We’ve been waiting with bated breath for Kimora Lee Simmons Leissner’s return since she announced that she personally purchased her streetwear label Baby Phat with plans to relaunch come summer. And four months later, we just learned that the big relaunch includes a collaboration with Forever 21. A rep for Leissner tells Refinery29 this is just a teaser for the full reboot in September. There will not be any accessories this time around, just 18 clothing items featuring the brand’s signature cat, all priced under $25. Everything is available in straight and plus sizing.
When the mogul started Baby Phat in 1999 — a clothing, shoes, and accessories off-shoot of her then-husband Russell Simmons’ Phat Farm — she should have been lauded as being way ahead of her time. Instead, Simmons was shut out of mainstream fashion and the brand was labeled “urban,” a loaded term that the industry often slaps on black designers regardless of their aesthetic.
“Now, everybody’s doing retro with a little high-waisted jean and tube top, or the sneaker and the jean — that’s the Baby Phat girl,” Simmons told Refinery29 backstage at her KLS spring 2018 show. “That’s popular [again], and we were one of the first ones to do it, one of the biggest ones to do it, and one of the greatest ones.” Simmons is not discounting those who came before her (she cites labels like Cross Colors and Karl Kani), but she did make a point to acknowledge the role Baby Phat had in pushing streetwear forward. “We created the idea of a lifestyle brand. I don’t want to be confused and say we were the only ones doing that, but certainly for most people of color that came after us, we were the ones who did it first.”
And she’s still doing it with the help of her daughters Ming Lee, 19 and Aoki Lee, 16. “Fashion has such a nuanced life cycle, and I’m thrilled to bring back Baby Phat with this capsule for Forever 21,” Leissner tells Refinery29 exclusively. “Now that Ming Lee and Aoki Lee are grown and working on the brand they grew up with, it means so much to me to introduce Baby Phat to a whole new generation who didn’t get a chance to experience our first go around. We’re mixing aspiration and accessibility, and continuing to support women, and especially women of color. Baby Phat defined what a feminine, lifestyle brand could be, and this partnership with Forever 21 allows us to share that journey through reinvention with a whole new audience.”
“Baby Phat is always front and center when you think of iconic streetwear brands,” says Linda Chang, VP of Merchandising for Forever 21. “We are so thrilled to be a part of a relaunch for a brand that carved the way for women in streetwear and fashion. It has been an honor to work with Kimora Lee Simmons and her daughters, Ming Lee and Aoki Lee, on this project, and we can’t wait to help customers rediscover a legendary brand.”
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