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NEW YORK — Bling is the thing that inspired Kimora Lee Simmons’ first scent, Baby Phat Goddess by Kimora Lee Simmons.
“I think in terms of diamonds,” Simmons said on Tuesday. Indeed, she was literally dripping in them, from dangly Baby Phat cat-shaped earrings to the 30-carat Asscher-cut diamond ring she designed herself.
After signing her fragrance deal in February with Coty’s Lancaster division, Simmons was looking for ideas for her scent bottle when she decided it would be fun to give women a taste of her personal style.
“These things don’t define me, they just contribute to my normal daily flow,” she said. “Baby Phat is an aspirational brand. I hope that I inspire these women to feel more fabulous about themselves. You can do that with a great pair of jeans, or fabulous diamonds, even if they’re faux. And you can certainly do that with a great fragrance.”
While Simmons’ ring, alas, is not part of the brand’s gift-with-purchase plan, customers will get their own piece of the rock with their fragrance bottles. The pink fragrance flacon is topped by a pink metallic cap, and nestled between the neck of the bottle and the cap is a removable, wearable rhinestone-studded eternity ring.
When she started the fragrance development process, Simmons noted she had a certain consumer in mind: “A young woman who is into fashion and has that exuberance for life — who likes it to be over the top and a certain amount of bling, grandeur and style. As we started making it, though, we realized that it also speaks to other women. It then became: “Is my mom going to wear this? Is my sister going to wear this?’ It sort of spread out. I think it’s really going to have a wide appeal.”
Clad in a flowy halter top and D&G denim miniskirt, the irrepressible Simmons talked about growing up in Missouri, where her racially mixed background wasn’t exactly de rigueur. “They called me the hairy giraffe,” she said. And, apparently she still sometimes feels like a target. “Well, did ya read Vanity Fair?” she remarked, citing a scathing article recently published in the magazine, which, like WWD, is part of Advance Publications Inc. She then added, “People don’t understand where I’m coming from or they misinterpret it. Maybe they’re jealous.”
This story first appeared in the May 20, 2005 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
While Simmons is unapologetic on most fronts — from the size of her diamonds to the length of her legs — it’s part of her charm, whether it translates or not. “I don’t do things quietly or small; I do them big,” she said. “And when you do that you get polarized; people either love it or they hate it.”
The scent, by Firmenich’s Jean-Claude Delville, is described as a “passionate floral bouquet.” It has top notes of pure gardenia, white rosebuds and fresh cedrat flower; a heart of blue lily, hyacinth, black pepper and fresh seringa and a dry-down of soft musk and exotic woods. “I was the 16-year-old girl who was wearing Chanel No. 5, ” Simmons said. “I wanted something classic that smelled like a woman, but with a lighter twist.”
The collection is comprised of eaux de parfum in two sizes — 1.7 oz. for $39.50 and 3.4 oz. for $49.50 — as well as two 6.7-oz. ancillaries, a body lotion for $24 and a shower gel for $20.
The luxe counter display, which will be installed in the brand’s 1,800 department store doors with the launch in September, features faux diamonds and white fur adorning the pink flacons. Print advertising will begin breaking in October in fashion, beauty, teen and lifestyle magazines. Shot by Mario Sorrenti, there are two versions — a single-page spread of a sultry Simmons clad only in white fur and a gold chain, and a spread with Simmons draped over a white-fur chair. More than 30 million scented impressions are targeted, using both scented strips and in-store samples, said Dennis Keogh, vice president of marketing for Lancaster U.S. Radio and online promotions are also planned, with the theme “Are You a Goddess?”
“There’s no one out there who’s really addressing this market — and we feel that hip-hop is to today as rock ‘n’ roll was to the Fifties and Sixties,” said Keogh. “It’s the way that youth are expressing themselves and breaking out into new territory.” Coty chief Bernd Beetz agreed: “We’re building our fragrance portfolio on three pillars: celebrity, lifestyle and fashion,” he said, adding that Simmons’ brand is a triple-play. “It’s going to be huge.”
None of the executives would comment on projected sales or advertising spending except to say that they’re planning to rank in the top 10 and hoping to land in the top five, but industry sources estimate that it could do $30 million to $35 million at retail in its first year on counter in the U.S. About $12 million reportedly would be spent on advertising and promotion.
Simmons described some of her experiences on the road signing autographs at appearances, where she would have fans write down their names on Post-its ahead of time to make sure she got the spelling correctly. “There are some women that [instead] write down their name and number and slide it to my husband. And they know he’s married full well — that is not a goddess, that is something else,” she said with a rueful laugh.
Speaking of Simmons’ equally famous husband Russell, he’s evidently also working on a scent. When she was asked if she’d do men’s or children’s scents, Simmons said, “In terms of men’s fragrance, that would probably be my husband. “He can take care of the men, and I’ll take care of the women.”
The scent isn’t the only thing that Simmons has on the front burner. In addition to overseeing her fashion and jewelry lines, Simmons is authoring a children’s book and has also formed her own beauty company, KLS, to create and sell her own line of color cosmetics in department stores. The cosmetics will launch either in late fall or early 2006, she said. And, she said, “I think that the teen, or the tween market, is ever-booming, and I have my sights set on it. A lot of it comes from my awareness as a parent.”
But for now, she’s just happy to revel in Goddess’ glow. “I’m just so happy to have a fragrance — how many women have their own fragrance? The list is not that long, and I could start counting…and then, how many black and Asian women have their own fragrance? I hope it’s the first of many.”