It's their world ...
(we're just keeping up with it)
The Kardashian sisters talk weddings, clothes and plans for total global domination.
Five minutes into my meeting with Kim Kardashian, her left breast pops out of her dress. "Kim!" her little sister Khloé whispers, pretending to be mortified. Then, a moment later: "God," she adds, sizing up her sister's chest, "I've never seen them look so big."
Welcome to Planet Kardashian, where the natives are outspoken Amazonian marketing machines. Today, I've been invited into the orbit of Kim, Khloé and eldest sister Kourtney to witness their next step in intergalactic domination: The Kardashian Kollection for Sears. The famously curvy, sexy Armenian-American trio have assembled around a large dining table in an Old Hollywood office. Their mission: to review their upcoming spring 2012 lines for the all-American retail chain—which, I point out, many people may still associate more with kitchen appliances than with leopard-print camisoles. But, as the sisters themselves might say, whatever.
The Kardashian Kollection's fashion-for-the-masses concept launched in August on sears.com and in some 700 Sears stores, including 400 in-store boutiques appropriately equipped with red carpets, black crystal chandeliers and specially trained Kardashian Konsultants. (Okay, I made the Konsultants part up, but I bet I had you there for a minute.)
For those few who may need it, a refresher course: God created man; man created TV and Ryan Seacrest; TV created Keeping Up With the Kardashians. The sisters' breezy, bitchy, bleep-filled, no-boundaries show has morphed into an infomercial for their personal lives and their full-figured professional portfolio (estimated at $65 million in 2010). Their unfiltered, everyone-gets-a-backstage-pass-to-our-personal-lives approach has redefined celebrity as a spectator sport: Once famous for being famous, they are now even more famous for working it. We (I'm talking about society here) love to dismiss the Kardashians as nothing but privileged princesses—even as they famously scrawled "Hookers R Us" across a family portrait in their mother's home. While there is no shortage of privilege in Los Angeles, it's these three women we can't pry our eyes off of. Whatever else you might think of them, there's more to the siblings than lots of hair and expensive shoes. In fact, it's hard not to respect how these ballsy businesswomen are also the most devoted of sisters. And how they've managed to tap into the zeitgeist at exactly the right moment. Love them or hate them, it's hard not to admire them.
And don't be fooled—they know what they're doing. Case in point: this meeting. There are no video cameras here, which may seem like an oversight, since the all-access sister act has been filmed sobbing over nude pictures (Kim), going to jail (Khloé) and giving birth (Kourtney). But in fact, these fourth-generation female retailers, who run three Dash women's clothing stores in Los Angeles, Miami and New York, know the world of fast fashion well: I've been sworn to secrecy.
The review process has moved on to the handbag round. "Cute," they all coo at a blue envelope with a thin chain strap. (On Planet Kardashian, they speak a dialect of English incorporating a been-there, done-that Valley girl drone with a pinch of gangsta chick. Example: "Oh. Meh. Goh. That is so cute on you, Bee-Yotch!") Kourtney examines the bag. "Can we make that chain detachable so the customer gets two looks for one?" she asks. Then, seeing the hardware on a yellow tote across the table, a scowl: "It looks like a piercing."
From a young age, the girls were obsessed with fashion. As a kid, Kourtney, now 32, had a favorite game: "I used to play Donna Karan," she says. "I used my dad's home office, and Kim was my assistant. Then one of our friends would play a buyer, and I would take her to my mom's closet and show her the new collection."
Kim, 30, was a willing accomplice. "But Kourtney would embarrass me," she recalls. "She would point to magazine pictures that had captions like Jordache and Gucci, and she'd tell me that was the model's name. When her friends would come over, I'd go, 'Isn’t Jordache so pretty?' "
"I tortured her," Kourtney admits, happily. "But at the end of the day, we are obsessed with each other and would do anything for each other." And that is precisely the key to the success of the show: For all their squabbling, the sisters really do love each other. And in fact, Dash was a form of retail therapy. After the death of their father, in 2003, Khloé recalls, "I was heading down a bad path, emotionally." Kourtney suggested they partner in a shop.
"And I said, 'Hello! How dare you do that without me?' " Kim says.
Despite their hectic schedules and other commercial ventures—signature fragrances, OPI nail polishes, weight-loss supplements to name just a few—the sisters each get daily updates from the Dash stores and weekly photos of each rack and display table in every store. Call them micromanagers, call them control freaks—they just smile.
"None of us could do this by ourselves," says 27-year-old Khloé, who is married to hoops star Lamar Odom.
Now it's her turn, modeling a pair of KK jeans. "Get rid of the whiskers," says Kourtney, referring to faded lines that look like wrinkles. "They’re cheesy." Pause. "And they make your thighs look big."
A few days later, I drop back in on the women, this time at the Lucky photo shoot, which—naturally—is also being used for the wedding special airing in early October. Basketball player Kris Humphries (who put a 20.5-carat ring on Kim’s finger) snuggles his five-foot-two-inch sweetheart, who, in stilettos, just about reaches his armpit. (A few weeks after this photo shoot, Kim and Kris got married in a lavish, highly Kardashian-esque ceremony that included 450 guests, three Vera Wang gowns and one diamond headpiece.)
After barely a minute into this photo shoot, I'm sucked back in, a return guest in their world. And just like that, we're old friends, talking about Sex and the City reruns and car crash–ian reality shows like Hoarders and the Real Housewives—"any city, doesn't matter," Khloé says.
"I don't think we realized how open we would allow ourselves to be," says Kim of the TV show. "But we made a pact with the whole family that we were going to be 100 percent ourselves."
"Khloé will say crazy things, Kourtney doesn't care," she continues, "and I am just embarrassed by everything."
"Kim is the poll taker," Khloé retorts. "She asks every person in the room what color shoes she should wear and then chooses the ones she wanted to wear. And I am like, 'Then why the fuck did you ask me?' "
"That is so true, and it drives me so crazy," Kourtney says, adding, "I just do what I like."
That may be exactly the reason why people bother keeping up with the Kardashians in the first place.
"People say crazy things, but we're going through this together, and we know how to handle it," Kim tells me with a nonchalant air of self-assurance. "We can make fun of ourselves. Everything that people make fun of us for, we've probably said about ourselves already."