Kimora Lee Simmons: A Fashion Icon And Business Mogul

The Baby Phat icon has influenced generations of models and moguls.

BYDemi Phillips
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In the 90s, very few women in fashion commanded authority quite like Kimora Lee Simmons. A woman of many talents, Simmons has been an unstoppable force since she first signed with Chanel at age 13. Since then, she’s gone on to succeed in numerous business ventures. Kimora Lee Simmons has added to her impressive repertoire by becoming a successful businesswoman and philanthropist. 

Besides her impressive career, Simmons became Hip Hop royalty after her marriage to Russell Simmons. On June 18, the world at large celebrated Father’s Day. Barely 24 hours later, Simmons publicly called out her ex-husband. In a series of Instagram story posts, the fashion icon alleged that she and the two kids she shares with Russell have been subjects of abuse at the hands of the record executive. 

Nonetheless, Kimora Lee Simmons remains a definitive figure in the history of fashion. She was a highly in-demand model in the 90s. By the 2000s, her brand Baby Phat became a global phenomenon. It didn’t take long before she ventured into the world of reality TV. Altogether, Simmons’ status as a fashion legend and business mogul is indisputable. 

Read More: Kimora Lee Simmons’ Baby Phat Apparel Has Made A Comeback With Forever 21

Early Beginnings As A Model

Kimora Lee Simmons plunged into global fashion success at the tender age of 13. When she was 11, her mother enrolled her in modeling classes to build her confidence. As a tall, biracial child of Black American, Japanese, and Korean descent, Simmons was the target of bullying. After being successfully scouted, she was flown to Paris where she started a meteoric rise to fame. 

Simmons was signed exclusively to Chanel, where her racial ambiguity was put on full display by Karl Lagerfeld. Later on, she would walk the runway for many major fashion houses, including Fendi, YSL, and Valentino. In addition to this, she landed numerous magazine covers. Her love of fashion would eventually lead her to launch Baby Phat. 

Read More: Aoki Lee Simmons Gets Accepted To Harvard University At 16

Success And Impact Of Baby Phat 

Kimora Lee Simmons during Olympus Fashion Week Fall 2004 - Baby Phat - After Party at Boulevard in New York City, New York, United States. (Photo by Johnny Nunez/WireImage)

After a highly successful decade, Kimora Lee Simmons extended her power in fashion to the world of design. In 1999, she launched the widely popular lifestyle brand, Baby Phat, an off-branch of Russell Simmons' Phat Farm. The brand served to open several doors for many minority fashion designers. Baby Phat was also noted for being unmistakably inspired by Hip Hop’s style. 

Baby Phat became such a huge phenomenon that it spread all across the globe. The brand was in extremely high demand in the 2000s, attaining monumental commercial success. Capitalizing on the popularity of the brand, Simmons continued to expand, accommodating several products besides clothing. By 2010, Simmons and Phat Fashions parted ways, but she relaunched the brand in 2019. 

Read More: Kimora Lee Simmons Defends Daughter Aoki’s Decision To Become A Model

Other Ventures and Personal Life

Kimora Lee Simmons’ successes in recent years are just as outstanding as her career in modeling and fashion design. In 2007, she gained a new set of fans after starring in her reality TV show. Titled, Kimora: Life In The Fab Lane, the series focused on the mogul’s personal life. Her three children at the time, Ming Lee, Aoki Lee, and Kenzo Lee all appeared, including her then-boyfriend, Djimon Hounsou, and her ex-husband Russell. 

Simmons is also a bestselling author and has starred in several television shows and films. She has also appeared in three music videos — “Nice & Slow” by Usher, “Change Clothes” by Jay-Z, and “In Those Jeans” by Ginuwine. Altogether, Kimora Lee Simmons has cultivated such a multifaceted career that has stood the test of time. 

Kimora Lee and Russell Simmons were married between 1998 and 2009. However, she and the media mogul separated and she began a relationship with actor Djimon Hounsou. The pair had an intimate ceremony in Hounsou’s native country Benin, but the union was not recognized in the United States. They separated in 2012, and two years later, she married investment banker, Tim Leissner, although they’re now estranged. She has five children altogether. 

Read More: Kimora Lee Simmons & Tim Leissner Adopt 10-Year-Old Son, Gary


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