It might seem like North West has a perfect, easy life — walking around in custom Balenciaga and Alexander Wang, starring on magazine covers and in luxury ad campaigns, playing with her mom's makeup products, dancing like no one's watching in a slip dress and Doc Martens at her dad's Sunday service — but as much as she plays hard, she also works hard. On Tuesday morning, the five-year-old completed 20 pages of spring break homework, I overheard as Kim Kardashian West quickly Facetimed her when I sat down for our interview, asking her daughter if she wanted to come join her at the hotel "where we stayed during the fires."
That would be the stunning (albeit controversial) Hotel Bel-Air, where Kardashian West held an event to celebrate the launch of her new collaboration with German sunglasses brand Carolina Lemke. During our brief interview, she would also take a call from her youngest sister Kylie Jenner; some decisions needed to be made about Easter baskets.
Trust me: I did not mind. As someone who can barely tear herself away from the TV when "Keeping Up With the Kardashians" is on, you can bet I was enjoying every minute of these real-life familial interactions. Of course, at this point, with this family, it's difficult to know what moments are spontaneous versus what's strategic, but the fact that Kardashian West doesn't give a second thought when it comes to taking calls from, showing me iPhone photos of, or talking about her family during professional engagements, just shows how intertwined those parts of her life are.
"I made the circle ones sort of for my sister Kourtney; I feel like that's her vibe," Kardashian West told me of her sister (whose new lifestyle site curiously launched the same day as the sunglasses), while going through the 20 different styles she designed for the collaboration. They will roll out throughout the spring and summer.
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Kardashian West's collaboration serves essentially as Carolina Lemke's introduction to the North American market, making it a somewhat unexpected collaborator and follow-up to her growing cosmetics empire. "My friend Bar Rafaeli — I met her through Lorraine Schwartz who's my jeweler — they launched the brand in Israel and it has done so well," Kardashian West told me of how she learned about the brand, which she is also a partner in. "I liked that there was really no other ideas or preconceived notions about the brand, that it was just a completely new brand." The accessible price point was appealing as well: All styles from the first drop are $90.
Kardashian West also liked the fact that she could have free rein over all creative aspects. "I loved that they would give me full control; I wanted to design everything," she said. "We were supposed to do about six glasses and we ended up doing 20 styles." She also picked the campaign photographers — Mert and Marcus, NBD — and helped come up with the vision for the imagery — long, slide-parted hair, clones and all.
As for the sunglasses, there is a lot of what you might expect a Kardashian West-designed sunglasses line to consist of; namely those tiny, '90s-inspired, "The Matrix"-esque frames. But there are also a large number of oversized and sporty silhouettes — hints of what's to come from the eyewear trendsetter whose husband once famously emailed her instructions to stop wearing big sunglasses.
But initially she was resistant to the tiny-sunglasses trend. "I always thought a while ago: I can’t do that small, it just didn't really work on my face. Then I found a few that I really liked so I started to incorporate those, so now I’m kind of really into small," she said. But, she added, "I feel like it's definitely going back to very big and visor-y, so I did kind of a mix."
While some of the sunglasses may have a 2000s vibe, Kardashian West is still feeling the '90s, sourcing style inspiration from the eras supermodels — most notably Naomi Campbell. Kardashian West's recent penchant for wearing near-identical outfits to ones Campbell wore in the '90s is well-documented. "I know some pieces have been very Naomi and very Cher," she admitted. "I think the Naomi vibe has been a very Versace vibe, too. I love Versace and so when I was talking to Donatella... there's so many runway looks that we pulled and I'm just so grateful that she's let me borrow some of those exact looks." As far as why so many of those looks were originally worn by Campbell, there's a pretty simple explanation, per Kardashian West: She was just always given the best looks for runway shows. "Her and I, we laugh at it and I've always said she's my super icon."
Kardashian West said she filmed a bit of the design process for "KUWTK," including the creation of the all-important press boxes — the elaborate, visually stimulating mailings that are sent out to press, celebrities and influencers in the hopes that they'll make a splash on social media and ultimately convert to sales. For the launch, recipients got a mask made from a mold of Kardashian West's head with the sunglasses on them. But Kardashian West was initially thinking bigger. "We got my full body scanned; we actually made full (life-size) mannequins of my exact body shape," she explained. "First I said, 'I want to send a [full] head with the long hair to everyone,' and was like, that's gonna be too crazy."
Kardashian West's mailings, whether they consist of a creepy mask or a breakable chocolate heart, always resonate on Instagram, and are often amplified with a re-post by Kardashian West. (She said she came up with the chocolate heart only six days before the product was set to launch.) "It really helps drive sales," she said. So how does she come up with them? "Honestly it's a feeling," she explained. "It can make or break a launch for me at least, for someone that's so digital."
She's already excited for her next press box. As revealed on episode one of the latest "KUWTK" season, Kardashian West is working on a fragrance with Kylie Jenner. "I actually thought about the press box for it before I thought about the bottle or anything, and sometimes it happens that way," she told me.
This effective-yet-non-traditional marketing strategy is just one important piece of the puzzle — a puzzle that includes momager Kris Jenner, coordination with family members and the fact that they readily share intimate details of their lives with the general public — that makes nearly everything a Kardashian or Jenner touches turn to gold these days.
See the full Carolina Lemke Kim Kardashian West collection in the gallery below.