Since its founding in 1993, kathy ireland Worldwide has grown to become a lifestyle empire, ranking No. 26 on License Global’s Top 150 Global Licensors report with $2.6 billion in retail sales.
And to think, it all began with socks.
“I started our brand in 1993 as an aging, pregnant model at the kitchen table,” says Ireland. “I was offered an opportunity to model socks. I rejected that offer and instead proposed a partnership. We celebrated when that became our first licensing deal, and we celebrated again when we sold our 100 millionth pair of socks!”
Those socks launched into retailer Kmart, giving kiWW the platform to expand its business. Today, kiWW counts countless categories among its portfolio drivers including fine jewelry, handbags, accessories, intimate apparel, sleepwear, bridal fashion, pets, furniture, health and beauty and much more. In 2016, kiWW also launched TV programming, “Worldwide Business with Kathy Ireland” and “Modern Living with Kathy Ireland,” both of which air in more than 50 countries around the world. kiWW also has a strategic alliance with American Family Insurance, real estate ventures, Kathy Ireland Exhibits, vacation events, design studios and more.
What could possibly be next?
“Growth based on expansive creativity,” says Ireland. “Our Millennial team is racking forward and those of us that have been together for 28 years refuse to slow down! Coming are retail solutions with Firefly, more fashion, more real estate and more insurance. Our non-profit work is critical, as is working with Level Brands, our environmentally and socially-conscious licensing, marketing and experiential entertainment company. kiWW will never be a public company, and Level Brands allows the world to experience our branding and licensing strategies.”
Ireland says that it was lessons from her parents and some of the world’s foremost business leaders that have formed the rock-solid foundation she enjoys, offering sound advice along the way.
“The lessons and love from my mom and dad will always live in my heart and mind. They made their three daughters believe that anything was possible,” says Ireland. “I’ve also been fortunate to count such incredible icons as Elizabeth Taylor, Warren Buffett and Irv Blumkin, one of the most famous titans of the furniture industry, as mentors. Warren Buffet once asked me, ‘Why stay in fashion? What about expanding to home? There’s more stability.’ That was great advice. And it was sweet when Mr. Blumkin purchased everything in our first home collection.”
Another tenant Ireland lives by? Under-promise and over-deliver.
“My dad said, ‘If the customer expects their paper on the driveway, leave it on the front porch.’ That advice has proven to be invaluable in entrepreneurship and business. At kathy ireland Worldwide, we apply it every day,” she says.