The two-year-old child of Phat Farm is taking to the runways in Bryant Park Feb. 9 with its first solo show of its sportswear collection.
Baby Phat has shown in the past alongside its parent brand, men’s line Phat Farm — founded by music mogul Russell Simmons — and even held its own lingerie show when the line launched last year. To be held in the 7th on Sixth Gallery, this show is a big step in the right direction for the brand, according to Kimora Lee Simmons, the label’s creative director and Russell’s wife.
“Having my own show has been an aspiration of mine for a long time,” she said. “The audience that is drawn to the tents is one that I have a lot of respect for, so this show is very important to me.”
Simmons said: “It took Russell six years to reach $30 million with Phat Farm,” she said. “We did that with Baby Phat in only two.”
Simmons said that with a series of brand extensions planned this year, she expects to reach $70 million in brand volume by the end of 2002.
Coming from a lifetime of experience in the world of fashion, Simmons sees this show as a true accomplishment. A St. Louis native, she had a hard time growing up as a half-Asian, half-black girl in a school where she stuck out among the rest. Not only was she racially mixed, but she was also taller than her peers and by the time she was a teenager, she stood at her current height of six feet.
Simmons soon realized that her differences were what made her unique and decided to use her looks to her advantage when she was discovered as a model. Simmons became a model for Karl Lagerfeld at the age of 13 and was soon walking the catwalk for names like Chanel, Issy Miyake, Ralph Lauren, Donna Karan and Tommy Hilfiger.
Simmons said she pulls from her marriage, family and extended modeling experiences to create the Baby Phat collection. The logo, a sleek-looking feline, which is modeled after Simmons’ own pet cat, Max, appears on almost every item. The logo has inspired the company to describe the line as one for the “turn-of-the-century sex kitten.”
Pop princesses like Alicia Keys, Eve, Britney Spears, Pink and Destiny’s Child are all known fans of the Baby Phat label, which surely makes it even more appealing for the average girl. But what Simmons would ultimately like to create with Baby Phat is a lifestyle brand for the teen “who always needs more stuff,” she said. Simmons wants to keep the prices affordable and will continue to concentrate on the roots of the brand, which is an upscale jeans collection.
“My background is couture, and I learned a lot from being in that business,” she said. “But Baby Phat is not couture, it never will be.”
Everything that is produced with the Baby Phat label is made under licenses. However, Simmons stressed her constant involvement in every decision, from what the advertising campaigns will look like to what sort of embellishment will accent a pair of jeans.
Aris Industries produces the jeans line, while NoHo Leathers manufactures all leather goods for the brand. Handbags are done by the Betesh Group, fake furs are by Monterey Fashions and International Intimates produces the lingerie line. A costume jewelry line, which will debut at the show on Feb. 9, is produced by Lee Angel. The company’s fourth advertising campaign will debut this fall in consumer publications such as Honey, Vibe, V, Nylon and One World.
Next on tap is a cosmetics line that Simmons said she hopes to launch by fall 2002. She would not reveal the name of the licensee, since they are still in negotiations. The company is also in discussions for a line of shoes and is looking to launch hosiery and a line of bedding to complement the other products within the collection.
“The Baby Phat label will grow into a lifestyle brand,” she said. “I run a certain lifestyle, and so do my customers. So what I would like to have with this is a brand that will offer a girl everything she needs to fit her lifestyle.”
Simmons said she also hopes to open the first freestanding Baby Phat shop in SoHo, not far from where the Phat Farm retail location now stands on Prince Street, by the end of the year.
“The Baby Phat store will be bigger than the Phat Farm store,” she said. “Because girls need more stuff than boys, and the stuff they need will be right there in the store.”
The company is planning a move to a bigger showroom at 512 Seventh Avenue in early March. It has been at 530 Seventh Avenue for two years, and Simmons said with the growing business in Baby Phat and in Phat Farm, more space is necessary.
As for Russell Simmons, he said the fate of Baby Phat is in his wife’s hands.
“Baby Phat just would not be any good without her,” he said. “In the beginning, I had an idea for a women’s line, and she threw it all away and started from scratch. She knows what she is doing.”
The couple’s daughter, Ming Lee, just turned two. According to Simmons, she also seems to have fashion in her blood.
“She is so little and yet she wears designer clothes, and she knows and loves it,” she said. “She wears Moschino and even has a pair of La Perla panties.”
While the past couple of years has required a great deal of time, patience and dedication, Simmons is seeing the pay-offs every day when more plans are made to grow the label.
“This is a lot of hard work,” she said. “But it’s a lot of fun. It’s my dream.”