For the past thirty years, Housing Works has been an avid player in the fight against HIV and homelessness through the medium of fashion. Founded by Andre Leon Talley and the late Natasha Richardson in 2004, this year’s annual designer sale and fundraising event Fashion for Action features fashion and style powerhouses from TV/radio host Bevy Smith to Emmy, Tony and Grammy Award-Winning Artist Billy Porter. Included in this year’s festivities of virtual fashion talks and sweep-style shopping is businesswoman and cultural icon Kimora Lee Simmons.
With the launch of Baby Phat Beauty, a millennial spin on the iconic and nostalgic fashion brand Baby Phat, alongside her daughters Ming Lee Simmons and Aoki Lee Simmons, the rebranded beauty brand took off with their Shimmer Dreams three-piece kit and has been taking off since with its nine-item collection from fragrances to body spray.
For this HelloBeautiful exclusive, Kimora Lee Simmons opened up with us about her working relationship with her daughters and millennial influencers Aoki Lee and Ming Lee Simmons, the original launch of Baby Phat in 1999, and her hopes for the Baby Phat Beauty brand moving forward.
On Housing Works’ Fashion for Action:
“Housing Works has been around for a long time, this year actually marks its 30th anniversary. It’s played a major role in meeting the needs of New Yorkers by providing healthcare, shelter and advocacy for those impacted by AIDS/HIV and homelesness. Baby Phat has deep roots and a strong connection to the city. It was an obvious choice, when given the chance to participate in a fashion fundraiser benefiting New Yorkers. Over the years, many of the industry’s top designers and brands have been involved. We’re happy to be a part of it this year.”
On the launch of Baby Phat:
“I’m often asked whether I knew Baby Phat would turn into a global phenomenon and looking back, I believe a part of what drove the brand’s success was the insight that no one was giving the consumer what they wanted. It was the innovation that secured success for us, I believe.”
On the relaunch of Baby Phat Beauty:
“Our recent relaunch is rolling out in phases, but it’s definitely tied to the original in that it still represents key values: independence, ambition and a network of women who know where they’re going.”
On supporting Black-owned and women-owned businesses during the Black Lives Matter movement:
“We were one of the first Black-owned and women-owned commercial apparel brands. It’s encouraging to see so many new creators taking up the mantle and working towards success. Consumers can’t see what isn’t offered, so the increase in visibility is bound to impact future entrepreneurs. Drops of water turn a wheel.”
On her hopes for Ming and Aoki as fashion and beauty entrepreneurs:
“Ming and Aoki are dynamic creators themselves. Working alongside them, I see them finding their way and taking stewardship of their own business education. They’re learning just how fragile good ideas are and how much work goes into seeing them through.”
On her working relationship and creative process with her daughters:
“Our (my daughters and I) group texts are a chronicle of our passions and ideas and collaboration. Clips, sketches, references – we throw them all into the hopper! We debate, strategize, and share; and it’s thrilling!”
On the Baby Phat legacy for Black and brown girls:
“I want them to pick up right where we last left off and join the army of young black and brown girls leaning into their future goals and accomplishments.”
On the primary lesson that the fashion industry has taught her:
“Fashion has taught me to present ideas, defend them, refine them and claim space for them. I’ve been a model, a designer, a creative director, an entrepreneur, a retailer – I’ve seen this industry from all perspectives. That’s powerful and I want the same power for women of all ages in all industries!”