entertainment in so many different ways, not just with the owners of those businesses being Kim and Khloé,” Grede says. “If you’re in the zeitgeist in a brand that’s operating now, entertainment and culture are so much intertwined—you need to have an understanding of how that relates to your brand.”

Emma Hinchliffe
emma.hinchliffe@fortune.com
@_emmahinchliffe

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ALSO IN THE HEADLINES

- The Rite strategy. For years, Rite Aid has lagged behind competitors like CVS Health and Walgreens. But CEO Heyward Donigan has a new vision, which she articulates in a feature by Fortune senior writer Phil Wahba. "I love being the underdog,” Donigan says. While the pharmacy chain brought in an additional $500 million in revenue from COVID-19 vaccines and tests, the company is now reprioritizing a strategy it initially unveiled in March 2020. That includes expanding its small pharmacy benefits business to midsize employers that are often ignored by larger players. Fortune

- Influential adviser. Susan Rice's role as director of the Biden administration's Domestic Policy Council is an influential one. When Democrats urged the president to appoint a czar to tackle gun violence, his team responded that Rice was already in place to take on the issue. Her work on gun violence joins a portfolio that includes policing, student loan debt, racial justice, health care policy, and more. Politico

- Stepping down. Michelle Bachelet, the UN high commissioner for human rights, announced she won’t be seeking a second term and will step down from her position in August. Bachelet recently visited China to assess allegations of human rights abuse against Uyghur Muslims in China’s Xinjiang region. The visit prompted outcry from human rights activists who criticized her for playing into the Chinese government's narrative. Wall Street Journal  

- Level settlement. Google has agreed to pay $118 million to settle a class-action lawsuit accusing the tech giant of paying women less than male colleagues. The lawsuit was filed in 2017 and encompasses 15,550 female employees who have worked in California since 2013. The employees alleged that Google assigns women to lower job levels than men despite comparable experience and education. Google did not admit fault as part of the settlement. Fortune

MOVERS AND SHAKERS: Yahoo appointed actor and the Honest Company founder Jessica Alba, Dallas Mavericks CEO Cynthia Marshall, and Moxxie Ventures founder and general partner Katie Stanton to its board of directors. Scorpion has appointed Bridgette Moore as chief people officer. Mantra Health hired Yiwen Looi as vice president of marketing, Kelly Carleton as vice president of program success, and Allie Schwartz as vice president of people.

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT

- Gaming recognition. Microsoft announced Monday it will respect Activision Blizzard employees’ right to unionize and would enter a labor-neutrality agreement with Communications Workers of America. Activision Blizzard, which has been reamed for allegedly fostering a toxic workplace for women, announced Friday it was entering negotiations with staffers at the video game developer Raven Software. The labor agreement will take effect 60 days after Microsoft finalizes its acquisition of the gaming business. Washington Post  

- Narrowed field. Former Alaskan governor and one-time vice presidential hopeful Sarah Palin is vying for the sole U.S. House seat in Alaska. Republican Don Young previously held the seat from 1973 until his death on March 18. Palin is the frontrunner in an upcoming August special election, after carrying 30% of the 48-way, non-partisan special primary on Saturday. New York Times

- Funds in action. Habitat for Humanity International will spend more than $25 million to increase the number of U.S. Black homeowners to 3 million by 2030. The NGO credits a recent $436 million donation from billionaire philanthropist MacKenzie Scott with helping speed up its plans. The initiative, Advancing Black Homeownership, will pay for programs at its U.S. affiliates that provide financial coaching to prospective homeowners and work to change laws in neighborhoods that ban zoning of multiunit homes, a huge barrier for lower-income families. Wall Street Journal

ON MY RADAR

The fight to end ‘cyberflashing’ New York Times

What could have saved Oluwatoyin Salau? Harper’s Bazaar

Dana Walden addresses Disney shakeup, vows to make studio 'the very best home for talent' Variety

It’s a terrifying time to have kids in America. It doesn’t have to be this way Vox

PARTING WORDS

"I mean, I don’t have that much time for her. But I am alive."

- Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen on whether she is familiar with Cardi B. Cardi asked her followers when the government would finally announce the country is headed for recession, to which Yellen said she expects the economy to see slowed growth, but not a recession.

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