Baby Phat

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Baby Phat
Subsidiary
Industry Fashion
Founded 1998
Founder Kimora Lee Simmons
Russell Simmons[1]
Parent Kellwood Company

Baby Phat is an American apparel brand developed by model and entrepreneur Kimora Lee Simmons in 1999. The brand is the high-end line of Russell Simmons' Phat Fashions LLC label,[2] and is carried in mid-market department stores, including Macy's and Dillard's. The label caters to female urban wear.[3] In 2004, the label's parent company was acquired by Kellwood Company for $140 million.

History[edit]

1999–2003[edit]

Baby Phat was established under Phat Fashions LLC in 1999 as an extension of the urban menswear brand Phat Farm. Initially, the Baby Phat symbol was placed on simple T-shirts and gifted as party favors to celebrities and models, including Naomi Campbell and Christy Turlington.[4] Prior to its launch as an independent label, the shirts were included in fashion shows.[5]

In 2000, Kimora Lee Simmons was appointed president and creative director. Under her direction, the brand focused on redesigning the line to be more fitted and feminine.[4] The line was also expanded to include accessories and a wider collection of apparel.

In 2001, Baby Phat reported gross revenue earnings of $30 million,[6] and by 2002 Phat Farm and Baby Phat had made a combined profit of $265 million.[7] By 2003, Baby Phat's profitability had increased by 30% from the prior year.[8]

In that year, Baby Phat had become one of Russell Simmons' most profitable companies.[9] A combination of celebrities wearing the brand, and the idea of buying Baby Phat to mirror the "fabulous" lifestyle of Lee Simmons, helped encourage consumer purchases.[4] Lee Simmons also released a Baby Phat Prepaid Rush Visa Card during Baby Phat's Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week show in New York.[10] The pink card, with the Baby Phat logo, was modeled after the Rush Visa Card and offered a 10% discount on online Baby Phat purchases.[10]

2004–2010[edit]

In 2004, Russell Simmons sold Phat Fashions to Kellwood Company for $140 million. Simmons remained president of Phat Fashions, and Lee Simmons continued to work as the president and creative director of Baby Phat.[11] The sale was intended to fund an expansion to drive more promotional deals and build more stores. That year, the company expanded to selling a custom Motorola i833 mobile phone sold exclusively at Bloomingdale's.[12] The brand also partnered with Vida Shoes to sell branded stilettos, sneakers and boots.[13]

In 2005, the label partnered with Coty Inc. to launch Baby Phat Goddess, a fragrance that was carried in department stores, including Sears and Macy's.[14]

In 2006, the label created a 200-piece lingerie line that was carried at upmarket department stores.[15] The label also partnered with lifestyle manufacturer Dan River to create interior items,[16] and expanded to the Middle East.[17] Lee Simmons's goal was to extend Phat Fashions into a lifestyle brand.[16] That year, she was promoted to president of Baby Phat's parent company, making her one of the first African-American women to lead a billion-dollar company.

In 2007, Phat fashions partnered with Silver Goose/Kidstreet to create an infant and toddler accessory line.[18] The brand also launched a reality television show with Style Network. Kimora: Life in the Fab Lane was the network's first reality show and focused on Lee Simmons's life at the company. The show was later distributed through E!.[19]

In 2008, sales declined at the company, a downturn attributed to the effects of the Great Recession.[20] The brand's parent company, Kellwood, sold a majority stake to Sun Capital Partners, which led to a change in leadership, eventually leading Lee Simmons to resign.[21][22]

In August 2010, Lee Simmons announced via Twitter that she was leaving her position as president and creative director on September 1. Given her retweets, it can be assumed that the split with Baby Phat was not completely her decision.[23][24] She told the New York Daily News that the split was "very abrupt and sudden" and "very sad".[25]

2011–Present[edit]

By 2011, the owner of the Baby Phat brand BP Clothing had transferred the brand and clothing line to Phat Fashions. Soon after, it became a subsidiary of the Kellwood Company.[26][27]

Increased competition led to Baby Phat no longer being the only urban wear brand marketed toward women. In 2017, Marc Jacobs debuted a line inspired by the history of hip-hop, following the trend of incorporating African-American styles into mainstream fashion. This increased presence and competition of urban wear and hip-hop clothing led to a decline in sales.[28]

Influence[edit]

Influence on the industry[edit]

Baby Phat was revolutionary in some aspects of runway show design. Lee Simmons was the first designer to have a show at Radio City Music Hall in 2006.[29] In 2009, she became the first designer to livestream her show on a jumbotron in Times Square, allowing the public access to the normally exclusive runway shows.[30]

The brand has had a major influence on the intersection hip-hop of fashion bringing urban wear to mainstream fashion. Baby Phat specifically targeted women, one of the first urban brands to do so.[31]

Lee Simmons was also one of the few Asian women to be president of a billion-dollar company. In 2005, she was considered the second-highest paid woman in New York.[32]

Influences on the brand[edit]

The brand is inspired by Lee Simmons's lifestyle and interests. Simmons calls herself apologetically "hip-hop", combining street styles from female hip-hop stars like Lil' Kim and Mary J. Blige into her collection.[33][34] As the wife of Russell Simmons, who is considered one of the leading figures in hip-hop, she has been heavily influenced and shaped by the industry.[33]

At fourteen years old, Simmons made her debut with Chanel and quickly became known as the muse of Chanel designer Karl Lagerfeld.[34] She has cited her time in the modeling industry, but most importantly working with Lagerfeld, as major influences. From watching Lagerfeld, Simmons gained a perspective on the fashion industry, and how to turn expressions into fashion ideas.[35]

Simmons has also been open about her biracial background, seeing herself as equally black, Korean and Japanese.[36][33] In 2002, the line featured kimonos and crocheted flowers, which she drew from her Japanese heritage.[37]

Controversy[edit]

Kimora Lee Simmons' reputation[edit]

Lee Simmons's credibility as a president often came into question due to her lavish lifestyle. Her reality show, over-the-top runway shows, jewelry and clothing, along with interviews (specifically a 2006 interview in Vanity Fair), painted Simmons as a diva.[38] However, Simmons has accepted this persona and used it as a way to sell her "fabulous" brand.[32]

Gendering and hypersexualization[edit]

In an attempt to create clothing that fit the female body, Baby Phat's clothing is often tight, short and low-cut. It has been argued that the brand's attire, coupled with advertisements featuring Lee Simmons and models clad in revealing clothing, contribute to the hypersexualization of women.[39]


References[edit]

  1. ^ "Kimora Lee's split from Baby Phat wasn't amicable; 'It's very, very sad for me,' she says at FNO". NY Daily News. September 11, 2010. Archived from the original on September 14, 2010.
  2. ^ Starling, Lakin (October 11, 2016). "Kimora Lee Simmons Turned Her Culture Into A Billion-Dollar Fashion Brand. Now She Says A Little Credit Is Due". Fader. Archived from the original on August 18, 2017. Retrieved August 18, 2017.
  3. ^ Starling, Lakin (October 11, 2016). "Kimora Lee Simmons Turned Her Culture Into A Billion-Dollar Fashion Brand. Now She Says A Little Credit Is Due". Fader. Archived from the original on August 18, 2017. Retrieved August 18, 2017.
  4. ^ a b c Group, Vibe Media (2017-03-05). Vibe. Vibe Media Group.
  5. ^ 2-3, EPUB (2012-11-15). Russell Simmons. Infobase Learning. ISBN 978-1-4381-4113-8.
  6. ^ Golus, Carrie (2012-05-01). Russell Simmons: From Def Jam to Super Rich. Twenty-First Century Books. ISBN 978-0-7613-8858-6.
  7. ^ Ph.D, Matthew Whitaker (2011-03-09). Icons of Black America: Breaking Barriers and Crossing Boundaries [3 volumes]: Breaking Barriers and Crossing Boundaries [Three Volumes]. ABC-CLIO. ISBN 978-0-313-37643-6.
  8. ^ Rozhon, Tracie (Aug 24, 2003). "Can Urban Fashion Be Def in Des Moines?". New York Times Company. Retrieved March 6, 2017.
  9. ^ Sewing, Joy (Sep 26, 2004). "Fashion Rocks celebrates new wave of designers". Houston Chronicle. Retrieved March 22, 2017.
  10. ^ a b Entertainment Editors/Business Editors (Sep 17, 2003). "Kimora Lee Simmons and Russell Simmons Partner to Launch Baby Phat Prepaid Rush Visa Card During Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week". Business Wire. Retrieved March 6, 2017.
  11. ^ "Kellwood Company to Acquire Phat Fashions". PR Newswire. Jan 8, 2004. Retrieved March 7, 2017.
  12. ^ "Motorola, Baby Phat and Bloomingdale's Introduce Diamond-Accented Phone". PR Newswire. Oct 7, 2004. Retrieved March 6, 2017.
  13. ^ "Baby Phat & Vida Shoes International Inc. Sign License to Create Women's Shoe Line". PR Newswire. Nov 30, 2004. Retrieved March 7, 2016.
  14. ^ "Kimora Lee Simmons to celebrate the launch of her debut fragrance, Baby Phat Goddess, with a special appearance at Sears Saturday, September 24, 2005". Canada NewsWire; Ottawa. Sep 23, 2005. Retrieved March 7, 2017.
  15. ^ Monget, Karyn (Jan 9, 2006). "Baby Phat Joins the Lingerie Scene". WWD: Women's Wear Daily; Los Angeles. Retrieved March 7, 2017.
  16. ^ a b "Kellwood Announces License Agreement with Dan River, Inc.; Phat Fashions Extends 'Lifestyle' Concept to the Home". PR Newswire; New York. June 14, 2006. Retrieved March 7, 2017.
  17. ^ "Phat Fashions Opens Phat Farm and Baby Phat Stores in Dubai and Abu Dhabi; 17 More Planned for The Middle Eastern Region". PR Newswire Association LLC. April 19, 2006. Retrieved March 7, 2017.
  18. ^ "Phat Fashions Announces Licensing Agreement With Silver Goose/Kidstreet for Phat Farm and Baby Phat Infant and Toddler Accessories". PR Newswire; New York. Mar 12, 2007. Retrieved March 7, 2017.
  19. ^ "'Kimora: Life in the Fab Lane' Follows the High-End, High-Octane Life of Mogul, Model, Mom – Kimora Lee Simmons". PR Newswire; New York. Jun 28, 2007. Retrieved March 7, 2017.
  20. ^ Asmerom, R. (Aug 30, 2010). "What Is Baby Phat Without Its Brandmaker Kimora?". Madamenoire. Archived from the original on 2017-03-23.
  21. ^ Kaplan, Julee. "Q & A: Kimora Lee Simmons". WWD: Women's Wear Daily; Los Angeles. Retrieved March 7, 2017.
  22. ^ "Sun Capital Securities Buys Kellwood Co". Corporate Financing Week; London. Feb 18, 2008. Retrieved March 7, 2017.
  23. ^ "leaving baby phat from:OfficialKimora since:2010-08-20 – Twitter Search". twitter.com. Archived from the original on 2017-04-17. Retrieved 2017-03-18.
  24. ^ "Kimora Lee Simmons is Leaving Baby Phat". NBC New York. Archived from the original on 2017-03-19. Retrieved 2017-03-18.
  25. ^ "Kimora Lee's 'very sad' over split with Baby Phat". NY Daily News. Archived from the original on 2017-03-19. Retrieved 2017-03-18.
  26. ^ Pasquerelli, Adrianne (Dec 14, 2011). "Baby Phat licensor files for bankruptcy". Crain's. Archived from the original on 2017-04-04. Retrieved Jan 14, 2017.
  27. ^ Rozhon, Tracie (Jan 9, 2004). "Phat Fashions Is Being Sold To Kellwood for $140 Million". NY Times. Archived from the original on 2017-10-23. Retrieved Feb 8, 2017.
  28. ^ McDermott, Matt (Feb 16, 2017). "Marc Jacobs challenges appropriation claims with hip hop-inspired line". USA Today. Archived from the original on 2017-09-15.
  29. ^ "FASHION SCOOPS: PHAT VENUE...TENNIS ANYONE?...MAKING CALVIN". WWD: Women's Wear Daily; Los Angeles. Aug 24, 2005. Retrieved March 18, 2017.
  30. ^ "Kimora Lee Simmons Presents New Collection Live in Times Square". Business Wire; New York. Sep 10, 2009. Retrieved March 18, 2017.
  31. ^ Rubin, Joan; Casper, Scott (2013). Boyer, Paul, ed. The Oxford Encyclopedia of American Cultural and Intellectual History. Oxford Encyclopedias of American History. p. 385. ISBN 978-0-19-976435-8.
  32. ^ a b Morra, Bernadette (Sep 29, 2005). "Chewing the Phat with Kimora:". Toronto Star.
  33. ^ a b c Watson, Margeaux (Spring 2006). "No Apologies". VIBE Vixen. Retrieved March 22, 2017.
  34. ^ a b Homan, Becky (Jul 29, 2000). "SPARKLE APLENTY". St. Louis Post. Retrieved March 7, 2017.
  35. ^ White, Renee Minus (Dec 24, 2003). "Baby Phat's sex-kitten designs for spring 2004". New York Amsterdam News. Retrieved March 22, 2017.
  36. ^ Bass, Debra (Feb 9, 2007). "Unapologetic diva works hard for her diamonds". McClatchy - Tribune News Service; Washington. Retrieved March 22, 2017.
  37. ^ Walton, Scott (Feb 11, 2002). "FASHION WEEK: It's 'natural evolution' as Puffy goes preppy". The Atlanta Journal - Constitution. Retrieved March 22, 2017.
  38. ^ Sales, Nancy Jo (Oct 10, 2006). "Unbearable Fabulosity". Vanity Fair. Archived from the original on 2017-05-06.
  39. ^ Fleetwood, Nicole (2011). Troubling Vision: Performance, Visuality, and Blackness. Chicago: University Of Chicago Press. p. 160. ISBN 0226253031. Archived from the original on 2017-03-23.

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