The perfect timing and iffy branding of Kim Kardashian’s “Kimono” shapewear

Kim Kardashian-West, artifacts disruptor.
Kim Kardashian-West, artifacts disruptor.
Image: Reuters/Shannon Stapleton
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Kim Kardashian-West made her first foray into the lingerie and shapewear industry with the announcement of her upcoming shapewear collection. “Kimono” will include pieces in sizes XXS to 4XL in nine different shades.

The line allegedly took Kardashian-West 15 years to perfect. Maybe that’s true, but it’s more likely that the reality star, her business team, or “momager” Kris Jenner—she of the notoriously good timing—is paying attention to the lingerie and shapewear markets.

According to analysts at data firm Report Linker, the global lingerie market (which includes bras, underwear, loungewear, and shapewear) is on the up and up, and is poised to grow to more than $125 billion by 2024, up from $93 billion in 2017.

Driving the market are a number of factors. The report notes “a rising demand for branded lingerie wear, innovative offerings to target customers, changing preferences of young generation, and aggressive marketing & promotional strategies” as some of the biggest.

These factors have already driven differentiation in a lingerie market previously dominated by Victoria’s Secret. That now-struggling label faces serious competition by the likes of Aerie (American Eagle’s thriving undergarment brand) as well as a whole spate of lingerie startups that are both savvier with their marketing and more innovative in their offerings.

Shapewear is even riper for disruption. The market leaders in compression-wear are currently Nike and Adidas, but they’re not making the kind of gear you’d wear under a silk slip for a night out. That’s still Spanx, and well under them are brands like Yummie, Leonisa, and Ann Cherry, all of which make expensive, and, unfortunately, matronly-looking shapewear.

Kimono, though the name is receiving backlash, seems to tick all the right boxes. The Vanessa Beecroft-photographed launch (see the Instagram post above), while lacking in body diversity, looks cool and modern. And beyond the Kardashian brand and the nearly unparalleled social media following Kim herself boasts, the shapewear is cut in a variety of patterns to accommodate different wardrobes, and comes in a range of skin tones. Calling it “innovative” might be a stretch, but it’s separate from what market leaders, including Spanx, currently offer.

Kimono marks Kardashian’s first solo venture in the fashion space (until now she’s stuck to collaborations, such as her recent one with Carolina Lemke for an eyewear collection). The line is not yet available, so it remains to be seen what price points we’re looking at—currently the average cost of shapewear bottoms from a leading brand can range from $40 to $80. And we’ll have to see if Kardashian will expand the line into more classic lingerie. The collection already has compression bras and underwear, so it’s not unfathomable that Kardashian would make the leap.

That said, she isn’t without competition. Rihanna, whose first lingerie line Savage X Fenty received rave reviews at its New York Fashion Week debut, is probably best poised to compete with Kardashian, something that New York Times fashion critic Vanessa Friedman suggested on Twitter.

Moreover, it seems that Rihanna’s Fenty brand is sitting on a number of trademarks—including Fen by Fenty, Lavender by Fenty, and Fenty 88—that include apparel categories in which shapewear could fall. But that, at this point, is just speculation.