It’s official. Baby Phat, is back. Now with daughters Aoki Lee and Ming Lee Simmons, the brand has launched their first release through Forever 21 featuring a campaign for the ages, “World On Wheels has an old school, nostalgic feeling. It’s current and fun and trendy and that’s what this is: Baby Phat 2.0, Baby Phat reloaded,” Says Simmons “It’s myself and Ming [Lee Simmons] and Aoki [Lee Simmons]. They’re not babies anymore or behind the scenes. They’re front-and-center and they’re helping with designs as well as the business.”
Do you ever sit and wonder what could have been, if some of the most iconic fashion houses of the naughties had evolved with the times? What their very fabric could have represented in an age so embracive of the very possibility of retrospection? Anything but the bleakness of our modern times- yearning for change, so willing to cultivate the new in a bid to avoid what seems so probable a regress to draconian times. There once was a time where we’d wince and cringe at naughties fashions… well, I mean we still do, to a large extent. There will never be a time where we’d allow for Ashley Tisdale and Hillary Duff to live down their Kid’s choice awards lewks. Seriously- rara skirts over bellbottom jeans and band tees! Two by the way because, clearly one tee wasn’t enough back then. You needed the colour gradients to really cement the vibe. And the accessories… Had you even tried if your accessories did not coordinate with your outfit? And lest you for get to wear a necklace and a scarf because, why not?
Well, lets divert our attention away from the horrible styling choice of the naughties and critically analyse the garments as standalone designs. The early 90s and 00s of all of the eras in fashion has more archival rejuvenation than any other. With brands like Prada, which cemented itself as a mid-tier label with pieces ranging as low as £30-50, now retailing on the reselling market for close to four figures.
In April, Baby Phat Founder and creative director, Kimora Lee Simmons, posted a- not-so- cryptic video, followed by the caption: “Guess who’s bizaack…” the nostalgia ensued. Black fashion folk outpoured with praise, adoration and reminisced on the iconic shows and moments that Kimora’s label had cultivated at a time where fashion remained hostile in its embrace of black creative, but oh so happily allowed their collections to reference or even reflect African American, and hip hop sensibilities. Baby Phat, of Phat Fashions, the parent label owned by former husband and entrepreneur, Russell Simmons; was one of the first, certainly the first womenswear focused urban-luxe to compete in the luxury fashion market- a competitive giant, for larger more established brands who fought to garner shop floor presence in department stores such as Bloomingdales.
Carving her own style lane, Baby Phat was and remains a pinnacle in urban wear, and the very reason the term, “Streetwear” exists today. On and of the runway, hip-hop was fundamental to, not only, the brand’s discipline, but as a mode of communication. Kim Porter and Puff Daddy, Lil Kim, Cam’ron, Misa Hylton, Tyra Banks and the like all graced the runway, sat front row and fronted the campaigns. Constant iterations of her dual heritage of Asian and Black American culture all fused to make one cohesive narrative of cool. Again black people remain the pioneers, catapulting modern trends and at most, breeding the styles that we love and cherish to this day. In addition, fusion materialises itself, as the Asian market is the largest grossing market for both Streetwear and luxury fashion.
The Baby Phat revival should and gladly fill the gap in the women’s Streetwear market. For far too long, men have dominated that sector of the industry and since the inception of the resell market and curated e-commerce, it has become apparent that buyers and sellers of these, quite frankly, neue luxury pieces have catapulted the Streetwear as it’s own entity outside of fashion- resulting in the need for brands like Louis Vuitton, Dior men’s, and Balenciaga appropriate by employing not only those aesthetics but individuals who’s craft have roots that date back to earlier Streetwear. The nature of the trainer, merch or street game has never been female friendly. The graft is extremely tasking and demanding. The queuing, the haggling, and even the merchandise, which draws inspiration from street, skater culture and fundamentally hip hop all connate an air of exclusion that largely discriminates against the women, in particular, who pioneered the aesthetics to begin with- black working class women who would look to the luxury fashion publications, look to their resources and created looks that they deemed luxe. Bamboo earrings, cropped tops, hipsters with a protruding thong, customized tees and tiny bags.
Today, Kimora Lee Simmons, is reminding us of that legacy- she is Streetwear and the partnership through the Forever 21 channel is the best place to debut the brand to an audience who no nothing of the brand, but their, mother and sisters who would have adorned the diamante sphinx on figure hugging jeans on velour two-pieces, or stretch peddle pushers and cropped bomber jackets.
Though, Simmons vowed an affordable, mid-range price point reflective of her, then customers, the hope is that Baby Phat 2.0 reclaims its position as a heavyweight on the luxury market. After all, her spirit is evident throughout most tends we see today.