Why Beauty Wants More From Kim Kardashian


Ever since Kim Kardashian teased the return of her makeup and fragrances last week, the internet has had a lot of thoughts.

Some like makeup artist Alexis Oakley said getting one of SKKN’s first press packages was like “winning the lottery.” Other fans begged for the return of some of Kardashian’s more recognisable hits like KKW’s contour sticks and KKW Fragrance’s Body II and Kylie Nude Lips eau de parfums. Still, more appeared to be nonplussed either commenting on the high pricing of the new line (SKKN’s lip liners, lip colours and eye palette retail from $22 to $50) or comparing it to her makeup artist’s Mario Dedivanovic’s hit cosmetics line Makeup by Mario in the case of One Size founder and beauty influencer Patrick Starrr.

When Kardashian relaunched her beauty empire under the new name, SKKN By Kim, in June 2022, many wondered why she didn’t start with makeup to begin with. It was her core proposition back in 2017 when KKW debuted and it centred on Kardashian’s hero soft glam look with a hero product: the Crème Contour and Highlight Kit. But, the influencer-turned-brand founder was in a skincare moment two years ago and launched a nine-piece skincare line, created with celebrity aesthetician Joanna Czech, which totalled $630 for the whole collection. Much like SKKN’s initial offering of serums, eye creams and the like, the new makeup collection is minimal and subdued in its packaging. (However, the shade of packaging componentry isn’t final; Kardashian told some press that it was more important to get the products out there and iterate as she went). The products themselves, including the new lip liner and lipsticks give lovers of KKW what they want; there is even a nearly exact “KKW > SKKN Shade Guide” comparison on the brand’s Instagram page.

But Kardashian’s SKKN is missing the key ingredient that makes a celebrity line work today: a point of differentiation.

When compared to virtually any celebrity beauty founder, Kardashian possess all the attributes needed to create a successful launch, she’s incredibly influential — just this week she was renamed as an ambassador for Balenciaga — has access to the top creatives, product formulators, marketers and talent in the world (just look at the juggernaut that Skims has become) and has one of the most desired looks across beauty, fashion, Hollywood and mainstream culture. In many ways, Kardashian and her sister Kylie Jenner invented the modern celebrity beauty playbook, but since their debut, the space has gotten much more crowded and even more stale. Just this week, I received a report from Nielsen IQ that stated that celebrity beauty brand sales crossed the billion dollar sales mark in 2023, up nearly 58 percent year-over-year, but few aside from Rare Beauty and Fenty in cosmetics and Billie Eillish and Ariana Grande in fragrance had significant share. (Nielsen IQ tracks over 45 celebrity brands, but SKKN is not one of them.)

Given that SKKN makeup is Kardashian’s third attempt at colour cosmetics after Khroma Beauty (launched in 2012 and later transitioned into Kardashian Beauty) and KKW, I would have expected the founder’s latest venture to set the tone in makeup rather than play it safe. SKKN makeup, which goes on sale today, will only be sold at skknbykim.com, so Kardashian could have been provocative with colour and format as she isn’t hamstrung by a retailer’s directives. Instead, shoppers got several nude lipsticks and lip liners that they can find elsewhere. Adding skincare ingredients to makeup, meanwhile, isn’t especially new; just ask Ilia Beauty, Kosas, Danessa Myricks, UBeauty or Ogee. And her soft glam look once intrinsically Kardashian’s alone in the late 2010s has been iterated on by everyone from Dedivanovic to other makeup artist founders like Patrick Ta and celebrities like Jennifer Lopez.

Unlike Hailey Bieber (and her makeup artist Mary Phillips), who has helped spur virtually every makeup trend of the last year — “clean girl,” “tomato girl,” “latte makeup,” etc. — without a makeup line, no less, Kardashian hasn’t inserted herself in the beauty conversation enough.

Maybe Kardashian is busy with other projects, like the wildly successful Skims or her expanding partnership with Balenciaga. Or maybe she is hamstrung by Coty, which still owns 20 percent of her beauty business. Whatever the reason, given how competitive the industry has gotten since the debut of KKW Beauty, Kardashian will need to do more to make SKKN a success.

Here are my top picks from our insight and analysis on beauty and wellness:

1. How Tweens Took Over the Beauty Aisle: Gen Alpha has become increasingly captive with beauty, but as their preferences and purchasing power changes, beauty labels need to find the right mix of messaging and product to keep them coming back for more.

A tween girl surrounded by beauty products

2. Lashes, Brows, Botox: How Much is Too Much?: No longer the domain of the elite, lash extensions, brow treatments, injectables and more have become part of mainstream consumers’ beauty maintenance routines. But online backlash is brewing against growing pressure for elaborate upkeep.

A woman receives a lip filler injection.

3. How Prestige Beauty Brands Can Stay on Top : If aspirational customers keep pulling back from discretionary spending, only the luxury shopper will be left to snap up pricier products. But high-net-worth shoppers crave a different kind of retail experience.

An image of foundation dripping down a makeup brush.

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