Former fashion model and now fashion mogul Kimora Lee-Simmons has been apart the fashion and hip-hop world since she was a teenager and recently gave her opinion on Black Culture’s influence on current fashion.
In a recent interview with The FADER, the Baby Phat mogul spoke about her fashion empire, how much Black Culture influences high end fashion and if it’s gaining its proper credit. Read a few excerpts from the interview below.
How do you feel when you see other brands emulating a culture fashion didn’t want to fully accept before?
They’re inspired by something that we already knew and it’s also homage to vintage fashion, because what goes around comes around. Depending on who you’re talking about you may say, “Hey, you can’t do that. That’s not authentic to you.” But I was one of the creators and pioneers of it and it’s authentic to me —it may not be to everyone else who’s using it. I see it in the stores, ads, and the blogs. Maybe they call it American fashion but at the time it was “ghetto fabulous,” it was ”urban,” it was “hip-hop culture,” it was “streetwear.”
It was all of those things that they used to pigeonhole us when really we just wanted to be a part of the bigger conversation and sit at the bigger table. I guess when it works for them, they use it and are inspired by it but it boxes you in. And I was thinking outside of the box. I didn’t know how to go in a box. My mom is Asian. I didn’t go in a box. What box?
Do you feel like you received the proper credit for what you pioneered in hip-hop and fashion culture?
If I think about it in that way, maybe not. But I don’t ever look at things to get the credit because if so then there were all lot of things that didn’t get credit along the way. I know what it was and what my part was in the culture and in the upbringing of young ladies at that time. I often say [that] for fashion week, we were the first brand to broadcast live on a jumbotron in Times Square. A lot of people did it after that. I was the first designer in history to have a fashion show at Radio City Music Hall and others have done that since then. I was one of the first to put my kids in ads.
The reason I did that is because they were my mini-me’s and we were showing a lifestyle. I wasn’t afraid to show that I have a family and certain luxuries that I love. It was aspirational and certainly my customers were aspiring to be like me. They were aspiring to have the Franck Muller watch and if they couldn’t have that, they could have this Baby Phat jean because I wore my watch with that jean. It was a mixture of everything. It was actually the retailers that I think had a lot of success exploiting the market. Those big names and brands reversed with logo-driven goods and were replaced with proper streetwear they were pushing to be more “urban.” I feel the retailers really milked it to the last drop but that ushered in the death of urban sportswear. What you see now is that the trends that drove them are still alive and well. That’s the speed of contemporary and designer fashion.
In Milan, Philipp Plein had a 2017 Spring/Summer show called “Alice in Ghettoland.” It had fashion looks, big rope chains, logo sneakers, and all of that. It’s funny because my last show for my Kimora Lee Simmons line, which is designer-level, was Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz because I’m from Missouri. It rings true all the time. I didn’t have to pick, The Wiz because there was a wizard that was for everybody and all the colors. Bring Toto too. If I did “Alice in Ghettoland” then or now I would’ve called it “Alice in Wonderland” or it would’ve been “Kimora’s Dreamland.” I wouldn’t have said “Ghettoland.”
Read the rest of this interview at the FADER