Teyana Taylor and Iman Shumpert for Skims
Image Courtesy of Skims
April 25, 2024

SKIMS Campaigns Are The New Magazine Covers

These days, landing a SKIMS campaign is the Instagram equivalent of being on the cover of Vogue’s September issue.

What do Lana Del Rey, Sabrina Carpenter, Usher, Alexandra Cooper, Iman Shumpert, Teyana Taylor and Nick Bosa all have in common? They’ve all starred in campaigns for Kim Kardashian’s modern shapewear and loungewear brand, SKIMS

Now, landing a SKIMS campaign is the Instagram equivalent of being on the cover of Vogue’s September issue— if one is to acknowledge digital marketing’s power in our cultural sphere. 

The Business of SKIMS

SKIMS is undeniably the most successful business in the deep portfolio of Kardashian-Jenner consumer brands. To measure the distance between Dash, the original Kardashian boutique chain founded in 2006, and SKIMS, is to examine a family of women who have exploded into their own social and financial capital. If you were a teenager dragging your mom to the Dash store in SoHo, you are now likely an adult sending videos of SKIMS hauls to your friends. 

Sabrina Carpenter for Skims / Skims

Kim Kardashian co-founded the company in 2019 alongside Swedish entrepreneurs Jens and Emma Grede. However, the initial launch did not go without the usual Kardashian Kontroversy: the shapewear line we know and love today was first named Kimono, which received backlash for its appropriation of Japanese culture. Kim is a pro at handling controversy and reinvention in the public eye — and so, her shapewear baby was reborn as SKIMS, branded as “the closest thing to someone’s skin, skimming with amazingly soft and supportive fabrics which accentuate the best parts of our bodies,” per her Instagram launch post

Since then, SKIMS has soared to unprecedented heights. The brand was valued at $4 billion, as of July 2023, sparking murmurs about when the company would go public. They have strong ambitions beyond e-commerce, betting big on brick-and-mortar stores, which indicates their retail triumph at large — especially when considering the otherwise bleak outlook for physical shopping. Most recently, they collaborated with Nordstrom to launch a SKIMS Spring Shop pop-up in NYC

Why Everyone Wants a Campaign

What exactly is so seductive or so genius about SKIMS? How has Kim Kardashian convinced us nothing is sexier than pricy, soft cotton on bare skin? The formula is simple: good products, but even better marketing. Cultivating an air of excitement around a brand that sells mostly function-driven clothes is no small fashion feat. Of course, everyone loves to shop for things they don’t need. But how many times have you bemoaned shopping for something you actually need: a white t-shirt, a strapless bra, a perfect bodysuit for that slinky, high-slit dress? Function is rarely exciting, but SKIMS’ editorial and partnership strategy has made us want to elevate all the basics in our closet. 

User for Skims/ Skims

Brilliant, pop-culture-forward creatives like Nadia Lee Cohen, a British artist and photographer, are the beauty behind the business brain. Cohen has become a household name in Hollywood and beyond for her artistic, celebrity, and high-fashion work. On her website, she cites, “Cinema, commercials, shopping malls and all the lurid leftovers of Western consumerism” as her inspiration, “which then re-enters the mass media in the form of magazine covers, music videos and Instagram posts.” 

These muses are evident in her photographic work for recent SKIMS marketing. The holiday campaign, for instance, featured Kim on the cover of a 1960s-inspired magazine, with SKIMS clothing styled as retro ski attire. Tan and blonde, eyes wide with frosted makeup, Kardashian exuded vintage glamour, marking Cohen’s keen ability to elevate simple pieces with her unique visual flair. The images were tear-out-of-the-magazine-and-tape-to-your-teenage-bedroom-wall worthy. (Is reposting to your Instagram story the 2024 equivalent?) Similarly, the Valentine’s Day campaign starring Lana Del Rey captivated the internet. The singer posed like a young Hollywood starlet of a bygone era, embodying the Americana aesthetic she’s worshipped for. 

Lana Del Rey for Skims/ Nadia Lee Cohen

Del Rey’s Instagram post alone earned the brand $4 million, and the campaign earned the brand $13.7 million in media exposure, according to WWD. Cohen fusing mass culture appeal with a deep understanding of fashion, and more largely, art, has certainly contributed to SKIMS’ position as a brand marketing force.

How the Brand Is Growing

But SKIMS isn’t only appealing to the specific audience that appreciates vintage references and sad alt-pop stars. The brand, after all, is rooted in inclusivity, reflected in the diversity of its celebrity partnership strategy. When the men’s line launched this past October, the San Francisco 49ers defensive lineman, Nick Bosa, starred in the campaign alongside Brazilian soccer star Neymar Jr. and Oklahoma City Thunder point guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. Was the campaign really for the sports-obsessed boyfriend, or was it mostly eye candy for the SKIMS-obsessed girlfriends? The images were reminiscent of ‘80s and ‘90s Calvin Klein underwear ads, a cultural moment that sold sex and capitalized on international celebrity. Clearly, Kardashian and her co-founders have an expansive, well-rounded moodboard that they draw inspiration from. 

Nick Bosa for Skims/ Skims

Sports culture continues to be a leverage point for the apparel label. SKIMS was made the official underwear partner of the NBA, WNBA, and USA Basketball. Patrick and Brittany Mahomes did a family-friendly spread for the holidays. Ahead of March Madness, SKIMS announced a loungewear drop with six of the nation’s top college basketball players. Partnerships like this show the brand gearing up to play ball in the same conference as big athletic brands like Nike. Even the recent tennis-inspired collection is well-positioned with the upcoming premiere of Challengers, the buzzy sports romance drama starring Zendaya. 

Certainly, the brand’s broad but laser-focused approach to its audience has bolstered its sales, producing considerable hype surrounding each collection drop. But even if you’re not necessarily buying the product, you’re still likely aware of its many viral moments. This past fall, for instance, they revealed the “Ultimate Nipple Bra,” which has a built-in faux nipple. The launch video showed Kim modeling the bra, playfully commenting on Earth’s rising temperatures and melting glaciers. “No matter how hot it is, you’ll always look cold. Some days are hard, but these nipples are harder. And unlike these icebergs, these aren’t going anywhere,” Kardashian told the camera. On Jimmy Kimmel this past week, she actually admitted that the bra was modeled after her chest (which makes looking like a Kardashian feel suddenly more attainable). While some were amused by the bra or found the concept inappropriate, others spoke out in support: the breast cancer community, especially, responded with loving feedback. Ultimately, this surprising and innovative design reflects the brand’s willingness to disrupt the undergarment category, a niche that has arguably been stale since Victoria Secret’s heyday. 

Iman Shumpert and Teyana Taylor for Skims/ Skims

Continuing to watch SKIMS develop in the years to come will be a lesson in retail vision and ambition, brand marketing in the online age, and celebrity-fueled consumerism. We’re endlessly Keeping Up with the Kardashians, and based on the triumph of SKIMS, it’s doubtful we’ll be stopping anytime soon. The sun never sets in their empire of brands. No pair of sunglasses can spare our eyes from their unavoidable rays of influence. 

And if you skimmed this article, just know I wrote this while wearing my SKIMS. 

Maren Beverly

Maren writes out of Brooklyn and works in the beauty industry. She graduated from Wake Forest University in 2023 and loved her four years reading and writing under the southern sun. There, she wrote for her school's fashion magazine, which sparked her love of the business. Now, you can find her in the city decorating her dresser with fragrances and fresh flowers, perusing vintage shops for summer dresses, or writing creatively with a dirty chai in hand.

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