Image Credit: Page Six
Twenty years after the high-fashion women’s streetwear brand made its debut, bringing with it an “unapologetically female perspective” to the streetwear world, Kimora Lee Simmons Leissner and Baby Phat are back to shake up the industry once more.
The highly anticipated launch of the summer aims to capture the sartorial nostalgia of the late 90s and early 2000s that drew in its OG customer and reintroduce itself to a new generation of young women. “I did expect [Baby Phat’s sexy style to come back], actually—fashion is so cyclical. I love being a part of this life cycle from the OG Baby Phat to our new, reinvented, modern take on the brand,” Simmons Leissner shared with Page Six. “It’s so fulfilling to see one generation squealing with nostalgia at the news of our relaunch, and another discovering the brand for the first time. I’m heartened that the original aesthetic found its way into the zeitgeist. That’s affirmation for me and a whole community of women who were underserved by fashion the first time around.”
Image Credit: WGN-TV
For its initial relaunch, Baby Phat collaborated with Forever 21 on a 17-piece collection that was released and available for purchase this morning. Choosing Forever 21 as a partner was a good strategy to capture the attention of the younger generation of women that BP aims to attain as customers. This is also a well-aligned partnership for Forever 21, as the fast fashion retailer has run into some issues with maintaining relevance with the rise of their online fashion competitors like Fashion Nova and Pretty Little Thing. With interesting design collaborations and capsule collections in their repertoire with brands like Hot Cheetos and USPS, Forever 21 definitely needed something that made more sense. The Baby Phat x Forever 21 collection features logo tees, bodysuits, bike shorts, one-shoulder crop tops, trendy separates and more, each piece co-designed by Simmons Leissner and daughers Aoki Lee and Ming Lee—a full circle moment, as Kimora’s daughters would always make an appearance on Baby Phat runways with her.
Image Credit: VIBE
Image Credit: Page Six
To the customer already familiar with Baby Phat, this Forever 21 collection offers nothing too special outside of the nostalgia and excitement of seeing the infamous logo after so long. It does, however, offer a familiar design aesthetic to the younger customer being introduced to Baby Phat and its aesthetic for the first time. A missed opportunity that stands out are the plus size offerings—there are only 3 pieces available for plus size women. Hopefully, there will be more thought for size expansion in the collections to come. We can anticipate Baby Phat ready-to-wear and accessories to be released in the fall, with denim, footwear and beauty products to follow thereafter.
For those unfamiliar with the brand or who just want to go down memory lane for a little while, Baby Phat by Kimora Lee Simmons was launched in 1998 and was one of the most significant streetwear brands of the period, becoming a billion-dollar company under the “Life in the Fab Lane” star’s creative direction. BP put the baby tee, the bedazzled jean, high-low fashions and its personal brand of logomania on the map. It was sexy, feminine and disruptive in the best way possible; all of the girls wanted to be apart of the Baby Phat moment, even before knowing what the brand was really about. BP’s runway shows and presentations were the spectacle to see. They were over-the-top and fabulous; the front rows were star-studded; and KLS was dedicated to a diverse set of models before it was the cool thing to do. Baby Phat was an empire, a decade-defining brand, a movement—it brought a feminine perspective to the male-dominated streetwear market. At the time, streetwear presented offerings of variations of tall tees, baggy pants and oversized clothing of all varieties. BP presented a stark alternative, designing pieces that were curve-hugging, form-fitting and made by women, for women. With a product offering of clothing, accessories, shoes, fragrances and bedazzled cellphones, Baby Phat was everywhere!
Image Credit: Baby Phat, CR Fashion Book, Elle, Ebony, Garage
Two decades later, the former model and philanthropist is prepared to build upon the energy, significance and impact that Baby Phat held in its prime. In an interview with Fashionista, Simmons Leissner’s spoke of the cyclical return of 2000’s style, her relationship with her Baby Phat customer, her dedication to women of color and women of all shapes and sizes, changes in the streetwear industry, her impact on the industry and more. When discussing her background in high fashion, —more specifically, her time as a Chanel model and Karl Lagerfeld’s muse—it was clear that she was inspired a great deal by the French fashion house. She references Chanel and its reputation when talking about the high fashion perspective she brings to Baby Phat. Fashionista’s Jessica Yarbrough writes that the BP creative director and designer is “positioning Baby Phat for Forever 21 as Chanel for a new generation while clad in a body suit emblazoned with an illustration of a cat and leopard-print bike shorts—an oufit that totals a whopping $35.80,” highlighting that the positioning is an easy concept to dismiss. After thinking about the concept, she came around to the idea of Simmons Leissner as the new Coco Chanel and the connections followed: Coco Chanel gave women a casual alternative to the corseted couture in 1910 made from men’s jersey fabric, and KLS gave women streetwear tailored for a woman’s body in 1999; Chanel gave the fashion world the Little Black Dress, and KLS brought the baby tee to the table; and just as Chanel launched fragrances and handbags, KLS did the same.
Whether you agree with this comparison or not, one fact is undeniable: Kimora Lee Simmons Leissner changed the conversation surrounding women’s streetwear. Baby Phat definitely paved the way for a lot of the style aesthetics we’re seeing come back in style today. With the positioning that the model-turned-designer is seeking to establish, it goes beyond this Forever 21 collaboration. Baby Phat as a brand and what it represented for women is the legacy that is being built upon twenty years later. Not many can pick up and garner attention like this. Kimora Lee Simmons Leissner is a phenomenal businesswoman, and she’s definitely about to make a powerful statement with this relaunch. From the upcoming collections, we expect nothing less than “fabulosity!”
Welcome to FashionSinatra.com. I write about fashion things and elements of the culture that move me. Enjoy!