COVID-19 certainly hasn’t put a damper on spirits at Good American, which will register 78 percent growth in revenue in 2020.
“I’ve not had to lay people off or furlough, our business has been explosive,” chief executive officer Emma Grede told WWD, admitting she was “protectionist” when lockdown first started but got new product rolling by summer, including the brand’s first swimwear.
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Now the L.A.-based, digital-first denim brand founded in 2016 by Khloé Kardashian and Grede, which famously racked up $1 million in sales its first hour, is bringing its trademark radical size inclusivity to another category — footwear.
Naturally, Kardashian has already primed the market, posing naked to promote Thursday’s launch in nothing but a pair of slouchy satin Good American “OOO” boots for her 123 million Instagram followers.
The brand is unveiling a range of silhouettes, including trendy, sharp square-toe slingback sandals and sandal mules; more classic ruffled flats and pumps; sexy pointed-toe booties, and over-knee boots in sizes 4 to 14 with standard and extended widths for feet, calves and thighs.
Materials include recycled leather and suede; satin, and neoprene. Prices range from $139 to $375, and the shoes will be available on GoodAmerican.com, nordstrom.com and in 15 Nordstrom locations across the country.
Two years in the making, the collection was created in response to customer feedback about the need to address inclusivity in footwear, which like fashion has lagged behind real-world sizing. (In recent years, the average woman’s shoe size has increased to a size 9 from a 7 to 8.5 and 30 percent of all women wear larger than a size 10.5 shoe.)
“For me, it was obvious when we began shooting campaigns, which feature all real women we stalked on Instagram,” Grede told WWD. “You’d feel so much pride when sizes 18, 20 and 22 put on our jeans, but then you’d try to put shoes on her and it would be almost embarrassing to me. I found myself cutting shoes, going out to not such great places to buy shoes, just to get ones that would fit.”
Grede hired a dedicated team of five to work on the footwear, developing the collection in Spain instead of the U.S., where much of the denim is made.
“Our brand is based on quality and premium product, which we saw as a huge gap for our plus-size market,” Grede said on the choice to go with European production for the shoes with an eye to craftsmanship and comfort. “If you are buying an over-knee boot, they better last and they better be comfortable.”
The brand addressed fit from multiple angles to create 72 sizing variables, and stress-tested heels to make sure they don’t wobble.
“We are a company based on innovation and we don’t go into a new category until we can innovate…Women have different size calves and thighs, so we looked at sizing all the way up the leg and how do you scale that, and we took a lot of learnings from denim,” she said.
Social media is also key to the brand’s product development process.
“Khloé [Kardashian] has a very large audience and we use that audience, we go out and ask what they are looking for, what’s the price point sensitivity, it’s the lifeblood of Good American. We are a digital-first brand so it stands to reason everything happens on social first.”
In July, after noticing everyone wanted tie-dye sweats, Good American launched its own, getting them to market quickly because they were manufactured in L.A.. But sweatpants aren’t forever, and denim will still represent 70 percent of overall sales for the year, driven by classic and new product, such as the super-stretchy Always Fit jean, with one size designed to fit four sizes, that allows for a woman’s weight fluctuations, quarantine 19 or otherwise.
Dressier offerings, including a new stretch-sequin range, have also been selling, including a sold-out catsuit “she’s buying for that party in her house,” said Grede.
Distribution-wise, nothing was changed much from the pandemic, the executive said. “This has always been a predominately d-to-c business so for us, it wasn’t like we had to pivot to sell stuff online, that’s over 75 percent of our business already.”
But wholesale still has a role. Good American launched denim with Nordstrom and is turning to the retailer again now. “They’ve been fantastic; they launched in shoes and know that business. They gave us a lot of info and intel into what was missing, and where the market opportunity was. Customers do still go into their stores and want to try things on, it’s complementary.”
Reflecting on 2020, Grede prided herself on the fact that Good American had diversity and inclusivity within its ranks even before it became a topic in the industry with the movement for racial justice.
“I didn’t start to think about it this summer. As a Black woman leading this company, that’s been part of our success — we have true representation at the board level, at the decision-maker manager level and on down, and any agency we bring in is representative of that,” she said. (Good American’s workforce is 15 percent Black and 32 percent people of color, with 50 percent female and 25 percent Black senior leadership.)
Looking to next year, her team of 80 will be working to perfect swimwear and shoes, and make good on the brand’s sustainability goals. “My hope is we will be a certified B Corp in Q1,” she said, noting the application has been filed after 18 months of work.
One thing Good American won’t be getting into anytime soon, however, is brick-and-mortar. “It was always part of strategy, but now, I’m going to shy away from a flagship for the time being. The company is still relatively small. To open retail in this climate, you need something that will excite and be experiential, and also new teams, and that takes a lot of investment. I think we’d be better served putting money into product development and continuing to grow online.”
And while some may be wondering if the Kardashian branding juggernaut will suffer with the end of the family’s long-running E! Network reality show after season 20 in September 2021, Grede isn’t worried. “Khloé is a powerhouse who has hundreds of millions of followers. And living in America, you have this rerun history, and nothing is ever finished. ‘Keeping Up’ is going into that bucket of things we’ll be watching for the rest of our lives.”