Emma Grede knows good jeans. Growing up with a love for denim and a passion for accelerating inclusivity, she broke away from her traditional career path to make sure that every woman could know what the perfect fit feels like. Somehow, Grede has managed to balance motherhood and major leadership roles at multiple companies that have certainly already made their way into your closet. Most notably, she is the co-founder and CEO of Good American, she serves as a co-founder of Safely, and she is a founding partner of Skims. And while it may look like she does it all, she surprisingly tells us that isn’t exactly the case. This just might be the key to her success.
Read on to hear Grede’s story of how she was able to find success in the fashion industry. And of course, she doesn’t leave us without a few denim tips to take in along the way. Prepare to leave this article motivated to find your own beat and prepared to shop for denim that was made to fit your body.
As a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I always knew I wanted to work in fashion from a very young age. I grew up in the not-so-glamorous part of East London and would save every little penny so that I could buy fashion magazines. I was captivated by fashion designers and styling. That world was so alluring to me—I’d spend hours collecting magazine ads from Chanel, Versace, and other iconic brands, which really got me into the industry, and ultimately wanted a career that was in and around fashion.
How did you go from that dream of yours to your career today as the CEO and co-founder of Good American among your other entrepreneurial pursuits?
I started out in entertainment marketing and then went on to found and serve as CEO and chairwoman of ITB Worldwide. Through that experience, I quickly learned the power of forging partnerships with high-fashion talent to accelerate a brand’s exposure and strengthen its credibility.
When coming up with the idea for Good American, I was pregnant with my daughter and knew that I wanted to start my own company that was built on strong values of inclusivity and was something both my future daughter and I could feel really proud of.
When I started thinking about what that business would look like, it became clear to me that there were so many women who were being completely ignored in the fashion industry, and I knew I wanted to create a brand that bridged the gap. Good American originated from a conversation I had with my now co-founder Khloé Kardashian about what it means to be a woman today and how we can use our brand to empower all women.
In 2016, we built Good American as the first fully inclusive fashion brand. What started as the largest denim launch in history—reaching one million dollars in sales on day one—has now grown into a multi-category brand with double-digit growth in 2021. Since its launch, we’ve continued to rewrite the rules of size inclusivity and representation, from designing fashion-forward denim, essentials, swim, and shoes in all sizes and styles to inventing a completely new denim size, size 15. We’ve truly remained steadfastly committed to transforming fashion to be more inclusive.
In addition to Good American, I’m also a founding partner of Skims and a co-founder of Safely. It’s taken so much work and dedication to build these businesses, but I’m thrilled with the growth we’ve seen and the impact all three have had on their respective industries. I approach all my business endeavors and companies with the same passion, focus, and drive to change aspects of each industry my companies touch for the better.
At this point in my career, I’ve chosen to be very involved and immersed in philanthropic work rooted in social impact, serving as chairwoman of the Fifteen Percent Pledge, a nonprofit very close to my heart that encourages retailers to pledge at least 15% of their shelves to Black-owned businesses. I also sit on the board of both Baby2Baby and Women for Women.
What advice would you give your younger self?
My superpower is my gut instinct. I rely on it, day in and day out. I definitely made a lot of mistakes in the past and wasted a lot of energy because I didn’t have as much confidence, so I would tell my younger self to trust my gut.
The other piece of advice that I’d share is one that I learned from my husband: make a decision and move on. It’s inevitable that we are all going to make good decisions and bad decisions. It’s important that you make an informed one and continue to learn and grow from all of them.
Balancing motherhood and running multiple businesses sounds like a lot to juggle. What’s your secret to staying in touch with yourself and being organized?
I’ll be the first to admit it is a lot to juggle, and there’s no such thing as truly balancing it all. It’s a trade-off between all of my roles as a CEO, co-founder, mother, and wife. I don’t believe in having it all, all the time, and I try to be a bit easy on myself. I don’t expect it all to work out all the time, and I think that’s okay. I also could not (and do not) do this alone! I have a wonderful team that supports me along the way. There’s no shame in admitting I have support. It really takes a village.
What’s one thing that most people don’t do that can really help you get ahead in your career?
Project confidence and remember to leave your ego at the door. Whether you’re pitching an investor or leading a company meeting, it’s so important to believe you’re on the same playing field as everyone else in the room in order to share your opinions in the strongest way and make good decisions. I often get asked whether I ever feel “imposter syndrome,” and surprisingly, I don’t! It’s so important to trust yourself and believe there’s a reason and purpose for you to be where you are and find success.
What’s your “never fails” denim style?
Denim is an everyday staple for me. I love our loose straight-leg styles—like Good Vintage and Good Icon—that provide the perfect fit and unparalleled conformability while still making me feel polished as I go about my day-to-day meetings.
Did denim play a role in your childhood?
I’m the eldest of three sisters, so there was always denim flying around our house. As teens, my sisters and I would trade among ourselves to see what brands and styles we liked. We’d swap bootcut, flare, skinny, acid wash… You name it. We all quickly realized the power of the perfect pair of jeans, ones that hugged us just right and made us feel invincible. We also quickly realized, to no surprise, that the same pair of jeans was not likely to fit all four of us. Either, the length was off, the waist didn’t fit right, or the style just didn’t fit all our personalities. Looking back, I think this influenced Good American’s foundational approach to denim in wanting women to find that perfect pair of jeans that makes them feel confident and empowered, regardless of their size.
If you had to choose one pair of jeans to pack in your suitcase, which would it be?
I absolutely love our Good Icon jeans! I bring them with me everywhere. They are the flawless fit and so versatile—perfect for a day at the office, dinner with friends, etc.
What’s your favorite wardrobe staple to style jeans with?
I love to pair classic blue jeans with a white or black tee and staple shoes. It’s my go-to uniform for everything! From errands to business lunches, this look has you covered.
What tips do you have for finding the best jeans for your body type?
Each body is different, and even then, the same body can differ from day to day. What’s important—and a struggle for many women—is finding the perfect pair of jeans. That’s why at Good American we created an array of denim collections to accommodate different bodies and desired looks for women, including our Good Legs, Good Waist, Good Curve, and more!
Three tips I have for finding the best jeans for your body type would be to first note what part(s) of your body you’d like to accentuate (your legs, your hips). The right pair of jeans can be your best friend. The second would be to do a bit of research. We aim to make the denim experience as seamless as possible at Good American, but it’s still fun to peruse and play around with different styles, washes, etc. Finally, know and shop your size. We similarly make it easy to find your size because there is nothing worse than jeans that are too big or too small. Fit can be everything when it comes to denim.
What’s the one mistake you’ll never make again while shopping for denim?
Not taking risks! I’ve learned to play around with my denim choices and explore styles, colors, and details outside of my comfort zone. It’s easy to get stuck in a rut of buying the same denim over and over, so I’ve been pushing myself to have fun with my choices, like by wearing a pair of crystal-dusted jeans (a look I’ve been trying out lately). I’ve also learned to be open to styles I originally thought may not fit my body but instead became looks I loved. We have this really amazing tool on Good American’s website that allows you to choose a model that best represents your size so you can see how a style would look on your body type. It makes the shopping experience so much easier, and it’s hard for me to shop online without it! You never know what might flatter your shape and how it might look, so I’d say be open to the possibilities.