Russell Simmons is no stranger to fashion. In 1992, he launched the quintessential men’s urban sportswear line, Phat Farm, which has since blossomed into something more than just urban clothing.
Russell Simmons’ transition into the fashion world from the music world wasn’t such a big jump. When you take into account that he’s the founder of Def Jam – one of the most prominent and influential record labels in the world – it’s no surprise that Simmons was able to successfully fashion his own style.
In 1992, Phat Fashions was founded by the proclaimed godfather of hip-hop. The men’s division – Phat Farm, with an upside-down flag as its logo – quickly became a recognizable brand. The Phat Farm brand has the credibility that not many other entertainment brands have. Russell Simmons markets the Phat Farm brand as a lifestyle, similar to what Ralph Lauren has done with Polo. You never see Russell Simmons wearing anything but his own label. In an eight-year period, Phat Farm had recorded $127 million in sales. In addition, the Phat Farm brand began influencing the collections of already-prominent heavy-weights in non-urban clothing companies like Tommy Hilfiger (Hilfiger has been a mentor to Russell Simmons).
Out of Phat Farm came Baby Phat, the flamboyant, urban, luxury-inspired women’s clothing line. Baby Phat can be recognized by its very sleek and sexy logo of a black cat. But, Baby Phat’s most recognizable representative would have to be its creative director Kimora Lee Simmons, who in 1999 married Russell Simmons. Together, Kimora Lee and Russell Simmons have catapulted Baby Phat into a premier woman’s brand. With Kimora Lee at the helm, Baby Phat, since its debut in 1999, has continued to grow in profits by staying true to its roots, and is projecting a luxurious hip-hop life style brand to the world. In 2003 Baby Phat recorded $38 million in sales. Between Phat Farm Boys and Baby Phat combined, the pint sized clothing lines had $40 million in sales in 2003.
Naturally, where there are clothes, shoes will follow; Phat Footwear was established and in 2003 they had sales of $38 million.
Phat Fashions has flourished in the fashion world and has developed a bevy of accessories which range from perfume to handbags to underwear.
If the present is any indication of what’s to come, the future looks very bright for Phat Fashions. Kimora Lee Simmons has teamed up with one of the premiere jewelry companies in the world, F. Fabrikant & Sons, to create the Simmons Jewelry Company. There will be two lines designed by Kimora Lee Simmons. All of the diamonds will be inspected to ensure that they are conflict free. This means that none of the diamonds sold fund the unlawful and illegal operations of rebel, military and terrorist groups. A percentage of the profits will benefit communities affected by the diamond trade as well. Simmons has been quoted as saying that her goal with creating the jewelry company is to inspire African Americans to own equity in businesses that they influence around the world.
Influence is something that Russell Simmons has certainly had with Phat Fashions since being one of the top producing urban lines with a recorded $200 million in annual revenue in 2004. As far as competitors go, his main rival comes in the form of the red hot Sean John line (by Sean “Puffy” Combs), FUBU, and Rocawear (by Shawn “Jay-Z” Carter). These lines were also started by hip-hop artists or people with ties to hip-hop. In 2004, St. Louis based clothier Kellwood Company acquired Phat Fashions LLC for $140 million. The deal will give the Kellwood Company control of Phat Farm and Phat Brands as well as the Baby Phat woman’s clothing line. Russell Simmons will stay on as chief executive, and Kimora Lee Simmons will stay as a creative consultant to the Baby Phat line.
To see a previous celebrity wear column click here.
Throughout July Papierdoll will look at several other celebrities with fashion lines: Kimora Lee Simmons, Mandy Moore, Lenny Kravitz, 50 Cent and many others.