Exclusive: Stephanie Shepherd Lands Her First Major Fashion Collaboration With J Brand

And opens up about her plans for life post–Kim Kardashian


If you are one of Kim Kardashian’s 112 million Instagram followers, then chances are you’re familiar with the name Steph Shep, the handle bestowed upon Stephanie Shepherd, Kardashian’s former assistant and constant companion. When the pair split ways late last year (Shepherd was also chief operating officer of Kardashian West Brands), a good number of those followers—including the 1 million who now follow Shepherd—were wondering what was next for her. And now, it seems we have our answer: jeans.

Shepherd has teamed with J Brand to update their classic Little Black Jean, a collaboration that came to fruition thanks in large part to, naturally, Instagram. “We connected on Instagram,” Shepherd said. “I’ve always been a fan of J Brand and always worn them, so maybe I was on their radar that way. They reached out and started the conversation. They said, ‘We think you’d be perfect to rework this little black jean.’ And that’s all I ever wear.”

And when Shepherd says she’s always been a fan of the brand, she’s not kidding. Her love affair with the denim company started long before you could spell the word Kardashian, let alone keep up with their every move. “Coming from Ohio, I knew very little about fashion,” she recalled. “I’m literally from the middle of nowhere. I remember seeing all of the celebrities. I think it was the low-rise phase when I first moved to L.A.; everyone in the weeklies was wearing J Brand. I had just moved to L.A. I was 19 and didn’t have two pennies to rub together. I remember saving my money and thinking, I’m going to get a pair of J Brand jeans. I finally saved to buy this pair of dark blue denim, and I wore them until they almost had holes in them.”

Shepherd designed her J Brand pieces to be the perfect everyday jean, drawing from her own vast archive. “If you saw my closet and the amount of jeans I have, it’s a little nuts,” she said. “I just did a major spring cleaning and I really purged. I mean, 20, 40, 50. Is 50 a lot? Maybe 50 pairs. I don’t think that’s a lot?”

The result of Shepherd’s obsessive research is an ultraskinny black jean with a lace-up front detail, done in the brand’s soft Photo Ready denim. “I added the lace-up on the front because that is kind of my insecure area. It gives you some extra support, and it makes it a little bit cooler and a little bit different,” she said, adding, “I think the skinny leg is classic. Sometimes it is hard for short girls to pull off a really wide leg. I’m not the tallest. I was thinking of something that could look good on anyone. I didn’t want to do anything too trendy. The simple black jean is something that you’ll have forever, no matter what trend is happening. They look good on everyone.”

In addition to her closet, Shepherd drew on her own lifestyle, from the jet-set to the more chill times. “I have been in a very yoga-pant, Spanx-leggings phase of my life where I just prefer comfort over being uncomfortable, having a camel toe, and sitting in jeans for five hours. I know you know what I mean,” she said. “So I wanted to make these jeans really comfortable.The fabric is really soft, but it is still really structured and holds you in like a pair of tights, but it’s denim. That was one of my concerns, because I hadn’t been wearing jeans lately. For the past five years, when I was traveling all the time and working, my go-to was a skinny black jean. It is just so easy and comfortable, and if I had to throw on a pair of heels to dress it up, or if I’m schlepping around wardrobe bags for most of the day, I can make it work.”

The J Brand x Steph Shep Little Black Jean has a limited run of 100 units, with each jean individually numbered. It will be available to shop exclusively on jbrandjeans.com beginning June 12, but Shepherd’s closest friends have already gotten a sneak peek. “I asked my girlfriends, ‘Am I crazy?’ Because I was worried it was too simple and people were expecting me to do some kind of crazy, rock ’n’ roll–embellishment, zippers thing,” she said. “But I like that it is simple, so that everyone can style it the way that they want to.”

Surprisingly, though, Shepherd didn’t go to her close friend Virgil Abloh, the newly minted creative director of Louis Vuitton men’s wear, for consultation. “Now that I think about it, I probably should have asked Virgil,” she said. “But I can’t really hold a candle to the creative director of Louis Vuitton. It’s more me being like, ‘Tell me everything. And send me everything.’”

In addition to the new collaboration, Shepherd said that she is working on a number of projects that are currently still under wraps. “I’ve got a lot of things that I can’t talk about that are in the works. I’m laying the foundation for my own brand, which is why I was so excited about this collaboration, because I feel like it is such a great fit. I’m really looking to work with brands that I love and are true to me, and that I’m not just picking out of the sky.”

Is a full Steph Shep fashion line in the works? “You never know. I’m definitely not closed off to anything,” she said. “I’m trying to see where all these things will take me. I love the process and all the little details. I would definitely love to have my own line of some sort. But we’ll have to see.”

Related: Virgil Abloh Is Louis Vuitton’s New Men’s Wear Director—and One of the Only Black Designers Ever Appointed to the Helm of a Heritage Fashion House