Russell Simmons was born in 1957 and grew up in Queens, New York. In 1975, Simmons enrolled in college at New York's City College where he studied sociology. While in college, Simmons witnessed the energy of young street rappers as they drew crowds to street corners and parks who came to listen to their rap songs.
Simmons started putting together his own shows and became acquainted with promoters. In 1983, he met Rick Rubin, a student at New York University, who was also interested in rap music. Rubin talked Simmons into forming a partnership with him, and together they became co-owners of Def Jams Records, a label that would sign the biggest rap artists of the day, such as Run-DMC, LL Cool J, the Beastie Boys, and Public Enemy.
With the initial success of Def Jams records, Simmons quickly proved that he had a knack for selling rap music, and he eventually dropped out of college to run the business on a full time basis. By 1990, Simmons and Rubin had grown apart in their business dealings and decided to dissolve their partnership, with Simmons retaining ownership of Def Jam Records.
Simmons began to venture into other areas of the entertainment business. He had already produced movies, so he turned his attention to television and helped create and produce Def Jam Comedy, which proved to be very successful.
Due in part to his success in the entertainment industry and in part to the recognition of how fans imitated the dress of their favorite hip hop artists, Simmons decided to create a fashion style that mirrored the hip hop culture. In 1992, Simmons launched Phat Fashions.
Recognizing the fact that he had no knowledge of the fashion business, he teamed with Marc Bagutta, a boutique owner in the SoHo district of Manhattan, and Alyasha Jibtil Owerka-Moore and Eli Morgan Gesner, two fashion designers with with a knack for designing fashionable, popular, clothing.
Phat Fashions became an instant success and was quickly picked up by stores around the country. Simmons had no training as a designer himself so he promoted his clothing line by having his rap artists wear Phat fashions on stage during performances.
To keep from having his clothing line type cast as being only for urban customers, he offered a line of classic designs. In 1993, a women's line of clothing, called Baby Phat, was released. Baby Phat became very popular and solidified the Phat Fashion brand name.
With the growth and popularity of Phat Fashions, in 1996, and again in 1998, Simmons had to organized and reorganized his label to keep up with demand and decided to form a business venture with Turbo Sportswear, an outerwear manufacturer known for producing such brands as First Down, Triple F.A.T. Goose, and Phenom.
The partners formed a new company, American Design Group (ADG). As president of ADG, Simmons expanded his clothing line into mainstream markets and began to compete with more trendy and better known name brands. ADG signed a number of initial licensing agreements for Phat Fashions, including leather, a casual walking shoe, outerwear to Turbo, underwear, and a line of children's clothing.
Also in 1998, Simmons married Kimora Lee, a fashion model who was, at that time, the face of Chanel. Lee was born in St. Louis of African American and Asian parentage. With her beauty, as well as brains, by the time she was 16, Kimora was already a super-model who had already modeled for some of the most distinguished designers in the fashion industry, such as Fendi, Gilvenchy, Ives St. Laurent, Giorgio Armani, and her face could be seen on the covers of top magazines, Elle, Vogue, Seventeen, Harper's Bazaar, and many others.
In 1999, worldwide licensing rights to Baby Phat were awarded to Aris Industries and later that same year Aris also received a license to design a line of junior sportswear for the Baby Phat brand that would be less influenced by urban culture.
Kimora Simmons would come to have a huge impact on Phat Fashions, and as the head of the Baby Phat label, her influence would be felt throughout the fashion industry. With an idea and design by Kimora, Phat Fashions launched a line of lingerie in 2000 that targeted young adult women. That same year, plans were made for a Harlem flagship store that would sell Phat Fashions, as well as other name brand clothing. The store would also sell jewelry, home furnishings, and other merchandise.
In 2001, a licensing agreement was made with Stern Fragrances to produce a collection of fragrances for the Phat Farm and Baby Phat labels. The fragrance, named Premium, was supported by a clothing line, also using the name Premium as part of the Phat Farm ten year anniversary celebration. In 2001, there was also a launching of an outerwear and sportswear leather collection.
By 2005, under Kimora's guidance, Baby Phat, was now leading the Phat Fashion brand to higher markets and was making the label an influential high growth company. Her experience as a top fashion model and her sense of style took the Baby Phat brand to the forefront of luxury wear.
Baby Phat’s slinky feline logo, inspired by an Egyptian goddess, has become internationally recognizable as a well respected fashion symbol and is synonymous with the Baby Phat brand. The Baby Phat brand has come to represent glamour, fun, and feminine sensuality.
Baby Phat handbags, shoes, jewelry, leatherwear, lingerie, gowns, and other beautiful, exquisite accessories are worn by many in the entertainment, music, and sports industries.
In 2007, Kimora launched her KLS Collection, a new upscale line of clothing created to inspire and empower women with style and a sexy flair. Kimora has taken her creative designs, marketing concepts, and her love for fashion and the fashion industry to new heights, expanding her business ventures with companies like Mattel, Motorola, and M. Fabrikant & Sons.
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