Emma Grede spent her childhood saving up change to buy fashion magazines. Now she’s making millions helping one of America’s most famous families start and run their business.
It’s a typical day for Emma Grede, who just hung up on Kris Jenner and is now speeding through Los Angeles to meet Khloé Kardashian for a photo shoot. “I talk to them every day,” she says of the ultra-famous family. “I mean, we don’t talk much on weekends.”
Regular contact is normal for the 39-year-old entrepreneur, as she – along with her husband, Jens – has become one of the Kardashians’ closest aides in their transition from reality TV royalty to savvy entrepreneurs. Together, the couple helped launch and run three businesses with the family, including Kim Kardashian’s shapewear line Skims (Jens is co-founder and CEO, Grede is a founding partner and chief product officer). Grede is also co-founder and CEO of Good American, the inclusive fashion brand she created with Khloé in 2016; and co-founder of Jenner’s new cleaning products company, Safely, which they launched in March of last year.
“Part of the beauty of the partnership is that we’re all very clear about our roles and what we’re doing, but there’s tremendous respect for each other and what each brings to the party,” Grede says.
“Emma is one of the hardest working people I know. Not only does she immerse herself in every part of the business, but she constantly pushes the boundaries of what a modern, inclusive fashion brand can and should be.
With many of these businesses taking off, Grede has carved out a place for herself alongside Kim and Kris on Forbes’ 2022 list of the richest self-made women in the United States Forbes estimates Grede is worth $360 million, largely thanks to his nearly 8% stake in Skims, which was valued at $3.2 billion in January. The rest of her fortune comes from owning about 23% of Good American, 22% of Safely, and less valuable stakes in Frame and Brady, companies her husband co-founded; the latter is a collaboration with NFL legend Tom Brady.
Grede is perhaps best known to people outside the fashion industry as a guest judge on shark tank. She says she took on the role of helping bring attention to underfunded black-owned businesses. She’s also the chair of 15 Percent Pledge, a campaign launched after the May 2020 murder of George Floyd that asks retailers to dedicate 15% of their retail space to black-owned brands (pledge signatories include Nordstrom , Sephora and Macy’s).
“When I came to America I was asked a lot of questions about being a black woman in business and honestly that was never really my reality or my experience in Europe, it’s even something people were asking me about,” Grede says. The racial justice movement of the past two years, coupled with his own rising profile, has made him want to take action. “I felt that with my position and what I’ve been able to build for myself and where I’m currently at in my life, the right thing to do would be to build on that.”
Grede may be rich and famous now, but it’s been a long journey so far. Growing up as one of four daughters of a single mother in east London, she remembers working on a paper road and other odd jobs from the age of 12, and having used loose change to buy fashion magazines. “I grew up in the 80s and London was just the beating heart of the fashion industry, and for me it was all about models,” she says. “I was obsessed with Kate [Moss] and Naomi [Campbell] and Linda [Evangelista] and Helen [Christiansen]. It was almost a feeling of escape, being able to watch fashion.
Financial difficulties forced young Grede to drop out of the London School of Fashion and take a job with a fashion production company, which turned out to be a blessing in disguise. Noticing the struggle of fashion designers trying to secure sponsorships, she came up with the idea for her first business, an agency that would connect designers with funding. At 24, she launched Independent Talent Brand (ITB), a marketing and entertainment business which she grew over the next decade before selling to Rogers & Cowen in 2018.
Grede’s introduction to the Kardashians came as she was building her agency (which is also how she met her husband, who was one of her early investors; he and Erik Torstensson ran the marketing agency London-based Saturday Group). She says she frequently met the family matriarch at fashion shows and they discussed her daughters’ careers. “If you’re in entertainment marketing, you’re really not in business unless you’re working with Kris Jenner,” she adds. So when Grede thought of the idea of a size and race-inclusive fashion company, inspired by what she saw as a lack of truly diverse and “body-positive” brands, she did. immediately introduced to Jenner, who suggested introducing her to Khloé. Grede flew to Los Angeles the following week.
The Kardashian sister says she was won over by Grede’s “crystal-clear” vision for the company. “It was so obvious that she was truly committed to working to change the fashion game, authentically engage all women, and pioneer inclusivity,” Khloé said. Forbes. “Emma is also one of the hardest working people I know. Not only does she immerse herself in every component of the business, from design to development to execution, but she is constantly pushing the boundaries that a modern and inclusive fashion brand can and should be, and I knew I had to join them on the journey.
“When I came to America I was asked a lot of questions about being a black woman in business and honestly that was never really my reality or my experience in Europe.”
Good American, which is sparse in its offering of sizes 00-24, claims to have staged the biggest denim launch in history when it debuted in 2016, selling $1 million on its first day of release. One of the reasons for its success is the technical difficulty of manufacturing so many sizes. “There’s a reason a lot of other brands don’t… When you’re making so many sizes of clothes, it’s not easy,” she explains. The brand has since expanded to swimwear, shoes and more; he recently caught the eye with the release of a 90s-themed pair of jeans with a pattern of small square holes top and bottom of the pants.
Grede, who moved with her husband to Los Angeles in 2017 to be closer to the clan and the important American market, says she manages “everything in all facets of the business”, while Kardashian focuses on the design and marketing. The reality TV star is frequently featured as a model on the Good American website and peppers her Instagram page, which has 250 million followers, with photos of herself in the clothes.
According to BMO Capital Markets analyst Simeon Siegel, having an “integrated marketing machine” like Kardashian can be extremely valuable. “In general, we’ve found that businesses perform better when brand builders partner with operators who also offer built-in initial audience support,” says Siegel, though he notes that partnering with a celebrity doesn’t. not enough to succeed in the hyper-competitive world. fashion industry.
“The company with the best product and no audience, or the company with the best audience and no product, just aren’t companies,” says Siegel. “Companies must do everything.”
After guiding Good American through the early stages of growth, Grede says it “felt like a very natural, easy partnership all around” when she and her husband were asked by Kim to help launch Skims in 2019. While Jens leads day-to-day operations for the fashion line of shapewear, Grede focuses on design, production, planning and merchandising as the company’s product manager. “I’m really the example of Kim,” says Grede. “Skims is Kim’s vision, it’s her idea, it’s her aesthetic. My job is to make that possible and to make it happen.
Overall, his time is mostly dominated by his work with Good American and Skims. But there’s a lot more on her plate, including her duties as a mother of four (she had twins via surrogate in 2021). She juggles it, she says, knowing when to delegate. For example, she hired someone else to be CEO of Safely “because I’m just not the best person to run a consumer cleaning business.” “I’m a mother of four and I have my time-consuming nonprofit commitments, but like everyone else, I don’t do anything alone,” says Grede. “I have amazing people around me but also in my family life and I always feel like as a working mom I want to be really honest about it. I don’t think I have everything. I certainly don’t do it all the time.