They say lightning doesn’t strike twice. But Jens Grede’s many attempts at building modern fashion brands have resulted in thriving, multi-million-dollar companies, like clockwork. Based on his consistent go-to-market strategy, leading with a proven playbook is the antidote to a challenging retail market.
Grede first entered the consumer fashion space in 2008 with denim-focused Frame, co-founded with Erik Torstensson, his partner in Saturday London creative agency. The brand’s multiple model collaborators have included Karlie Kloss, who first linked with the brand in 2013 on denim styles for tall women. Nearly a decade after Frame’s debut, Grede and wife Emma Grede embarked on an accelerated rollout of brands with famous faces as founding partners. With Khloé Kardashian, they introduced size-inclusive denim brand Good American in 2016. Kim Kardashian-driven shapewear company Skims followed in 2019, and Kris Jenner and Chrissy Teigen’s natural cleaning products label Safely launched in March — Teigen subsequently left the brand.
Most recently, Grede teamed with Tom Brady on versatile performance apparel brand Brady, set to launch this month. “His name is synonymous with excellence — doing the best you can with what you’ve been given,” Grede said of the venture’s impetus. “He came into the NFL as a sixth-round draft pick, then he created his success. I don’t know what’s more American than that.”
As of June, Frame, Good American and Skims together were expected to exceed $600 million in 2021 sales, with Skims driving more than $300 million.
Grede called “making Skims a unicorn” his proudest achievement of 2021, referring to the brand’s $1.6 billion valuation in April. The brand’s “lighthouse events” of the year included its partnerships with Team USA, on new sleepwear and loungewear timed with the Olympics, and with luxury fashion brand Fendi, he said. The first styles in the Fendi x Skims collection dropped in early November, with many styles selling out
“We saw Skims move leaps and bounds,” he said. “It’s shown me what a dedicated small team can be capable of — and we’re only getting started.”
Along with “strong communities,” each of the brands in Grede’s growing empire has “strong values,” he said. Frame remains focused on sustainability, most recently introducing a line of biodegradable jeans. Meanwhile, inclusivity is in the DNA of Skims and Good American. For example, along with selling sizes XXS-4X, Skims offers its styles in a wide spectrum of nude shades. Offering fair pricing, responsible practices and value across brands is “not an easy equation,” but essential, he said.
Jens and Emma Grede aptly named their holding company Popular Culture. The other shareholders in the businesses they co-lead include Kardashian-Jenners, Theory founder and investor Andrew Rosen, Imaginary Ventures and Thrive Capital.
“I have the opportunity to build brands that are loved by its customers and in the zeitgeist — a group of brands of the next generation,” Grede said.
As for how he plans to manage it all, he said, “I focus on the challenges and initiatives that make a big difference.” He called current supply chain issues his brands’ biggest obstacle. “We’re a young group, so we should be taking yards and not inches when we drive.”