It’s 11:59 p.m. on the night of Nov. 29, 2015. You’re bent over your laptop screen, anxiously staring at the Kylie Lip Kits website, waiting for the clock to hit 12 to get your hands on the highly coveted liquid lipstick and liner.
The mid–2010s were the pinnacle of King Kylie’s rule: girls everywhere were dying their hair ombre–blue, lip filler consumption saw a drastic growth, and the Cartier love bracelet became the most searched jewelry item in 2016. It naturally followed, then, that Kylie Cosmetics was also extremely sought–after.
You can’t not think of these years without envisioning its signature makeup look—heavy contouring, intense cut–crease eyeshadow looks, and over–lined matte lips—that has now become known as 2016 makeup on TikTok. And there’s no denying the role Kylie Jenner played in spearheading this look. At that time, Kylie was the it–girl; girls all over the world recreated her iconic selfies, people eagerly awaited her Coachella outfits, and E!News repeatedly reported her doings. She was among the OG beauty influencers revolutionizing the beauty industry; for instance, in 2016 there was a 553% increase in searches for “nude lipstick” after Kylie started wearing the matte color. In the same year, her Instagram followers also almost doubled from 46 million to over 80 million. Thus, after the launch of its first three lipstick–and–lipliner kits at the end of 2015, Kylie Lip Kits did astronomically well. Not only did her first collection sell out in one minute, but for the next few years, all of Kylie's collections instantly sold out as well. And when she had a pop–up at Westfield Topanga in LA, fans started camping out the night before just to get in.
Would consumers today still spend the night in a mall just to get a chance to get their hands on a celebrity’s cosmetics brand? I vote no, or at least not as many people as there would’ve been in 2016. People simply don’t care enough about Kylie Cosmetics anymore. According to Rakuten, Kylie Cosmetics sales were 62% less in 2019 than they were at the brand’s peak in 2016; in 2022, they fell even more, resulting in a 20% decline from 2019 sales. Consumers have clearly moved on, leaving the brand in the past.
So, why the surprising decline in Kylie Cosmetics popularity? Have consumers simply gotten disillusioned with the seemingly infinite number of celebrity fashion and beauty brands? From Ariana Grande’s R.E.M. Beauty to Scarlett Johannson’s skincare brand, The Outset, every other celebrity seems to be expanding into the beauty space. Back when Kylie introduced her Lip Kits to the world, the notion of a celebrity brand was still unique. For consumers at the time, it was likely a novel experience to be able to purchase something created by an individual they deeply admired—it almost made them feel closer to their idol. But now, the celebrity brand market has become so oversaturated that the special bond from consumption has been severed. The attitude has gone from admiration to, “Ugh, another celebrity brand.”
Another factor that has possibly contributed to the decline of Kylie Cosmetics has been consumers’ shift towards prioritizing quality. Increasingly, consumers on TikTok are starting to care more than ever about buying long–lasting products that are good for them. TikTok has made it cool to become a conscious consumer: make sure your shampoo doesn’t have any sulfates, your face powder is talc–free, and your eyeshadows aren’t full of unethically produced mica. Consumers have become more selective with their purchasing decisions, and for many, Kylie Cosmetics does not make the cut—the celeb status of the brand is simply not enough to make up for its lack of quality. Rakuten stated that 60% of shoppers reported having bought from the brand only once, possibly hinting at a lower–than–expected quality that made consumers not willing to repurchase.
Additionally, another potential contributor to the fall of Kylie Cosmetics might simply be changing trends. In stark contrast to 2016 makeup, social media today relishes more “natural” makeup styles. With the rising popularity of the clean girl and their no–makeup makeup, the ideal makeup look today could not be more unlike the Kylie era: soft, fluffy eyebrows have replaced stark, filled–in ones, minimal skin products have taken over intense contouring, and light, glossy lips have become the norm. The world has merely outgrown Kylie Cosmetics, and the era of makeup it represents. It no longer has any space among the Glossiers and Merit Beautys of the industry.
Perhaps Kylie has also realized that the days of Kylie Cosmetics are in the past. In 2020, she sold 51% of Kylie Cosmetics to Coty. On October 24 of this year, she took to Instagram to soft–launch her fashion brand, Khy. On first look, Khy’s aesthetic screams TikTok cool girl—its website is minimal and neutral, and its pieces appear to be the definition of elevated basics, with structured silhouettes and a good fit. Her first drop features a lot of faux leather, along with basics like leggings and baby tees. Her second collection is more winter–inspired, with a plethora of puffer jackets in unique shapes, including one that cinches in at the waist.
Is the celebrity–ness of a brand still enough to drive its success? With Khy, the answer is not yet clear. Although Khy did sell out of numerous pieces and surpassed $1 million in sales in its first hour, the response was a lot lower than past celebrity ventures. For instance, when Kim Kardashian released her shapewear brand, Skims, in 2019, her collection completely sold out on the first day and reportedly made millions in minutes. Moreover, the online response to the Khy has been questionable: many on TikTok have complained about its sizing, and have even gone as far as to compare the brand’s quality to Shein. Hence, while Khy is by no means a failure, it can be argued that consumers are less willing to jump on the celebrity brand bandwagon than they were a few years ago.
Will Khy be the key to Kylie’s bounce back into the world of business? Or will consumers’ lack of interest in the celebrity–ness of a brand lead to its downfall? This is yet to be determined. But, for now, we can sleep soundly knowing that the days of ultra–pigmented, over–lined lips and jarring, unblended contour are in the past.