When I arrive at the LA photo studio in West Hollywood, Kendall and Kylie Jenner barely glance up from their phones. My time with the two youngest of the extended Kardashian klan has already been cut in half due to the sisters being “tired” (it is 3.30pm, prime afternoon-slump time), and after another few minutes of them texting, I adopt a schoolmarmish tone. “Can we please get started now? This is an interview.” Tsk. Teenagers.
“I think social media has taken over for our generation,” Kendall admits. “It’s a big part of our lives and it’s kind of sad,” she adds, her big cat eyes the liquid brown of an undulating chocolate fountain. “I hate it sometimes, like, I literally want to throw my phone so I can’t look at it. It’s all a made-up world if you think about it. Social media, everything, this interview, everything. It’s not real. It’s pretty crazy.”
Along with half-sisters Kim, Kourtney and Khloé Kardashian, half-brothers Brody, Brandon and Rob, “momager” Kris and dad Bruce Jenner (a former Olympic athlete who recently came out as transgender on national TV), Kendall and Kylie are part of the most famous family in reality-TV history. Aged 19 and 17 respectively, the pair have more than 19m followers on Twitter and 50m on Instagram: the most watched teenagers in the world. That’s a lot of people to keep entertained on a rolling basis. It doesn’t always make them popular. At the recent Billboard Music awards, in Las Vegas, the teens were booed by the audience while introducing their brother-in-law, Kanye West, to the stage.
Kendall had an epiphany about social media on a recent family holiday to Thailand. “We had a two-hour drive from the airport to where we were staying, and I’d left my phone in my bag, so I didn’t touch it the whole way. I looked out the window at everything, and I saw people who live in huts and have dogs that were, like, withering away. And all their food, meat, was hanging in front of their house. It was very sad. Then we pulled up to this amazing house we were staying at, and I looked over and Kylie was on her phone the whole time and didn’t see one thing that I saw.”
As if to illustrate, the younger Kylie has continued texting, or liking, throughout her sister’s impassioned outburst, while Kendall is fully engaged now, describing her experience as “super eye-opening, because you’re seeing what’s happening, and truly, truly real, right in front of you”.
I’m here to see their new collection, Kendall + Kylie, a line of breezy, California-inspired separates designed by the sisters, which will be stocked in Topshop stores from Wednesday. They follow in the footsteps of Kate Moss, the only other celebrity to have a line at Topshop, and who, in stark contrast, has a social-media following of precisely zero.
“We wanted to bring that LA vibe to Topshop,” says Kendall. Lean and leggy, Kendall is enjoying a career as a catwalk model (she’s currently the face of Calvin Klein Jeans and has walked for Balmain and Marc Jacobs among others). For little sister Kylie, aside from rampant speculation about whether she has had fillers in her preternaturally plumped lips, the Topshop gig is her first real spin in the spotlight.
Philip Green has clearly chosen the Jenners for the ludicrous amount of influence their social following gives them in the teen sphere. In 2012, Green launched a (now defunct) line with Kim, Kourtney and Khloé for Dorothy Perkins, and appears confident that celebrity still sells.
But the girls’ profile also means that they are open to scrutiny. Earlier this month, Kylie posted pictures of herself in swimwear on Instagram, and in anticipation of judgment wrote, “Yes, I gained weight there I said it so u don’t have too [sic]”, before quickly deleting the comment.
“I’m scared of the day I turn 19. I really don’t want to grow past 18,” Kylie says. She looks at her sister. “You’ll be 20 this year — that’s crazy. And any second you’ll be, like, 21, 22, 23…”
Kendall nods. “It’s scary. Life is scary.” But why this fear of getting older? “It’s just scary to think how fast everything is rolling and you can’t stop it. It’s rolling right now,” she says.
“You see a picture and you’ve changed so much in a year,” Kylie agrees. “I’ve done so much, physically and whatever.”
Is she talking about her lips? A few weeks after our interview, she will come clean about having fillers on an episode of Keeping Up with the Kardashians: “We have all eyes on us all the time. Especially for me, at my age, trying to find myself. It’s hard not to let it affect you.” But when I broach the topic of what body insecurities the sisters deal with as young women today, Kendall shuts me down with a swift “Next question”.
With ratings upwards of 1.6m to maintain, it’s best to keep that kind of juice for the show. Ditto boy talk. Kylie’s on-off boyfriend is the 25-year-old rapper Tyga (who has already fathered a child with a stripper named Blac Chyna), while the latest gossip is that Kendall and Justin Bieber are an item. While mum Kris is said to be less than thrilled about Kylie’s taste in men, she has been more upbeat about Kendall and Bieber.
The latest iteration of the rolling Jenner/Kardashian family saga will be Bruce’s transgender turn, due to air in a series starting in July. Outing himself on the American talk show 20/20 two weeks after I meet his daughters, the conservative Christian Republican has been hailed as a human-rights hero, and the family has already shown a united front. On another recent teaser for KUWTK, Kendall says of Bruce: “He’s the most amazing person I know. I couldn’t ask for a better dad.”
Similarly, when I ask about their style icons and the women they look up to, they keep it in the family: “My sisters, my mom, my grandma. They’re the women who raised us, so it’s best we look up to them.”
Whatever your opinion on the nature of their fame, the Jenner/Kardashian females represent a formidable force. So, does Kendall consider herself a feminist? “I don’t know much about it, so I can’t really speak on it. I get what you’re saying, but I’m not gonna say much because I’d like to be more educated.”
Do her fans really care what Kendall has to say on violence against women or the gender pay gap? It’s doubtful. According to Google HQ, “How do I do make-up like Kendall Jenner?” and “How do I get lips like Kylie Jenner with make-up?” are two of the most popular beauty-related internet searches. The Jenners are simply two girls who teenagers want to look and, hopefully for Topshop’s Green, shop like — the physical embodiment of 50m teenage dreams.
And one day, presumably, they’ll grow out of it.
The Kendall + Kylie collection, exclusive to Topshop, launches in stores nationwide and at topshop.com on Wednesday 3rd June