The ultrafamous Kardashian clan is seeing upheaval in terms of power and influence. To most of the general public—those without a permanent bookmark to TMZ.com—Kim Kardashian is the most well-known sister. Even her involvement in a silly iPhone game brought in $200 million. But Kim’s fashion influence among young women is quickly trailing off, losing steam to her youngest two sisters.
Kylie and Kendall Jenner—Kim’s teenage half-sisters—are the children of mom Kris Jenner and Olympic gold medalist Bruce Jenner. Kendall is a professional model, with several magazine covers and runway appearances. And yet 17-year-old Kylie is actually more influential among teenage consumers.
According to data provided by fashion site Polyvore, an analysis of its 20 million monthly unique users shows that Kylie has been gradually trending up compared with her sisters in the past two years. As a haven for women 18 to 24, Polyvore’s users represent the shoppers on the edge of the fashion industry—and those with a parent-paid credit card. Below is the daily search interest for each of the five sisters since July 2012. You can see the two spikes are around Kim’s wedding to Kanye West and Kendall’s work as a rising model during New York Fashion Week:
“One of Kylie’s defining moments was showing up at Kim’s wedding with blue hair, eventually leading to her own hair-extension line,” says Kris Jenner, Kylie’s “momager.” “She drove herself to the beauty shop and did it herself.” Kylie changed it back to black after a few months, “but fans wanted the blue hair” back. Kris says her daughter’s style has taken off because “young women that age can go to their own closets and put it together.” It’s a “very accessible look.” (Her line of hair extensions is called Kylie Hair Kouture, borrowing the family’s K-based naming convention.)
Kylie is already a millionaire. It’s reported she makes $5,000 per episode on the family’s show, Keeping Up With the Kardashians, despite her reluctance to be on camera much. She gets paid thousands of dollars for promotional tweets and has done some modeling on the runway, in magazines including Seventeen, and for Sears (SHLD). Kylie also has her own endorsement contracts with Opi nail polish and PacSun (PSUN) clothing. Since she’s too busy working to go to high school, she’s now home schooled instead.
Kris doesn’t criticize any of Kylie’s fashion picks. “I let her go with it, and sometimes she can make her own mistakes, but that’s a good thing,” she says. “She’s 17 years old and has the rest of her life to mess around.”
Kylie was the third-most relevant Kardashian sister two years ago but has slowly climbed her way up the ranks. The chart below shows the same search interest data, but smoothed out to show the trends more clearly. Kylie’s self-proclaimed “girly goth” and “super edgy” looks have inspired countless admirers and copycats—including big sis Kim, who donned some #KylieSwag two months ago. “I realized two to three years ago, my older daughters were asking Kylie for fashion advice,” Kris says. And, of course, you can find a lot of these looks in the family’s Steve Madden fashion line. “Kylie decided she had this edgy style she wanted to bring to the table, and she wasn’t satisfied going along with what Kendall wanted.”
Among younger fans, high-fashion Kendall has been more popular than Kim for the past couple of years. Kim dropped to No. 3 after her wedding hoopla was over—and has stayed there since. Kim turns 34 later this month, and in the minds and purses of young female consumers, she’s already been surpassed by sisters half her age. From Mom’s point of view, that’s the beauty of the machine: “The girls all are different heights, shapes, sizes. There is something for everyone.”
The family business is minting money. In 2010 they brought in an estimated $65 million for Keeping Up With the Kardashians, along with spinoffs, mentioning brands in tweets, pitching weight-loss products, opening clothing stores, and endorsing Skechers (SKX) shoes. There’s also personal appearance fees, staged photos, fragrance deals, best-selling books, and a lifestyle collection at Sears. A show renewal in 2012 earned the family another $40 million. And the family’s fashion empire had retail sales of $600 million in 2013, bringing the sisters a cut of about $30 million.
But Kylie is the youngest child; the future of the family business relies on her. Season 10 of Keeping Up With the Kardashians started filming on Monday, and it will be interesting to see if Kylie ends up playing a bigger role than in the past. “It’s much more an emotional question than a business question,” Kris says. “It will make me sad if she moves out.” Still, Kylie probably wouldn’t stray too far: “We spend every waking moment together—she’s a very supervised kid.” Plus, Kris notes, “Kourtney is 35 years old, [and] I deal with her stuff every day.”