This week’s episode of Keeping Up With the Kardashians offered viewers the inside scoop on how Kim K handled the cultural appropriation outcry when she announced the name of her shapewear line last spring. You’d think someone would have informed her that “Kimono”—a play on her name and also a traditional Japanese garment—wouldn’t land well. Apparently no one, not her own team nor the retailers she approached during the creation process, thought it a significant enough issue to bring it up to her before she ordered something like a million items and branded the line with the problematic name.
We can’t be sure if this says more about the kind of team she surrounds herself with, or North American culture in general but from the outside, it would seem obvious that a rich white woman taking the name of a traditional Japanese garment and using it to brand her shapewear would come off as a bit tone-deaf if not outright disrespectful.
Kim wondered at first if it was simply “fifteen people that are just being really loud” or actually a real issue—but when the mayor of Kyoto wrote her a letter explaining the history of the garb and why it was inappropriate for Kardashian to use it for her fashion line, she quickly realized she needed to rebrand.
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My fans and followers are a huge inspiration to me – I’m always listening to their feedback and opinions, and am so grateful they shared their ideas for a new brand name. After much thought and consideration, I’m excited to announce the launch of @SKIMS Solutionwear™ coming September 10. I love the idea that the pieces will be the closest thing to someone’s skin, skimming with amazingly soft and supportive fabrics which accentuate the best parts of our bodies. Available in sizes XXS – 5XL, SKIMS Solutionwear™ is for every body. SKIMS.COM. #ShowYourSKIMS Photo: #VanessaBeecroft
At the office, she and her team decided on a different play on her name, and SKIMS was (re)born. While they did end up having to lose a small percentage of stock, something like 90 percent of it was able to be salvaged by sewing in another patch of fabric over the old branding. Lucky Kim wouldn’t need to lose $10 million on inventory, as it turned out.
With the controversy over Kendall’s Pepsi ad back in 2017 with critics calling it exploitative and racially insensitive, one would assume the Kardashians would be on high alert to avoid and prevent these kinds of controversies. What good is a publicist if they’re not aware of what the public will and won’t respond to positively?
With all the best resources money can buy available to them—instantly—it shouldn’t be hard to find the right people to help them avoid these issues.
“We brought the name to retailers,” Kim explained in a confessional during the episode. “There was a lot of people that could have chimed in and said that they felt like this was not an appropriate brand name, and nobody did. Foolishly, and ignorantly, we never thought that it would be a problem.”
To her credit, Kim did listen to the criticism and rename the line but even better would have been doing the right thing the first time around.
Watch Keeping up With the Kardashians Sunday nights at 9pmET on E!