When it comes to beauty influencers, Kim Kardashian West can be credited as a pioneer. With her longtime makeup artist Mario Dedivanovic, she lauded the benefits of contouring (that old-school stage-makeup method of using darker base shades or bronzer to chisel and define features) early on. But unlike her half sister Kylie Jenner, whose Kylie Cosmetics line had its debut two years ago and has enjoyed booming success, Ms. Kardashian held herself apart from the legions of social media tastemakers turned solo makeup entrepreneurs — until now.
On Wednesday, Ms. Kardashian will introduce KKW Beauty with one product: perhaps unsurprisingly, the Crème Contour and Highlight Kit, with a contour stick, a highlighter stick and a brush/sponge, all with dual ends. It will be sold exclusively at KKWBeauty.com in four shades for $48 each.
Though Ms. Kardashian is no stranger to beauty brand extensions — she has her own fragrance line, and she and her sisters licensed their name for Kardashian Beauty and Kardashian Tan — this is the first time she has had full control over all the particulars, including product, packaging and image. Further, she intends the business to become a full-blown line, with several products already in the pipeline.
The rollout has not come off without a hitch, however. Last week, Ms. Kardashian posted a promotional image of herself on Twitter, in a cream-colored bra top and high ponytail, looking very contoured and very, very tan, prompting allegations that she had darkened her skin. Or, to put it more bluntly, that she was essentially wearing blackface.
But certainly no one is betting against Ms. Kardashian, who has proved adept at capitalizing on controversy in the past. Here, she responds to the blackface Twitter storm and explains how her own beauty evolution is reflected in KKW Beauty.
You’re not the first social media star to start her own line. Why were you slower to the game?
I had a line with my sisters, and we were in a licensing deal and a partnership, and it took time to get out of that. Right after, I said, “Hey guys, I want to do something on my own.” Kylie had just started her lip kits, my mom and Kylie had found a really great business model and found great partners. I learned so much from them.
Does that mean you’re going to work with the same manufacturer as Kylie?
Yes, I’m working with the same manufacturer. I’ve had a relationship with them for a while actually. But the lines, they’re totally separate. We don’t really talk to each other about what we’re doing and what our formulas are.
Mario, your makeup artist, recently signed on with Laura Mercier. With the introduction of your line, will you continue to work together?
Mario and I, we’re like family. We started in this together. We are so close that no matter what, we will always get advice from each other. I literally FaceTimed him at 2 a.m. the other day with a million swatches on my face. I was like, “I can’t decide which swatch and what shade this product should be,” and he told me which was best.
You two have been moving toward a more natural look, with less contour.
Yes, but I’ve always stayed true to contour. I’d say that for the past six months, I haven’t been wearing much makeup, but I try to have a little bit of a bronzy look that’s really beautiful and really creamy-looking. That’s why the sticks are cream. There’s no setting powder. But you can make it a heavier contour by adding a setting powder on top of the cream contour.
Why did you move to a more low-maintenance look?
Having kids really changes it up.
A lot of the social media-driven brands are targeting a younger shopper — more a 20-something millennial — but perhaps the quality of the product isn’t there. Being a mom, and being in your 30s, what’s your focus going to be?
When we get to my concealers, I’ll have anti-aging formulas. That’s really important to me — and, of course, the quality. In the beginning, this line will really be about all the correcting and perfecting tricks I’ve learned. There’s the cream contour. There will also be powder contour and undereye concealer. I’ve always had dark undereye circles from being Armenian. These are the things I feel like I’ve really perfected.
Definitely that’s part of your image. Speaking of image, tell me about your side to the blackface controversy.
I would obviously never want to offend anyone. I used an amazing photographer and a team of people. I was really tan when we shot the images, and it might be that the contrast was off. But I showed the image to many people, to many in the business. No one brought that to our attention. No one mentioned it.
Of course, I have the utmost respect for why people might feel the way they did. But we made the necessary changes to that photo and the rest of the photos. We saw the problem, and we adapted and changed right away. Definitely I have learned from it.