PHAT CHANCE AT LINGERIE

Byline: Karyn Monget

NEW YORK — Russell Simmons is a man of many moves.
He’s made it as a hip-hop music mogul through Island/Def Jam Records and a roster of names like LL Cool J, Slick Rick and Foxy Brown. He’s done the Hollywood number with production company Def Pictures, which spun out movies including “Gridlock’d,” starring Tim Roth and the late Tupac Shakur. His brand names in men’s sportswear and junior sportswear, Phat Farm and Baby Phat, have garnered strong recognition with Generation X.
Now Simmons is tackling a new frontier: lingerie.
Simmons most likely doesn’t have time in his frenetic work schedule as chairman and chief executive officer of multimedia company Rush Communications Inc. to relax his daily pace. But his exuberance about the lingerie business and his new Baby Phat licensee, International Intimates, is evident.
Simmons arrived recently at the International Intimates showroom and immediately began a lengthy dialog on the potential of the Baby Phat name in intimate apparel.
“We didn’t aggressively try to build a brand until now. I’m sure we’ll sell more panties than slipdresses, but the attitude will stand out and make a statement,” said Simmons, noting the brand’s image is “fun and sexy.”
“A lot of megabrands built their legs on the urban community,” Simmons said. “The hip-hop Eighties was mainly a backdrop for the cultural landscape of America. There are people who are influenced by Polo [Ralph Lauren], but I don’t go to Polo to get ideas. They get ideas from me.”
Simmons said he did get inspiration from his wife Kimora, a model who “comes to development meetings and discusses ideas” for the lingerie line. Several of her favorite items have been adapted, such as vintage-looking slipdresses that have a flavor of the Twenties.
The line — aimed at major department stores and specialty boutiques — comprises 19 groups, each of which features key items and whimsical names like “Phat Basics,” “Untamed” and “Forgeddaboudit.” The lingerie will also be sold at a Phat Farm store here in SoHo.
Simmons would not give a first-year sales projection, but said he hoped the innerwear would generate wholesale sales “similar” to those of his men’s underwear license, which is expected to do between $6 million and $7 million the first full year. The Phat Farm men’s underwear is produced under license by Checkmate Group.
Wholesale prices average around $4 for thong-back bikinis of cotton and spandex, $14 for embroidered underwire bras of polyester and spandex, and $10 to $20 for camis of cotton and spandex and textured nylon and spandex, respectively. Full-slips, considered the collection’s cornerstone, wholesale from $40 to $150.
Rene Rofe, president and chairman of International Intimates, said, “We want the average Baby Phat consumer who listens to Russell’s records and watches his movies and TV shows. This is the core customer we’re after.”