To say that the Kardashians have bewitched the public is a drastic understatement. Kim's mobile game is on an unstoppable warpath toward raking in $200 million. The Internet exploded when she and Kanye West landed on the April cover of Vogue. Kendall Jenner has become one of the hottest models of the moment, scoring everything from a LOVE cover to a spot in the Chanel Couture show — and that's just in the last few weeks.
The most mysterious part of the Kardashian empire (2007 C.E. - ?), however, are the Dash clothing boutiques that the sisters kind of run on their various E! television programs. Seriously: Do these stores make money? Do people say to their friends, "Hey, want to grab a Venti iced latte and go shopping at Dash?" Who even shops there in the first place?
I decided to loiter outside the chain's SoHo location, which we first visited back in 2010 when it opened, to find out.
The store is a shockingly modest affair in a neighborhood packed with glossy designer flagships. A small sign hangs from the doorway, so unobtrusive that you could easily miss it. Save for some photos of Kim on the walls and a few mannequins bedazzled in shards of mirror such that they look like robot disco balls, it's not a very glamorous space. Dash carries brands like Wildfox and Hudson — there's no in-house clothing line — and some t-shirts and knickknacks emblazoned with the store's name.
It's also garnered only one-point-five stars on Yelp, a truly incredible feat. Clearly, nobody visits Dash for the retail experience.
So, why are they? After spending a few hours outside the boutique, chatting up shoppers on a sweltering weekday afternoon and sweating through my shirt in a very un-Kardashian manner, I'm pleased to confirm that the people who shop at Dash are exactly who you think they are, starting with...
Dash is, above all else, a tourist destination. Of the 20 groups of people I spoke with as they were coming out of the store, only two lived in New York. The rest hailed from England, Ireland, Kansas, Louisiana, Boston, Switzerland... the list goes on. The Kardashians are big in Chile, I learned, at least with one woman's teenage daughter and her friends.
Nobody goes into Dash by accident. No one. The sole reason to visit it is because it appears in "Keeping Up with the Kardashians," and, more prominently, in "Kourtney and Kim Take Miami" and "Kourtney and Khloe Take Miami" before that. "Kourtney and Khloe Take the Hamptons" is set to be the fifth series in the Kardashian franchise, and will document the sisters as they open a Hamptons location (which locals have been hating on for the past few weeks).
Thus, you visit for the novelty of it. You visit because you kind of hope that Kim will be there, or at the very least, Bruce Jenner.
A twenty-something couple from London said they only decided to pop in because they were passing by. Neither watched the show, although they noted that "everyone knows who [the Kardashians] are." On the quality of the clothing they had this to say:
Lady: "It was okay."
Guy: "Pretty average."
Their matching lackluster expressions suggested as much, and also indicated that they will lead a very happy, long life together.
Rebecca and Grace, two students from Ireland and England with internships in the city this summer, described going into the Dash store as a "sightseeing thing" and a "novelty." They did, however, like the clothing. As Rebecca said, "The clothes are beautiful, but it's just so expensive. If I could buy the clothes, I would, but $200 for a t-shirt..."
Instead she settled for some $4 pencils with "DASH" printed on them to bring home to a friend who loves the Kardashians.
I spoke with Cassidy and Haley, two teenage girls who had just graduated high school and went in "almost as a joke," and they were totally unimpressed. Their complaints: Not enough product in the store ("There were, like, six items") and general quality ("Like, tragic"). They do watch "Keeping Up With the Kardashians" but are not fans of the stars' style. They do, however, think that Kanye West has good style.
Shortly thereafter, two other well-dressed teenagers walked by.
Teenager 1: [Joking tone] "Dash!"
Teenager 2: *Lols*
Pleasantly Surprised Mothers
A mother and her teenage daughter from Louisiana stopped by because even though the latter didn't watch the show, she still liked the Kardashians. She bought some jeans and a t-shirt, and noted that she thought the clothes were cool but overpriced.
“I thought they had beautiful things, beautiful clothes," her mother added. "It’s not as trashy as you think.”
Sensible Kids Who Didn't Let Their Mothers Buy Them a Dash T-Shirt
Another mother/daughter pair from Texas emerged empty-handed. The tweenager said she is a fan of the Kardashians, but she had her reservations about buying anything.
"It was really expensive and not that much of a selection," she said.
"I tried to talk her into a Dash t-shirt, but she didn't want it," her mother said with a shrug.
Disappointed 20-Something Women
Sisters Erica and Dana, 26 and 21, were on vacation from Iowa and Missouri and decided to check out Dash while in the neighborhood -- partly because it has air conditioning. Valid reason.
Unfortunately, they were so underwhelmed that they basically just walked in and walked out. The product wasn't that great, they explained, and it's much better at the store's Miami location.
"I was kind of let down, because [the Kardashians] are such fashionistas," Erica said.
Two other groups of women from New York and Boston noted that the sales associates ignored them and that there was some damaged merchandise still on the floor.
"I think they definitely had some cute pieces in there, but it kind of turns me off right away when the service isn’t that good," one woman from New York noted.
Perhaps this would explain the Yelp rating.
New Yorkers on Their Lunch Break Who Were Always Curious and Finally Caved To Temptation
Karla and her friend work near Dash, and they promise they did not go out of their way to visit it. I'm inclined to believe them, because they did admit to going in because they love the Kardashians and their television show.
Some stuff was cute "but it wasn't amazing," they decided. "'Overpriced' is the word I would say," Karla added. That's coming from New Yorkers.
I'm happy to report that nobody goes into Dash without a healthy dose of self-awareness. A number of young women explained that they were there because they were interested in it as a cultural and consumer artifact. As with the runaway success of the Kim Kardashian app, you may know full well that you're buying into this family's particular brand of Konsumer Kulture, but you do it anyway.
That's cool. I mean, I was the one hanging outside the store for two hours.