Page Six’s Richard Johnson claimed that it is widely believed that her husband Tim Leissner financed the brand’s launch. The former senior banker in Asia officially exited Goldman Sachs earlier last year. A Goldman Sachs spokesman said Thursday night, “Leissner left Goldman shortly after we discovered an unauthorized recommendation letter he wrote.”
Reached in Los Angeles on Thursday, Simmons said of her entry-level designer label Kimora Lee Simmons: “I’ve been around for quite some time. I’m an old lady so I’ve always been self-sustaining, self-funded. I’ve had Baby Phat and at one point Phat Farm, too. I’ve had Couture by Kimora, Fabulosity, KLS so this is not my first ride at the rodeo. I’ve had six or seven successful fragrances,” she said. “I fund my own business.…I’ve been in the fashion industry since [age] 12, modeling and all that. So all my money, not that I want to say it that way, this is my third marriage that I’m on so, no, my husband has nothing to do with my professional life.”
Her current American-made collection is sold at Bloomingdale’s, Lord & Taylor, her own site as well as a few other e-tailers, she said. International distribution is a priority, partially due to a lot of supporters in Asia, including in Singapore and Indonesia, the designer said. In talks “with quite a few people” for a diffusion line that would be more accessories-driven, Simmons said that could happen within the next year. Licensing is not in the cards at this point. “I come from that model, so once you go back that way, it’s very different. I’ve tried to maintain a certain level and quality by doing it myself,” said Simmons, though she is looking to license shoes, swimwear or eyewear potentially.
As for whether she consults with her husband about business, Simmons said, “He’s a financial person and I’m a fashion person, so I wouldn’t say that really. And I’ve been doing this for kind of a long time. Probably more my young girls [14 and 17] give me a little more fashion advice.”
Asked for her reaction to the Post’s report, she said, “I think it does a disservice to the fashion business and to designers like me. I’m one of the few designers who is here with their namesake label. I’m one of the few women and certainly one of the few women of color. Diversity is a big conversation for me that I talk about.
“When you say something to attack a brand…it doesn’t do a service to myself or the industry to have — for those who are following in my footsteps, or for the groundwork that I have laid for other people like myself of which there are only a small handful,” Simmons said. “So we struggle every day and we have our struggles every day, but I think it’s better to probably keep to the topic of your growth and your success than to go and create lies or false stories about brands like that. It’s one thing to be successful, it’s another thing to be failing, it’s another thing for someone to write and publish things that you’re failing. That’s really no good. I was just shocked at that but it happens all the time. I guess I’m honored that they still want to talk about me.”
Noting that she has known many media people and they have been there through her journey and her evolution, so to speak, Simmons said, “I’m always speaking about women’s empowerment, putting your best foot forward. I’ve been married and also divorced. I’ve been a single mom. I really considered myself to be one of the trailblazers. I’m an entrepreneur, a businesswoman, I have investments. I’m working and trying very hard every day so I think it is bad, yes, for an old whoever guy to try to discredit all of that. I think it does a disservice to fashion or women of color, yeah absolutely. I’m not saying that it was necessarily racially motivated but one could look at it that way, absolutely.”