The look was made in collaboration with Spice’s stylist Timothy Luke. Together, Luke and Baby Phat tapped the heritage New York leather jacket label Daniel’s Leathers, the celeb tailorist Baba Jagne, jeweler CHRISHABANA, and the designer Christian Olarte to create a stunning denim couture piece that exemplified Baby Phat’s iconic motifs—the faux fur trim seen on the piece was upcycled from an old Daniel’s Leather vest and no animals were hurt in the process.
In the eyes of Baby Phat’s founder, Kimora Lee Simmons, Spice was the perfect ambassador.
“It’s that whole Bronx, New York flavor, her being such a cutie, and just having the right elements of being sporty and sexy,” Simmons tells Complex over the phone. “I think it was just this great culmination of all these things coming together. That whole Y2K aesthetic was the leading inspiration for the moment. It was a very collaborative process, and I think she has a very good sense of how she wants to look and what looks good on her.”
Although Spice didn’t win any of the four Grammys she was nominated for, she did have the most memorable red carpet look at the 66th Annual Grammy Awards. And it came right on time, considering that 2024 is also Baby Phat’s 25th anniversary.
Before Baby Phat, Simmons was already a globally-recognized fashion model who walked in Karl Lagerfeld’s Chanel runway shows when she was just 12. The Black-Japanese designer became an icon in streetwear when she came out with Baby Phat at the turn of the millennium—a brand that originally complemented her ex-husband’s streetwear line, Russell Simmons’ Phat Farm. Baby Phat would grow to become one of the most notable Black women–owned labels in fashion history. Everyone from Lil’ Kim to Missy Elliott wore Baby Phat’s clothes—you’ve likely seen that picture of Alicia Keys in a pink Baby Phat velour sweatsuit on a million Instagram moodboards.
In the Y2K-era Baby Phat dominated the game and eventually became a fully actualized lifestyle label that released everything from fragrances to jewelry. In 2004, Simmons sold Baby Phat for $140 million to the clothing conglomerate Kellwood but was forced to leave the brand in 2010 because Kellwood didn’t renew her contract. However, since buying Baby Phat back in 2018, she has regained control of her label and has been building upon its legacy.
We caught up with Simmons to chat about Baby Phat’s custom red carpet look for Ice Spice, her brand’s 25-year-old legacy, her work as a streetwear pioneer, and what’s in store for Baby Phat’s future.
This interview was condensed and edited for clarity.
So how has it been since Sunday evening? The Internet has been going bananas about this Ice Spice look.
Oh my god, right? I feel like I won a Grammy! It has just been crazy. I think she just looked great and amazing. Personally, I was upset that she didn't bring home a Grammy. Regardless, she is amazing, and I just think for young people, young women in our culture, it was still a great night and she's a great representative. So I feel very grateful, humble, and honored that she bestowed a small piece of her night for me. I'm just excited to be there like a fly on the wall.
How long has this look for Ice Spice been in the works? How long did it take to make?It wasn't long. I would say it was less than a few weeks. I worked with Timothy Luke, who's a really talented stylist that I've worked with before.
Did your team reach out to her, or did she reach out to you? They reached out to me. I think they wanted this whole Y2K kind of style. They wanted something that was quintessentially Baby Phat. So it boasts all of the brand's hallmarks. There's denim, faux fur, jewelry, and it just looks fabulous. It's the right mix of streetwear, hood, and fabulous altogether.
I definitely felt that when I saw it. I would love to hear a bit more about the creative process behind it because it’s just so memorable.
I wanted to see something that would bring in elements of Baby Phat in a modern way but still look nostalgic. I think we really achieved that. It's our 25th anniversary this year, and the elements of my brand is this whole Y2K era. I know that "Y2K" is being thrown around like this catchphrase by everyone, but I really embody those things. It's really just having that history for the culture—our roots in hip-hop and urban music meshing with pop culture and fashion. I think it says a lot and the look really represents all the things that make Baby Phat a brand and Kimora Lee Simmons as a person, model, and creator. I think it's really all those things coming together, and it being on Ice Spice is just the cherry on top.
She's the perfect ambassador for Baby Phat. It's that whole Bronx, New York flavor, being such a cutie, and just having the right elements of being sporty and sexy. I think it was just this great culmination of these things coming together. But that whole Y2K aesthetic was the leading inspiration for the moment. It was a very collaborative process, and I think she has a very good sense of how she wants to look and what looks good on her.
Obviously, I've been doing this for many years with many different artists, whether it's working with them on a signature look or further developing their flyness. It was a great collaboration that just worked at the moment. We started this year off releasing our Baby Phat puffers again. I feel like her fan base and our clientele just aligned for this big moment for hip-hop music, hip-hop culture, and streetwear. It's bringing that whole late ’90s and early 2000s vibe back, and I love it because it's just so important to get it. What goes around comes around. But this shows that what comes around stays.
So it wasn't just between you and Timothy [Luke]—Ice Spice was also involved with the creative on this?
Well, the conversation was between me and Timothy. But obviously, she's the whole curator of her look and knows what she wants it to be. So I would say it was still a three-way collaboration. She is the star, and I can't think of a better ambassador for Baby Phat. When you look at her, you see a Baby Phat girl. She looks mixed. You don't know where she's necessarily from—you look at her and want to know her story. It's like the perfect Bronx tale, this ghetto fabulous story. And her story feels aligned with mine as well. I'm a girl from St. Louis, Missouri. Honey, that's a whole different world. So whoever thought that we would end up here? That's more like Dorothy from Kansas, right? But no matter how you look at it, the Baby Phat story is about how we have arrived. We are here. We have been reborn. We are still relevant.
I think that's important to say, and I feel that way when I look at a lot of my contemporaries, people that I look up to in the business, or other legacy brands. This is the story, the ebb and the flow that you have to have, to create a legacy brand. This is a legacy and family brand for me. I currently run Baby Phat with my daughters Ming and Aoki today.
So is Ice Spice going to be like the brand's official ambassador in the future?
It's a collaboration for the moment, so she's not like the face of the brand per se. However, she is giving all the face for the brand at this moment. But no, she's not my spokesperson.
Maybe I'm biased as a New Yorker, but personally, this felt like the most memorable red carpet look this weekend. How did you feel about some Internet critics saying it wasn't a "Grammys look"?
Well, I don't really know because I didn't see them. All these leading fashion publications, at least every single one I saw, she's like the opening picture. The New York Times has her leading the "best dressed" photos from last night.
So I don't really know who's saying, “It's not a Grammys moment,” because that's crazy. Then what's a Grammys moment? I don't understand. Not to mention, she was not even naked. She was fully covered. Some of those girls that were naked or you could see through whatever they had on, see all the way through it. Is that a Grammys look? I don't really know.
I'm looking at 25 years in this game, and she's the opening picture on the best-dressed lists for all the major publications. For me, it's a moment. It was fitted, it has a little tail, she's giving the faux fur, and she looks like a goddess. To me, it was everything it should be.
This is a night for stars to be fabulous, but it's also for the culture. I feel like sometimes the culture is not always represented enough or properly. This look's over-the-top yet still classy and classic. So to whoever has something to say, how many years have they been in the game? Were they the best dressed from last night? I don't even know their faces or where they are. I'm just blowing kisses in the air. It was her big moment, it was the Grammys, and that alone represents so much for so many. To see a young lady from the Bronx there—it's everything for hip-hop and it just turned 50. I think it all goes together perfectly. So I'm not sure who's saying something, but I disagree strongly. Who said it wasn't proper for the Grammys? Show me who they are so they can say it to my face.
Haters aside, a lot of people are hyped about this look and probably wondering if you're going to bring that denim look to market. Are you?
I think we'll have to wait and see, but that is exactly what I was thinking. We obviously made this custom for her. So it's like couture Baby Phat, honey. But I was thinking that and I think we should. I think we do need to, but right now it's a custom [look] for Ice Spice. But we're gonna have to look at some elements of that and bring it to market. However, it's one of a kind you can't bring because it's for her. But I think to have some elements of that or make something with a similar feeling, I'd be curious to see what the people have to say and how they'd like to see that. This will always be one of a kind, but we'd definitely be interested in exploring something reminiscent of it. We'll see. It's definitely something I've been thinking about as well.
While I was definitely way too young to take in Baby Phat’s dominance in the early 2000s, I’ve certainly seen on plenty of Instagram moodboards how celebs really cherished this label during that Y2K era. What was your favorite custom Baby Phat look for a celeb other than Ice Spice?
I don't even know because I've truly dressed and created things for the whole world. Like I've dressed artists like Madonna for her tour. I really don't know a specific moment because I'm also a runway girl. I put together fashion shows with so many models that also started their careers with me. Whether it was Rhea Durham, Jessica White, or Candice Swanepoel, these girls were on Baby Phat's runway before any big campaigns or fashion shows. I can really think of girls and moments. Really every artist from Beyoncé and her group Destiny's Child, Kelly Ripa, Paris Hilton, Nicki Hilton. It has gone from like royalty to some of the biggest artists of our time, right? When we were younger, Jay-Z was our model, and he was wearing Phat Farm in videos like "Big Pimpin’"—Phat Farm is mine today as well.
So I can think of all these big moments, right? Not necessarily like a specific piece that I made because there have just been so many models, runways, and things. But I can say that I've probably worked with every major celeb, artist, group, band, or model of our time.
When we had runway shows, it was like the number one show during New York Fashion Week, right next to Marc Jacobs. Missy Elliott. Aaliyah is a great example. How she was mixing the whole menswear looks with her sexiness but giving it some streetwear edge, right? I worked with Alicia Keys a lot when she first came on the scene. Britney Spears sitting front row at our "Russia With Love" show in 2007 alongside André Leon Talley in a big fur hat. There's just moments going all the way up to now, when seeing Emrata [Emily Ratajkowski] wear a Baby Phat belt today.
Again, this Ice Spice look really was an exciting way for Baby Phat to kick off its 25th anniversary this year. How has it been catering to OG Baby Phat customers while also tapping into a younger generation who might have just learned about it last night through this look?
Well, even this Halloween, Saweetie dressed up as me. A couple years back, like before Fenty, Rihanna purchased all my archive collections of Baby Phat. Kim K. recently bought some Baby Phat pink flip phones. I feel like I was one of the only designers at the time to make my own flip phone. One of the only ones to release a Barbie doll made in my own likeness, wearing my clothes. Now you might have a Vera Wang doll, but it wasn't made to look like Vera Wang. That's what I'm trying to say. I remember back then, people would kind of laugh when I did things like that and snub their nose at it. Act as if it was something less fab or something that was too sexy. You name it, people had something to say. But now look how much power something like Barbie represents. Everyone wants in on that now. Yet I was one of the first to do that, certainly for a woman and designer of color.
I say all this because it shows how the culture comes together for the young and the old. Now jumping to the present, Baby Phat today is myself, who did all these things, and then working on the label with my young daughters Ming and Aoki. Both have been by my side on the runway and in the magazines. But now they're models of their own with their own covers. Young, cultural, hot girl, influencers, models, or whatever you may call them. A recent article on Ming called her an American heiress. I like that for sure because I feel like I'm the queen of this thing. You know what I mean?
Like I said, 50 years of hip-hop. Baby Phat was here for 25 years of that. I think that's crazy. It says a lot, and we need those accolades to stand on for everybody. Likewise, I stand on the accolades of others that were building blocks for me to get here, right? In a lot of ways, I am the pioneer. In other ways, I am the follower of someone who lifted me up that came before me in terms of a Black designer, a designer of color, or a woman designer.
There weren't a lot. There were not a lot of Asians, there were not a lot of Blacks, and there certainly weren't a lot of mixed people. There weren't a lot of young women in this industry like there are now. Now I can say there's Kim Shui, Vera Wang, and a lot of designers who've built names in Asia that are now making it over here. They're now popular mainstream designers, and we didn't have all that when I was coming up. And it certainly wasn't for my genre if you would. What I mean by that is they could have made some fancy couture gown, but it wasn't like streetwear.
So to be cool in China and to be cool in America at the same time. To be a mixed Asian person, be a young lady coming up, paving the way, and trailblazing along with everybody else. That's the big thing I want to say when I speak about the juxtaposition between the old generation and the younger generation. I think that fashion is cyclical, kind of like music. I think if you look at a lot of the brands now, streetwear, there's a lot of Baby Phat and Kimora elements in their designs or fashion show presentations. I think it's all relevant and it's all important. There's a pair of Baby Phat sneakers in the Smithsonian. I think that's a big deal. I have people now that have kind of grown up with Baby Phat who've become celebrities and stars of their own. I remember Lebron James' wife [Savannah] told me how, where she grew up, Baby Phat was all the rage.
Every girl remembers being in high school, owning that puffer coat, and attaches a lot of other memories to that. She was saying she didn't even have that much money but still did everything she could to get Baby Phat jeans, coats, and T-shirts. To hear these kinds of stories come from other women, other people, and contemporaries from my day, time, and age just amazes me. I am saying all this because I am in amazement and I come to you with humility and gratitude. I'm not saying all these things to pop my collar even though we can. But it's [because] I am honored.
It's a big moment for hip-hop to even be at the Grammys. We all know about some of these struggles with the categories, with the attendees, with the nominees, with the fashion, with the politics, right? So to be able to have his seat at that table, to still be flourishing and thriving like that, it's a big deal.
To see this girl on the red carpet, wearing one of my classic denim pieces, it makes my little runway heart flutter. I've been making clothes on that runway for the past 30 years of my life. If I'm counting when I was on the runway, it was most of my life. I was walking for Karl Lagerfeld's Chanel shows when I was 12. Before that, I was just that weird-looking girl from St. Louis, Missouri. Dorothy from Kansas to the Chanel runway. Now look at Pharrell at Louis Vuitton. Look at some of the young contemporary guys. We don't have Virgil anymore, but look at the other design houses and how they have these younger guys and girls coming up.
I totally feel what you're saying. Speaking of those puffers you recently released earlier this year, how many have you sold so far?
It's in the couple thousands. They're in demand, and I think that's very important to show that they've been around. They're a hot ticket item, and it's just amazing. I think it just nods to the fact that it's a classic. To me, this is classic fashion. To someone else, they might call it something else urban or streetwear. But to me, it's always been a classic. I came into the game like this, stayed in the game like this, and it will always be this. So to see they're still in demand, and that we're selling through so many, it’s just a testament to that.
Obviously, 25 years is a huge milestone. Are there any exciting collaborations coming up for Baby Phat on the horizon? Can we expect Baby Phat returning to New York Fashion Week in September?
I would love to do that. It's a big year for us, and I can't wait to say everything, which I can't share now. But you can kind of see the movement that I'm going in. I re-dropped the puffers, and I think it's just a good time with Spice wearing one of our pieces to the Grammys. It has received so much love, and it celebrates Baby Phat's real roots in fashion, hip-hop, and urban music. I think it's just a big year and we have a lot up our sleeve.I would definitely love to have another fashion show and I will. I don't know if it will be September. That I can't say for sure. But I definitely will be coming back to that.