Khloe Kardashian: 'Our denim's all about empowerment, making the women feel great'
Her life has been broadcast on TV to millions, now Khloé Kardashian tells Elaine Lipworth how she's using her fame to build an all-size clothing brand.
Khloé Kardashian's home is so familiar from the countless times I've seen it on television that being here feels surreal - or even hyper-real. High in the hills outside Los Angeles, it's all pristine white furniture and dark wooden floors. There are lit scented candles on every surface as well as bowls of M&Ms. Hits by Earth Wind & Fire and Anita Baker play in the background.
In the kitchen, two bunches of crimson roses adorn the marble table. Several glass jars of cookies sit on the island along with a giant platter of pineapples and watermelons. It's here that I meet Kardashian drinking coffee with vanilla almond milk. It's only 9.30am and already she has exercised in her home gym ('metabolic circuit training - circuit training with weights'), had breakfast (porridge with honey) and conducted a business meeting . 'I don't sleep much,' she smiles.
These are heady times for the 32-year-old. Quite aside from the continued phenomenal popularity of Keeping Up With The Kardashians - now in its 13th season chronicling the lives of Khloé, her elder sisters, Kim (36), and Kourtney (37); their mother, Kris Jenner (61) and step-parent, Caitlyn Jenner (67); and half-sisters, Kylie (19) and Kendall (21) - she has managed to build a mini-empire of her own. There's a bestselling book, Strong Looks Better Naked, recounting her struggles with weight, relationships and self-image; a TV show, Revenge Body, which sees participants lose weight before showing off their transformations to their exes; and the Khloé Kardashian app, featuring behind-the-scenes photos, videos and fitness tutorials, among other projects.
And then there's her new denim brand, Good American, co-created with London-based businesswoman Emma Grede, which has just landed in the UK. When it launched in the United States last autumn, it broke records, making $1m in sales on the first day. While a celebrity fashion tie-up may not sound like the most earth-shattering concept, Good American, explains Kardashian earnestly, is different (or, as she puts it, 'revolutionary'). "The line is all about empowerment," she enthuses, "making the women feel great about themselves and embracing women of all shapes." There's no 'plus-size' in the range, a term Kardashian detests. Instead, the jeans come in UK sizes 6 to 24, differentiating them from anything on the market. As Grede puts it: "No one does our size range and makes sure it all sits together in one location... We believe trends transcend size." Kardashian's commitment to it stems from the frustration she experienced 'when I was heavier' (she famously lost more than 40 pounds after splitting up with her ex-husband, the former basketball player Lamar Odom, in 2013). "I never considered myself fat, but when I used to shop with my sisters I was always really shamed and shunned by [sales assistants] who would say: 'We don't carry that size here'… I was always so embarrassed, so for a long time I didn't wear denim at all. I kept getting angrier." Celebrity stylists would refuse to work with her. "They said they didn't dress people my size. It's shocking,' she says, but 'once I lost weight, the same people would reach out, and be like, 'We would love to style you". I was like, "Screw you".'
Today, dressed in black Nike workout leggings and top and black furry slippers, she seems relaxed and comfortable in her own skin. With her divorce from Odom having been finalised late last year, Kardashian is currently in the throes of a new romance with 26-year-old Canadian basketball player Tristan Thompson. The couple were introduced last August by a mutual friend. "He said: 'I have someone I want you to meet'. I said: 'Absolutely not. I don't go on blind dates'." But when she met the basketball player (who has a four-month old son with his former girlfriend, model Jordan Craig) she says "we both felt this strong energy. I was like, oh this is such a nice, normal man - the normalcy is what I was craving." They discovered they had similar values. "I'm a Christian; he's a believer in God and that's important to me. Tristan's morals are everything I've wanted and need in my life."
Kardashian and Thompson fly back and forth between her LA house and his home in Cleveland, Ohio. She says he's "great" with the scrutiny that goes along with dating her "but I'm sure it's overwhelming". Early in the relationship they went on holiday to Mexico: "We took a private plane to avoid everything and enjoy our privacy, and we thought we were in the clear. But the paparazzi were on boats, they got pictures and I didn't find out until later. I was like, 'I'm so sorry', and Tristan was like, 'It's okay'. You could tell that was a big pill to swallow. But he accepts who I am. He likes to protect me, which I haven't had before - someone looking out for me almost before himself."
Thompson appears on Keeping Up With The Kardashians, "if I'm at a dinner with my family and he's there. But now I know I don't need to put everything on social media and I like to keep some things close to my heart." She puts the show's continued success down to the fact that "we show you who we are. We're not proud of every moment, we're just really honest about who we are. We make no excuses".
Which is not to say living her life on camera hasn't taken its toll. Last season "there was so much darkness, whether it be a divorce or my stepfather transitioning". Kardashian admits that she found the decision of Olympic gold medallist and father of Kylie and Kendall, Bruce Jenner - now Caitlyn Jenner - to come out as a transgender woman difficult to deal with. "I've known Cait since I was four-and-a-half. You know… it's really hard, you'll see our raw conversation. I think people misconstrued my reaction when Bruce [then] told us about the situation. It's not that I'm angry that Bruce was transitioning to Caitlyn…" Kardashian was upset, she explains, because "I didn't appreciate how it was handled and how we found out more in the media than from Cait.
This season, 'we thought, 'Let's show people our fun sides', and then life takes over… and Kim gets robbed," she says referring to the shocking incident last October when her sister Kim was robbed at gunpoint in her Paris apartment. The attackers were dressed as police officers and tied her up in the bedroom while they stole millions of pounds worth of jewellery before fleeing on bicycles. At the time, Kardashian was in Cleveland with her boyfriend watching the drama unfold on TV. Since then, she's been incensed by internet trolls and mean-spirited comments in the media, suggesting that Kim and her husband, Kanye West, in some way 'deserved' the incident for displaying their wealth and extravagant lifestyle publicly. "I get really angry when people blame her for her robbery - I think that is the most irresponsible accusation. I don't care how little or how much you have, nobody deserves to be violated and robbed and assaulted and traumatised."
She does say, though, that the robbery resulted in the family bonding in a new way. "With every tragedy or traumatic experience that happens to our family, we become stronger."
The robbery also made them aware of the need to be vigilant. Her mother, she says "makes sure that we have extra security". Kardashian smiles. "My mum knows everybody and she'll literally get the secret service to protect us because we're her children. That's also a benefit of having your mom as your manager - my mom, who's brilliant in her field." Kris Jenner, of course, is widely seen as the driving force behind KUWTK. Kardashian was in her early 20s when it first started in October 2007. Does she ever get tired of the relentless attention it has brought?
"Oh, totally, there are days when you're just like, 'I don't want to talk to anyone', when people are like, 'Can I take your picture?' You still have to respect everyone though, because it's an honour that someone wants your photo." She also has to deal with 'naysayers, the bloggers who would call me fat. Now, they're like, 'Gorgeous Khloé!' I'm like, 'No, I was gorgeous either way'."
At a recent appearance to promote Good American, Kardashian was as usual besieged with fans and well-wishers. "I always think no one is going to show up, so when people come, I want to embrace them and hug them but they [the security guards] were going, 'Ma'am people are grabbing you', and my mom was like: 'Stop. You can't be doing that'. And she was right."
Kardashian is a regular churchgoer and along with the whirlwind that fame brings she enjoys the simple pleasures of life. "On Sunday I had the kids here [her nieces and nephews]. We made vanilla strawberry jam."
She likes to read, particularly spiritual books and is engrossed in 'The Shack [by William P Young], about a man who loses his daughter and loses his way with God'.
She says she had a solid foundation growing up in LA where she lived with her mother following her parents' divorce when she was four (her father was OJ Simpson's defence lawyer Robert Kardashian). Kris went on to marry the then Bruce Jenner in April 1991. Her father, "a brilliant attorney and businessman" instilled strong values in the children. "We always went to feed the homeless on skid row. We lived in a beautiful mansion in Beverly Hills, I had miniature ponies at every party, but my dad never wanted us to think that was reality. He was really strict. We had a lot of chores."
When Robert Kardashian died of oesophageal cancer aged 59 in 2003 "we were all really lost", she says. "We relied on my father so much, I started losing all my hair. I was stressed because I was internalising so much pain. I was partying a lot, just doing things I shouldn't have been doing like being out late, just being a wild teenager."
Financially, the four children had to support themselves, says Kardashian. "A lot of people don't know that we didn't have an inheritance.
"I think there is a silver lining to my dad's passing: he has been my guardian angel and in a way has guided us through life. There's a blessing even in the most tragic of things." One of those blessings, she says, was the strong work ethic and business acumen he passed on. "I worked for my dad as a secretary after school. I was never allowed to sleep in. They wanted to teach us the value of being productive with your day."
It's interesting that - from Kylie's hit make-up range to Kim's Kim Kardashian: Hollywood game, which has made £80m since its launch in 2014, and now Khloé's denim range - all the Kardashian women have managed to translate their fame into entrepreneurship and take charge of their images.
"I love being a businesswoman," says Kardashian. Grede, who has brokered other celebrity fashion deals such as Natalie Portman's collaboration with Dior, has nothing but positive things to say about her entrepreneurial skills: "She is fearless in her choices. She's a proper business partner - we speak, text and email all the time."
I look at my watch: we've spent the entire morning chatting. "I talk a lot," says Kardashian cheerily, going upstairs to get changed for her next appointment, emerging a few minutes later in Good American jeans, a leopard-print jacket and beige canvas ankle boots "by Kanye".
Before she goes I ask her whether having achieved so much so young, she still has goals? "I would love to have a family," she says. With Thompson? "We've talked about it. He [already] is a father, and I know for a fact that he would be an impeccable father. I definitely want to be a mom. But I don't put the pressure on it."
There are no immediate plans to walk down the aisle but she does say she has "never been in this type of love'" If he proposed, would she accept? "Yes I would." Spoiler alert? Only time will tell.
- Khloé Kardashian's denim brand, Good American, is available from goodamerican.com and Selfridges