NEW YORK — It looks like P. Diddy isn’t the only hip-hop apparel mogul getting a backer.

Russell Simmons, founder and chief executive officer of Phat Fashions, has signed a deal with Kellwood Co., industry sources said. As reported, Simmons has been on a quest for backing for quite some time and has been negotiating with Kellwood and Tommy Hilfiger during the past few months.

In the end, the issue came down to money — something Kellwood has apparently come up with. Although Simmons could not be reached for comment Monday, sources in the past have said he would not consider taking any less than $300 million for his $260 million clothing empire, which includes the Phat Farm and Baby Phat brands.

Officials at Kellwood declined to comment on any Simmons agreement on Monday, saying the company has no news to report. “We cannot confirm or deny that rumor,” a spokeswoman said.

While Simmons is sure to stay on as chairman and ceo of Phat Fashions, a linkup with Kellwood would give both Phat Farm and Baby Phat significant resources to grow — something Simmons has major plans to do.

“I’m still looking to partner,” Simmons told WWD in March. “I also need more distribution. A rich white kid in Greenwich, Conn., needs to be able to go out and buy some Phat Farm pants, and until that happens I still have room to grow.”

A Simmons/Kellwood deal would be the second major investment in an urban brand this week, following the reported agreement between Sean “P. Diddy” Combs and L.A. billionaire Ron Burkle. As reported exclusively in WWD Monday, Burkle is said to be pumping $100 million into Combs’ Sean John label with the goal of turning it into a $1 billion global brand.

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