9.13.10 --- Baby Phat with no Kimora? Can you fathom?
Well apparently Kellwood Co., the parent company to the urban fashion line, can. Since the former model and "Fabulosity" star announced over Twitter that she'd be parting ways with the company last month, rumors have flown that she was dumped from the line.
Even though Baby Phat represents one of the fir
st urban female centered lines to hit it big after debuting in 1998, it has not been immune to the wear and tear that accompany the life cycles of many popular labels.
“The brand has performed consistently well for the last few years, but in my opinion is getting a little “long in the tooth,” said Kristin Bentz, a retail industry veteran who writes about consumer retail stocks. “Like Juicy Couture, it tapped in to a certain demographic at a key moment in time and capitalized on that, but when recession rears its ugly head that target consumer gets stretched, and the brand undergoes stress. Brands like Juicy and Baby Phat that are fun and frivolous, but not classic luxury brands, are great– until the tide turns.”
Lee Simmons spun off BabyPhat from then husband’s Phat Farm line and quickly began to make a name for herself outside of being a former model married to a media mogul.
In 2004, Kellwood Co. bought Phat Fashions from the Simmons for about $140 million, retaining Lee Simmons as its creative director. It wasn’t clear how much Lee Simmons continued to influence the fashion direction of the company since then but it was always clear how much of a role she played in the company’s promotional campaigns. She and her two daughters appeared in many of the advertisements and many speculate that it may have been her expensive shoots and fees to herself amidst budget concerns that led Kellwood to cut her off.
“Whenever you have these celeb-designer creative directors, appeasing them and their lifestyle is fine while the money is rolling in,” said Bentz. “But these are desperate times at retail, and company managements have to answer to every dime spent. So, it’s no surprise to me that Kellwood allegedly sent her Jimmy Choo’s walking. This is not new–Versace went through this, Valentino had huge issues with this with Permira. Its just the nature of creative leaders–they like excess. And unfortunately we are now in the salad days of retail.”
Kellwood was in the news for being in some financial trouble last year. Then, the company, which is a major supplier to department stores, was thought to be on the brink of bankruptcy as sales slumped amidst weak consumer confidence during the recession.
Kimora has revealed that her split has been anything but amicable.
"It's over. It's absolutely over. It was very abrupt and sudden. I was shocked," she told the Daily News last night at Macy's Herald Square. She wouldn't confirm that she was pushed out, but said: "It's very, very sad for me. It was totally unexpected."
But the mom of three, who was recently greeted at Macy's juniors department by hundreds of screaming fans, is still very much in command of the rest of her empire. She'll relaunch her KLS Collection soon, and Kouture by Kimora, her under-$40 line exclusively for Macy's, has got her feeling positive. "It's onward and upward, and I'm very happy, and I'm very excited," she says. "Sometimes, you're thrown a curve ball in life."