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February 18th, 2017

Kylie for Violet Grey

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In a new series, VIOLET GREY profiles female beauty entrepreneurs who are considered industry game changers for their individual approach to business. Each one entered the conversation in her own manner and maintained a steady, if not unparalleled, trajectory with her indomitable spirit. Here, we study how the all-powerful influence of social media led to Kylie Jenner’s direct-to-consumer beauty empire.

Sex and the City sold a lot of Manolos, Michael Jordan’s jump shot sold a lot of Nikes, MTV sold a lot of records, and Kylie Jenner’s real-life exposé on Instagram and Snapchat is selling hundreds of millions of dollars worth of lipstick. Linear television is dead (@kylizzlemynizzl just ate it for breakfast), the drugstore beauty aisle is rather empty, and is breaking the internet. You could say that this rupture with the past began when she launched her brand in November 2015, with just one Kylie Cosmetics Lip Kit, retailing at $29.99. You could also say the markings of an industry shift started before then, with a teenage girl whose insecurity (common at that age) was only amplified under the glare of the spotlight tracking the most famous family in the world. You could say all that—and it might be true.

But the precise moment that rocked the beauty world was the chain reaction caused by the launch announcement of the Lip Kit on @KylieJenner, which led to a complete sellout on—all within mere seconds. Her fans opened the doors and gave her a seat at the head of the table in that split-second moment, and turned “teenage insecurity” into the fastest-growing cosmetics empire in the history of the beauty industry.

The 19-year-old Jenner sits at the helm of Kylie Cosmetics—with the support of startup SEED Beauty and the advice of her unfaltering mother, Kardashian matriarch Kris—and the fledgling company has the beauty establishment quaking in its boots. (“It’s kinda cool,” she admits of the admiration and respect she has generated among the competition.) The product itself is not revolutionary (although the Lip Kit, comprising a perfectly matching set of lip pencil and liquid lipstick, is novel), but her method of doing business is. Rather than follow the more conventional route of conducting a handful of well-appointed interviews and securing shelf space at Sephora with hopes of selling the brand to a cosmetics conglomerate, Jenner’s entire marketing strategy relies on her social media, and her only stockist is her website.

Social media is everything to me. It can also be a negative space for celebrities. But what would we do without it?

Full interview: