The fashion world is still abuzz about the departure of Kimora Lee Simmons from Phat Fashions, parent company Kellwood, a move first announced late last month, but which takes effect today. Meanwhile, the fashion icon’s loyal fans await word about what she’ll do next.
For many of her fans news of her departure from the company broke on Twitter. One follower Blake Martin immediately sent out a message, “I heard @officialkimora is leaving baby phat. What do you mean? She IS baby phat! I’m sad.” Simmons confirmed the news and later linked to an E! Online interview which said in part, ‘After 14 years of conceiving and nurturing Baby Phat, it’s time for me to move on and further expand my other businesses and create a new phenomenon. I adore all those who have faithfully been with me since the beginning.’
Immediately some wondered if Simmons no longer being affiliated with Phat Fashions presented a problem for Kellwood. Jewelry designer and fashion blogger Samantha Smikle from O.M.O. Writes says Simmons’ influence on the Phat brands has been undeniable. “I do think that not having Kimora Lee Simmons behind Baby Phat will hurt the company. It’s true that she is a woman of color and many women of color stand by the brand, but what Baby Phat will truly lose goes beyond her influence as part sister. Her ethos of fabulousness and everything blingy and girlie has built the image of the brand.
Simmons who has both African-American and Asian ancestry was recently named by Black Web 2.0 as one of “The 100 Most Powerful Black Women on Twitter”. Simmons has capitalized on her large online following spending quite a bit of time on Twitter talking with fans about her departure. Still, the businesswoman declined to give a specific reason for her departure. She told followers on August 23, “Team Fabulosity! Soon, we will have a talk! A real heart 2 heart!” She later announced that she would host a live Ustream video chat tonight at 6 p.m. pacific time, 9 p.m. eastern time.
The 35-year-old former supermodel had served as President and Creative Director of Phat Fashions, which include: Baby Phat, Baby Phat Girlz, Phat Farm, Phat Premium and Phat Farm Boyz. Simmons began leadership of the brands while married to hip hop mogul Russell Simmons, founder of Phat Fashions. Mr. Simmons sold the brand to Kellwood back in 2004 in a multi-million dollar deal. Despite the couple’s divorce they continued working together with Kimora Lee taking on added responsibility heading up the male and female clothing lines. For his part Russell Simmons congratulated his ex-wife and said via his Twitter account, @unclerush @officialkimora and I are building new brands. Gonna be new fun.”
Given rumors that she was forced out because of overspending some wonder if she’ll call for a boycott of the brands associated with Phat Fashions. She sent out a Tweet last week, “As Ludacris would say: When I move, You move.” But business journalist Keith Reed whose covered Simmons before says, “She’s a shrewd, smart businesswoman who understands that burning bridges after a contractual relationship ends usually doesn’t serve the bottom line. She’s not going to sell any more clothes or endear another licensee her way taking shots at Kellwood. Most consumers of her clothes have no idea who or what Kellwood is, and that’s as it should be. So I’d be surprised if there were some bomb dropped unless there was something going on in the background that offended her extremely personally.”
Simmons still stands to be a powerful force in fashion; she maintains control over several other lines including KLS, Fabulosity, Kouture, and a Hello Kitty line she started with her daughters. Briana Booker who has purchased Baby Phat apparel thinks Simmons will be fine, “Her new clothing line will gain loyalty from her original customers.” Still how Simmons ultimately decides to go will only be decided by her, and perhaps announced to fans during the video chat tonight