When Kim Kardashian launched her shapewear line Skims in 2019, the brand was just another one of the countless Kardashian-created fashion and beauty products on the market. But in the four years since, Kardashian has grown the brand to encompass swimwear and loungewear, tapped former Victoria’s Secret models to serve as ambassadors, and raised hundreds of millions of dollars in venture capital for the line.
Now, she’s preparing to take Skims public with a valuation of close to 4 billion.
Kardashian is reportedly in talks with Boston-based investment firm Wellington Management to lead another round of fundraising in preparation for a Skims IPO, with the brand already on track to reap in close to 1 billion in sales this year.
But as Skims enters its next chapter, can the brand speak to a potentially-lucrative, yet shapewear-skeptical Chinese consumer base to become a global powerhouse?
The Jing Take
Skims’ bread-and-butter products follow a relatively simple formula: barely-there basic shapewear that promises to lift and tone the wearer’s figure into Kardashian’s famed hourglass silhouette. Kardashian has elevated the line from simply another Spanx competitor into a cultural behemoth through savvy marketing that speaks to the cultural zeitgeist.
Since its inception, Skims has understood that contemporary sex appeal is inclusive, including a wide range of sizing and diverse skin tone shades as part of the “Fits Everybody” line. Skims has also regularly tapped buzzy models for its campaigns, like The White Lotus stars Simona Tabasco and Bea Grannò, rising musicians Ice Spice and PinkPantheress and 1990s icons Carmen Electra and Jenny McCarthy.
Those decisions have certainly helped the brand develop a Western following, but they don’t necessarily translate to China, particularly given the relative lack of interest in shapewear in the country. But the brand has found other ways to attract Chinese shoppers.
In 2021, Skims entered the Chinese market through retailer Lane Crawford. The line found quick popularity thanks to its collaboration with Fendi, with the latter providing buzz and name recognition for Kardashian’s brand. Chinese actress and singer Yu Shuxin has also since worn a dress from the line, and the hashtag #skims has accumulated over 50 million reads on Xiaohongshu.
The shapewear market is relatively underdeveloped in China, where some shoppers view these types of items as harmful undergarments. Skims’ T-shirts and dresses have subsequently better connected with local shoppers, but the lack of local shapewear competition also gives Skims a chance to take charge of the local perception of the category.
“Skims' shapewear has changed my view of shapewear. I used to think of shapewear as a symbol of enduring pain for the sake of beauty, but Skims' shapewear is genuinely comfortable,” wrote Xiaohongshu user "Unknown Vancouver retired blogger" (@温哥华非知名退休博主).
Kardashian has also previously used local personalities to connect with Chinese consumers. In 2019, she participated in a livestream with KOL Viya and Tmall to promote her KKW fragrance line, turning over 15,000 bottles of perfume.
As in the West, she and her family inspire polarizing opinions in China. But love or hate them, one thing about the Kardashians is universal: They know how to sell products. And Skims’ investors are hoping Kim can sell 4 billion worth of them.
Additional research by Huiyan Chen
The Jing Take reports on a piece of the leading news and presents our editorial team’s analysis of the key implications for the luxury industry. In the recurring column, we analyze everything from product drops and mergers to heated debate sprouting on Chinese social media.