“It’s going to be an ode to the past but then [my daughters] will pick it up where we left off,” says Simmons Leissner

By Sharon Kanter
March 11, 2019 01:25 PM
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Amy Sussman/WWD/REX/Shutterstock

Baby Phat by Kimora Lee Simmons is coming back, thanks to its original founder.

Former model and fashion designer Kimora Lee Simmons Leissner announced that, this summer, she will relaunch the brand that helped put hip hop-inspired women’s fashion at the forefront of pop culture.

“It’s the rebirth of my baby,” she told PEOPLE on Friday, after delivering the keynote address announcing the news at the UN Women and the Gender Innovation Coalition for Change event celebrating the new “She Innovates” campaign on International Women’s Day.

The brand had originally launched in 1999 as a subsidiary of then-husband Russell Simmons’ Phat Fashions line. Thanks to some signature pieces — like the line’s signature baby tee featuring the Baby Phat rhinestone cat and a pink tufted flip phone — and major celebrity endorsements (from Britney Spears, Alicia Keys and more), it became a popular line of the aughts.

However, Simmons Leissner exited from her long-held role as Creative Director in 2010, tumultuously, it had been reported at the time, as it became a part of the Kellwood Company.

Now, Simmons Leissner has bought it back, and she’s bringing her two teen daughters, Ming, 19, and Aoki, 16, (with ex-husband Russell Simmons) along with her to help rebuild and relaunch Baby Phat into the world. (She’s also mom to Kenzo Lee, 9, with ex actor Djimon Hounsou, and Wolfe Lee Leissner, 3, with investment banker husband Tim Leissner.)

Kimora Lee Simmons launching Baby Phat at Bloomingdale’s in 2004.
Desiree Navarro/FilmMagic

“Here we are again, 20 years later in 2019, and now [my daughters] are with me taking the reigns,” she tells PEOPLE. “This is a woman-owned company, run by me and my daughters. I’ve been in fashion for 30 years. But now it’s about passing the torch from one to the next.”

Simmons Leissner says her daughters, who often used to join her on the Baby Phat runways as young girls, will help her translates Baby Phat’s core ideas to the next generation.

“It’s going to be an ode to the past but then they will pick it up where we left off,” she says.

“They are involved in every aspect of the business,” she explains. “Ming studies business and fashion in college in New York, and Aoki is in Los Angeles and will be in college next year. They’re very much innovators and influencers. We’re like the Three Musketeers.”

The first collection will drop “in May or June,” says Simmons Leissner.

“It’s going to feature our key pieces and nostalgic moments,” she explains, hinting at the return of the famous “Baby Cat Phat” rhinestone tee. “It’s all going to be still cool, still sexy and still fun.”

Simmons Leisner says many of her famous friends are excited about the relaunch, including Kim Kardashian West. “She was like, ‘Oh my gosh!’ It has to be the Baby Phat that we remember from then, like not necessarily all new, it has to be the original,” says Simmons Leissner.

The brand will relaunch this spring on babyphat.com though the exact date is still to be determined.