Kim Kardashian West Says 'There Is Room for Everyone' in the Beauty Industry

Plus, why she chose to partner with Ulta over Sephora for KKW Fragrance.
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Kim Kardashian West for KKW Fragrance. Photo: courtesy of KKW Fragrance

Kim Kardashian West for KKW Fragrance. Photo: courtesy of KKW Fragrance

In November of 2017, Kim Kardashian West sold a reported $10 million (!) worth of perfume from her KKW Fragrance brand in a single day. What's more, she did so without turning to any of the traditional marketing strategies upon which the fragrance industry has relied for decades. Shoppers were willing to shell out cash for the product without ever having tested it, a feat that had legacy beauty companies looking to the mega-influencer for guidance.

A little more than a week ago, KKW Fragrance (and Kylie Jenner's line, Kylie Cosmetics) officially launched in a brick-and-mortar setting for the first time, exclusively at Ulta stores. Beauty shoppers were thrilled about the development, and given that Ulta shares reportedly spiked 20 percent since the partnership was announced in August, it's fair to assume that the cosmetic retailer's shareholders were, too.

On Tuesday, KKW Fragrance and KKW Beauty will also open a pop-up store at South Coast Plaza in Costa Mesa, Calif. While in New York City (where she attended Sunday night's Versace pre-fall show) on Monday, Kardashian took some time to chat on the phone with Fashionista, discussing her decision to partner with Ulta despite the massive success she's seen with the direct-to-consumer model, the business ideas that come to her at 2 a.m. and her belief that there's "room for everyone" in the beauty industry. Read on for the highlights.

Can you tell me about your partnership with Ulta, and why you chose to work with them over any other retailer you could have gone with?

I actually have been in Ulta before, and I love doing business with people that make the experience really enjoyable. I see so many brands wanting to expand into Ulta, and think it's so forward. Ulta definitely is a big part of the future and expanding in the beauty business; they have so many brands and it's exciting. If you go into a store they have so many options that it's like a dream — I'm like a kid in a candy store there.

Why did you decide to take KKW Fragrance into brick-and mortar retail after experiencing so much success with the direct-to-consumer digital model in the past?

As successful as my fragrance brand has been, it was definitely really risky starting a brand and selling fragrance when you can't smell it for yourself. I always had the goal of moving to a [retail] location. I think there is still that customer that doesn't feel comfortable buying something — no matter how pretty the bottle is or how well you describe it online. There's still that customer that wants to smell it for themselves, and I wanted to give that [opportunity] to them.

Why was this the right time to do it?

The brand is over a year old, it's the holidays. I've learned so much in the time since we launched, just what our sweet spot is as far as a customer feeling comfortable. I did want people to feel it for themselves and to smell it for themselves and touch the bottles and really have a good experience. I really did want to expand in general, and I feel like Ulta was the perfect place to start this.

Last time I interviewed you, it was right after you launched the first KKW Fragrance product, and you said that beauty companies had been coming to you, asking for business advice. Has that continued to happen? What are people asking you about the most?

Yeah, it has expanded. It's like a constant conversation, and I look to so many different brands for advice as well, so it's more just like admiring and supporting each other. I find that even though brands can be in competition, they are so supportive of each other. There's this feeling within the industry that there is room for everyone — at least that's been my personal experience with people and heads of big companies. They've always been really welcoming.

The questions I get all the time are about what I think of the PR packages and what PR I use for that, asking if they can hire them. I'm like, it's just me, I don't have a company that I work with. So when people ask me that, that's always really flattering.

Where do you get inspiration for those PR mailings, like the giant chocolate hearts?

I'll get inspiration from the most random places. It could be something that you'd never even think of; even last night I was looking at something online and came up with a really good idea for a project that I'm working on. It was literally 2:00 in the morning, I'd woken up, and I was like, 'I have to write this down.' This morning when I was in the shower I was like, 'Wait, was that a dream? Did I really write that stuff down?' But I really did — thank God, because I couldn't remember what it was.

Now that KKW Fragrance has been around for a year, are there any challenges that you can reflect on or any surprises when it came to growing the brand?

I learned a lot about quantities and launch days, what the best day to launch something is and what sales work best. With fragrance, nothing about it is a rush. We have such a long lead time from when I finalize something to when we launch that I never feel stressed out — it's probably one of my easiest businesses that I run. I love it so much and every fragrance is emotional to me and has a meaning, so I think of it far in advance. 

Makeup could be a rush. Everything is just pushing factories to get things done and packaging and timing. Everything has such strict deadlines; to me this feels like I just have a good lead time on everything.

Do you have any plans for the future to expand into other product categories?

Yeah, I would like to. I talk about expanding into hair all the time. The right partnership hasn't come about, but I do think about it and I do talk about it. Anything in the beauty space I just love and I feel like I know a lot about, I just haven't had the right partnership come about yet.

What about skin care?

I really would love to do skin care. I'm so particular, especially now that I'm in my late 30s and I try every single anti-aging product on the planet, I go to every facial. I'll try everything. So it's definitely something that I want to do and I hope to do in the future.

This interview has been edited for clarity.

Homepage photo: Phillip Faraone/WireImage

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