Upon first glance, Good American - the new denim line by Khloe Kardashian and British businesswoman Emma Grede - is just another premium denim collection slashed and frayed in all the right places. But to write off the label as the next Hollywood-adjacent celebrity brand would miss the point.
The founders aren't trying to reinvent the metaphorical denim wheel with their designs, or spark the latest jean fad. They're trying to start a social movement, they say. And it may be working. Though Good American, available in sizes 0-24, just launched Tuesday on the brand's website and select Nordstrom stores, it's already gathering a serious cult following, with some diehard fans going so far as to Photoshop the Good American logo across their personal photos and post them to social media with the hashtag #GoodSquad.
Now that's what we call successful branding.
The idea for the collection ($149 to $215), which includes three styles named Good Legs, Good Cuts and Good Waist, came from Grede, whose multihyphenate status makes her a perfect fit for the Kardashians. In addition to her 50-50 partnership on Good American, the Brit also is the CEO of ITB, an entertainment marketing firm which has cultivated several celebrity brand ambassadorships, including Pharrell's partnership with G-Star Raw.
"I called Kris [Jenner] - I've had a relationship with her for four or five years now - and she said, 'What a great idea! Sit down and talk to Khloe.' The rest is history," said Grede. "I felt like it would be important to try and work with somebody who really embodied this idea of empowering women and being proud and happy with whichever shape and size you are."
In the past two years in particular, Kardashian has become a champion for body positivity and health above numbers on the scale. (Which also makes good business sense, after all, since the average American woman is a size 14.) In her 2015 memoir, Strong Looks Better Naked, she writes about coming to terms with her weight, and not working toward size, but rather toward strength. "No matter how thin I could ever be, that's not what I would look like," Kardashian noted of the thin models typically found in denim campaigns, adding that it was Victoria's Secret campaigns that inspired her growing up.
A video posted by GOOD AMERICAN (@goodamerican) on Oct 13, 2016 at 7:38am PDT
Using Grede's marketing background, the pair came up with the idea for an open casting call for models, receiving more than 12,000 submissions which were narrowed down to a group of 250, all of whom met with Kardashian and Grede in Los Angeles. "It was kind of like a focus meeting for us as well," said Kardashian of interviewing the candidates and discussing their taste in denim. Eventually, the group of 22 women (including Kylie Jenner's BFF Jordyn Woods and Kardashian's BFF Malika Haqq) were chosen not just based on their looks, but "what they stand for." Kardashian envisions them more as brand ambassadors than nameless mannequins.
"We kind of cyber-stalked them," she explained of getting down to what the girls are really up to. "It's really easy to give you a picture of them. It's like a fake résumé. I wanted to know, 'Are you really being truthful about what you stand for?'" Added Grede, "It was about having a unique group of women we feel really epitomize everything that we're trying to say with this brand. We wanted diversity in race and ethnicity, in the size of their backside - the whole spectrum was important to us - but mostly we asked, 'What is the vibe of these individuals?'"
Courtesy of Good American
Despite the momentum the collection has picked up in just the past few weeks, for now, Good American is sticking to denim. "It's not so easy - otherwise everyone would be doing it - to create the range and to make flattering styles for this wide of size range is difficult," said Grede. "So we're really focused on doing denim. We're working on some shorts and skirts at the moment, but we're in no rush to be, like, 'Oh, here's a shoe and a fragrance!'"
Down to the name, Grede and Kardashian have thought the brand through to its core. Good American is not only a play on the model of a "good American girl" who wears jeans and shows off her shape, but also a nod to the business model. "Businesses are very often mistrusted, and often quite rightly so. But we thought that our company should behave as a good American," said Grede. "Everything we make, we should make well. Right now we make all the denim in Los Angeles. It's about a fair living wage, about supporting the local community, about having good charitable works." (Update Nov. 29: Khloe Kardashian gave Snapchat followers a behind-the-scenes look at the hand-distressing techniques in the L.A. factory.)
"We want longevity," added Kardashian. "This is something you have to nurture, and you have to crawl before you walk. There's no rush for any of this because we want to be here for years to come."
A photo posted by GOOD AMERICAN (@goodamerican) on Oct 17, 2016 at 1:28pm PDT