Kimora Lee Simmons Leissner has gotten her baby back.
The designer, former model and entrepreneur celebrated International Women’s Day on Friday by revealing that she had personally purchased the once red-hot streetwear brand Baby Phat and will relaunch the label later this year.
She declined to disclose the purchase price or the company from which it was purchased, only saying: “We had to hunt around to find it.”
Leissner was the creator of the women’s-skewed streetwear brand 20 years ago as an extension of the Phat Farm men’s label under her then-husband Russell Simmons’ Phat Fashions company.
Leissner felt at the time that women streetwear fans should have a vehicle and created Baby Phat to fit that bill. She served as its creative director from 2000 to 2010 and later added the president’s title as well.
In its heyday in the early Aughts, Baby Phat was one of Phat Fashions’ most profitable brands with a wide variety of product categories and sales in excess of $1 billion. It was worn by major celebrities and hosted elaborate fashion shows.
When Phat Fashion was sold to Kellwood in 2004, Leissner continued to serve as creative director of Baby Phat. A fragrance was launched with Coty in 2005 and the line expanded into footwear, lingerie, children’s wear, interiors and other products.
Kellwood fell on hard times and amid numerous corporate changes. Leissner parted ways with the brand in 2010.
Leissner said when the label is relaunched for spring, it will be a “mainstream sportswear” collection for Millennials targeted to the mid-tier retail level. She plans on tapping into her “amazing personal archive” as inspiration for the collection, which will have “retro” elements that will be modernized, as well as new looks.
So expect a hint of nostalgia — including the brand’s signature Baby Phat rhinestone T — along with “new messaging,” she said. “We’re working fast and furiously and have a lot up our sleeves.”
She said her two college-age children were the primary reason she wanted to get the brand back. “It’s perfect timing for this,” she said. “Over the past several years, we realized the brand resonates with people and lives deep in their souls.” And young people like her 16- and 19-year-olds have a “need for messaging” that is similar to what Baby Phat represented in its prime, and still can today.
Leissner said a collaboration will also be part of the relaunch, but she is keeping the details of that under wraps for now.
Since 2013, Leissner has also created the Kimora Lee Simmons women’s collection, which is carried in Bloomingdale’s, Lord & Taylor, Farfetch and other retailers. She said that while she owns both brands, they will be kept separate. “They’re siblings, but one is older than the other,” she said.
The reveal came as Leissner joined UN Women and the Gender Innovation Coalition for Change to celebrate International Women’s Day and the launch of its new “She Innovates” standards, which are intended to promote gender equality in the workplace.
“It means so much to me personally to be involved with UN Women — the impactful work they do resonates with women worldwide. What compels me most is not just its endeavor to bring awareness to gender equality, but the actionable agendas this group creates to facilitate actual change by innovating new standards,” Leissner said.
She said whether it’s fashion, food and beverage or beauty — all categories she’s in with her brand — Leissner has made it her mission since the beginning to champion women, especially women of color. “That’s always been my message, but it’s never more relevant than it is now,” she said.