Emma Grede is the Founder & CEO of Good American, the US-based premium apparel label which promotes a healthy body ideal, with a full and inclusive size range. She co-founded the company in 2016 alongside Khloe Kardashian. Emma is also the Chairman of ITB Group which she founded in 2008.
The launch of Good American in October 2016 proved to be the biggest apparel launch in history, with sales reaching upwards of one million dollars in the first day, further proving a gap in the marketplace prior to Good American’s arrival. Good American has been designed to cater to a curvier, sexier and stronger shape of woman, rather than the straight body seen in the traditional fashion establishment. The brand supports the charity Step Up that helps young women realize their full potential.
Born in 1982 and raised in London, Emma Grede started her career at Quintessentially. After finishing business studies at The London College of Fashion, she quickly caught the eye of Inca Productions, one of the leading fashion show and event producers in Europe. After starting as a producer, Emma headed up the company’s endorsement and sponsorship practice.
At Inca, Emma was part of pioneering the business of “designer collaborations”, engagements between consumer brands and high fashion, working with the leading design talent of today, such as Alexander McQueen, Christopher Kane, Vivienne Westwood and Zac Posen, as well as brands including Chivas, Mercedes-Benz and Sky.
In 2008, Emma was named Managing Director of the newly formed ITB, a joint venture between Independent Talent Group and Saturday Group, representing brands’ interests in the world of entertainment. Following the company’s acquisition of the licensing company, Brand 360 in 2010, Emma was named CEO of ITB Group. Today and after relocating to LA, Emma serves as the Chairman of the company, which services clients including H&M, Calvin Klein and Net-a-Porter through its offices in London, New York and Los Angeles. ITB Group are active in the areas of Entertainment Marketing, Brand Development and Artist Representation.
Emma is a British national. She lives in Los Angeles, is married to Swedish entrepreneur Jens Grede and together they have two children.
How Emma Grede And Khloe Kardashian Are Building Their Size-Inclusive Fashion Line Good American
When Khloe Kardashian and Emma Grede launched their clothing line Good American in 2016, they made $1 million in sales on their first day. Kardashian and Grede started by selling jeans ranging from size 00 to 24 and have expanded to a variety of clothes including workout clothes, dresses and a maternity collection. Inclusive sizing is important to them, and they’ve pushed retailers to buy the complete range and sell them together instead of in a plus-size department.
“The challenge is getting the industry to see that it’s not just a trend, it’s the future of business. This movement can feel superficial because not all retailers will put their money where their mouth is,” says Grede, “In the beginning, retailers would want to carry our product, but only a few sizes rather than the complete range of 00 to 24. There are a lot of costs associated like that bigger sizes take extra fabric. So it’s all about getting more and more partners and people to shift their mindset and, in turn, shift their behavior.” I spoke with Grede to learn about her career advice and goals for Good American.
Emma Grede, the cofounder and CEO of Good American.
(Photo courtesy of Good American.)
Elana Lyn Gross: What inspired you to start Good American?
Emma Grede: Good American was ultimately born out of a conversation with about what it means for women to be confident. I knew I could get the basics down and we could ultimately service the market in a way that was more than just denim. Rather than categorize as, “plus size” or what they call, “missy” sizing in the industry, we just wanted to create clothes in all sizes. I thought, why should there be any stigma associated with what size or what category of size you are and why should you have to shop that way? I just wanted to make something that was for all women.
Gross: What has been the biggest reward of starting Good American?
Grede: The biggest reward is being able to build something that’s more than just a brand, but a platform that portrays strong values for all women, and especially my kids. I actually started Good American when I was pregnant with my daughter, wanting to create something that she would be proud of. Now, getting to see the kind words from our customers and the emails and the letters they send with personal stories and praising what we stand for is indescribable! I’m so happy to see that what we’ve started has inspired other brands and so many are joining the inclusivity and body positivity movement.
Gross: Your cofounder is Kardashian. What has been the biggest challenge and, on the flip side, the biggest reward of founding a company with a celebrity?
Grede: Working with is amazing. She works hard and she’s hands on. I think one of her best qualities is that she has a great understanding of what customers will respond to, and she is also very driven. It’s nice to work with someone who knows what they want, and is determined to make things happen. We both care so deeply about the product and together are very hands on with the pieces to make sure they are something we would wear ourselves. She, of course, has a massive audience, but that doesn’t do it on it’s own. There is a lot weighing on her and the brand by putting a message out to millions of people like that. You’ve got to do it the right way that’s authentic and will resonate with those people so they don’t dismiss Good American as just another celebrity fashion label.
Gross: What are the most important characteristics that someone needs to have to be successful in your role?
Grede: At the end of the day, you have to have an unwavering belief in what you do. I can have many setbacks on a daily basis, and many times people don’t really talk to me unless something is going wrong! So a real belief in the bigger picture of what I am trying to achieve through Good American is key. Then you need passion, drive and thick skin. I love what I do and am so lucky to be surrounded by such an amazing team, that’s so important to me.
Gross: What’s the biggest lesson you learned at work and how did you learn it?
Grede: Oh, I’m learning every day. But I started my first business at 24, back then I didn’t know how to listen. I thought I did, but it turns out I didn’t. Now I listen more than I speak, and I constantly solicit advice. I don’t always take it, but I like to ask around about pretty much everything. It’s amazing what knowledge and learnings other founders and CEO’s are willing to pass on if you just ask.
Gross: What is one thing that you wish you had known when you were starting out your career?
Grede: Time is really, really precious. Don’t waste a second in a job where you aren’t either learning, surrounded by someone who inspires you, loving what you do or loving the company. And if you really have no choice, you better make the evenings and weekends count because you don’t get time back.
Gross: What is the best advice you’ve ever received?
Grede: My husband once told me, “Make a decision and move on.” My job is all about making decisions and you’re going to make good ones and bad ones, but it is better to make a decision and move on than to procrastinate. That’s the most relevant advice I incorporate into how I approach my business on a day-to-day basis and it works.
Gross: What is your business advice for other young professional women?
Grede: Use your voice. Ask for pay raises. State your worth. Don’t be paid less than a guy, or another gal, doing the same job. Ask for help. Solicit advice. Make the tough choices. Be willing to sacrifice something. No one has or does it all, so above everything else, believe in yourself. And if all fails, listen to Oprah: Intentions rule every outcome.
Good American Founder Emma Grede Gets Honest With Her Customers
November 28, 2018 4 min read
This story appears in the December 2018 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe “
When Emma Grede launched size-inclusive fashion brand Good American in 2016 with cofounder Khloe Kardashian, she had an instant hit. Sales topped $1 million on day one. But to build on the momentum, she knew she’d have to continue being honest about the company’s products, mistakes and decisions. Over the past two years, Good American has done that — expanding into new product categories partly by delivering on customers’ requests, and by being open about what the company can’t deliver, too. Grede urges other founders to adopt a similar transparency: Create a stellar product, and don’t BS your customers.
Related: How Sheryl Sandberg Inspired These Fashion Founders to Ditch Their Corporate Jobs and Launch a Startup
What do entrepreneurs need to focus on for 2019?
I hate to say it: authenticity. But it’s true; consumers love a no-bullshit approach. Honesty is what people are craving. It’s why we’re seeing so much success with so many small brands. They’re not trying to be everything to everyone. I was looking at this new brand Something Navy, by Arielle Charnas. She’s got just a million followers, but her sales are astronomical because she’s genuinely communicating with those select few. Understand your communication channel, be there every day, and be honest.
But as you learned, maintaining authenticity isn’t always the easy road.
We quickly realized that the movement toward body positivity was a superficial one. Retailers wouldn’t put their money where their mouth was. They’d want to carry our product, but only a few sizes, rather than our complete range of 00 to 24. When you’re a startup, any order feels like a big, juicy order. But we had to say no. And it’s served us well, because now our customers know that when they find Good American, they will find all sizes, all the time.
Related: ‘She Was One of My Business Idols,’ Says This Fashion Entrepreneur About Her Mentor and Net-A-Porter Founder Natalie Massenet
Once a brand builds that trust with a customer, how can you turn it into additional opportunity?
Just keep your ears open. We dig through comments on social, and we listen to the big data patterns. We recently noticed that sizes 14 and 16 were being returned twice as much as our other sizes. So we investigated and created a new size, 15. When you listen to what the customer is saying—with words and dollars—patterns emerge. And we’ve been good at acting fast.
What if you can’t move as fast as you’d like?
Never underestimate how smart your customers are. When things go wrong, tell people you’re working to correct it. It causes people to go, “OK, fine; we trust you.” For example, our standard price point — $169 for a pair of jeans — is prohibitive. People have been asking for a cheaper option from day one, and finally, after two years, we launched a $99 jean. It took us that long because it’s a matter of scale and making sure the product fits our standards, so we’ve been telling our customers: We are working on it. We shared that process with them. But we’ve also told them that we’re never going to put out a $40 jean.
Related: How Lauren Conrad and Hannah Skvarla Curated Handmade Goods From Around the World to Build Nonprofit The Little Market
So talk is cheap if the product doesn’t match.
Brilliant communication alone is nothing. Spend time and energy refining things. In today’s atmosphere, a lot of entrepreneurs think about getting a product to market fast and doing a big marketing push. But who cares? You either have something people want to buy, or you don’t.