As you can see the Simmons’ dominated the 90s/ early 2000s. They were the OG mogul family. They practically paved the way for the Kardashian/ Jenner clan. Phat Farm was a fashion line founded by hip-hop impresario Russell Simmons aka the founder of Def Jam record label in 1992. The name Phat Farm to me was perfect for the times, – a hip- hop slang word that urban dictionary would describe as something “cool, pretty hot or tempting”
Before Mr Simmons founded Phat Farm in 1992, his main focus was music. With his partner Rick Rubin, he launched Def Jam Records signing huge rap musicians like The Beastie Boys, Public Enemy, and of course, Run-D.M.C. Rush Communications was soon created thereafter and housed Phat Farm, a clothing line Simmons sold at a small shop in New York’s Soho district. With the help of Marc Bagguta, who ran the boutique, and 22-year-old skateboarders Alyasha Jibril Owerka-Moore and Eli Morgan Gesner, who became designers for the brand, Russell Simmons managed to turn Phat Farm into one of the most iconic urban brands to ever grace the earth. You can tell that Russell’s music background had a huge influence in how he branded phat farm as well as the clothing he provided. The line was an upscale mix of sporty urban fashion with elements of the classic ivy league prep student – he was a man who paired baggy jeans with crisp white sweaters and somehow made it look good! But now if I see someone dressed like that I instantly cringe, that fashion was left in the 90s and that is where it should stay for the rest of eternity.
It needs to be taken into consideration that, Simmons once admitted that Phat Farm was not an immediate success, he lost almost $10 million during the first six years but he says that once things took off, they really took off, helping to boost his net worth up to $300 million.
This man was a pivotal player in this so-called “urban wear” fashion movement in the late 1990s as the founder of Phat Farm which over time eventually became the uniform for hip-hop fans. Urban streetwear brands were seen as an extension of hip-hop artists’ fashion influence, as musicians were not only aspirational style icons, but also educators, name-dropping luxury designers like Versace in their anthems and cultivating a new generation of label lovers.
In the late ’90s and early ’00s, Phat Farm and Baby Phat reigned supreme alongside Tommy Hilfiger and Ralph Lauren (two brands that eventually embraced hip-hop’s appreciation) and were sold at mainstream stores like Macy’s. Their runway shows at New York Fashion Week were pop-culture happenings that helped merge the worlds of fashion and celebrity, and were attended by everyone from Lil Kim to Brittany Murphy to Vanessa Williams. However, sadly, today, Phat Farm ceases to exist, no Instagram feed, no Twitter account. The brand isn’t even listed among Kellwood Apparel’s repertoire – the company whom Simmons sold the company to for $140 million back in 2004, and an inquiry to the Kellwood Apparel office was met with, “What’s a fat fashion?” by the receptionist, who then transferred the call to voicemail.
Do you think phat fam would succeed in today’s fashion society if they were to make a comeback like baby phat?
As well as Pastry, Baby phat is also another brand that reminds me so much of my childhood. I was a die-hard Simmons fan growing up, I watched every single one of their reality tv shows. Watching Life in the fab lane made me crave a career in fashion, more specifically, a career as a fashion designer. Kimora Lee had 8 year old me thinking that I could conquer the fashion industry – I remember seeing her close every baby phat show and I’d tell my brothers “that’s gonna be me one day.” I used to spend my weekends and holidays sketching clothing designs and my brother ended up keeping a folder of every design I ever made good or bad (he’s honestly been my biggest supporter and fan from the very second I stepped foot into this world!). Kimora Lee was the BOSS ASS BITCH of the 2000s and no one can ever tell me different!!!
Before there was Fashion Nova, there was Baby Phat – the women’s streetwear brand that epitomized everything we hate and love about early 2000s fashion; low rise jeans, velour tracksuits, flip phones, jewelled belts, boot cut jeans, mini skirts and basically everything you identify the early 2000s with! Baby phat didn’t follow trends, they started them. The streetwear brand began 22 years ago in 1998 as an extension of the Phat Farm men’s label under Mr Russell Simmons’ Phat Fashions company. Like I mentioned in my Pastry post, at the time women’s streetwear brands hardly existed and the ones that did were just feminized version of the men’s and their ads all seemed to cater to the male gaze – in literature, from a masculine, heterosexual perspective that presents and represents women as sexual objects for the pleasure of the male viewer, however, what was different about Baby Phat was the fact that they centred women. It was created and designed by a woman who was fiercely independent and strong! Like I said before Kimora Lee was the BOSS ASS BITCH of the 2000s and no one can ever tell me different! Women’s empowerment was at the core of the Baby Phat from the start. Ads presented Kimora living the Fab life, whilst men catered to her! In the world of Baby Phat, Kimora was THE President.
But the one thing that I loved the most about this brand growing up was simply the fact that they brought so much empowerment to black women in a time where we were not represented in the industry. Baby Phat runway shows were a celebration of black fashion, before the rest of the industry deemed it “cool”. Kimora hired black models, black designers and she even tapped rappers like Lil Kim to walk in the fashion show, she invited black magazine editors to sit front row, and she even hired a black publicist. Let’s also not forget just how innovative Baby Phat was, Kimora released a signature pink Baby Phat Prepaid Rush Visa Card which offered a 10% discount on online Baby Phat purchases, she was the first designer to show at Radio City Music Hall in 2006 and became the first designer to livestream her show via Jumbotron in Times Square in 2009, giving spectators an “in” on a typically exclusive event (and a now-common practice for brands reaching audiences online). I will keep repeating it so you can all get it into your heads, Kimora Lee was the BOSS ASS BITCH of the 2000s and no one can ever tell me different! A TRUE QUEEN!
Unlike Pastry, Baby Phat is now well and truly back in business. Last year in 2019 it made it’s comeback with Kimora’s daughters Aoki and Ming being the stars of the campaign. Since its initial partnership and launch with Forever 21 in December of 2019, the brand has released solo collections, and now, it has partnered with Footlocker for its first-ever women’s collection.
So as you all know, last week I did a blog post entitled ‘Throwback Thursday’, here I gave you guys a number of urban wear brands from the late 90s and 2000s that dominated black culture, however, I didn’t give you any background information on those brands so this is where this series comes in. I am going to educate you on these brands and show you why they should never be forgotten starting with pastry shoes!
Launched in March 2007 Pastry came at a time when sneakers weren’t a big thing among girls/ women. Pastry Shoes was founded by Vanessa and Angela Simmons in order to allow young girls to create unique looks in order to express themselves. Pastry Shoes were designed to be “sweet, chic, and unique”.
At the time of their launch, people were dressing like Serena and Blair from Gossip girl and our favourite 90210 characters. Sneakers were a thing for boys/men, they were not worn for fashion but for sport and dancing hence why Pastry marketed themselves as the number one dancing shoe in the US at the time. Sisters Vanessa and Angela Simmons were the faces and designers of the brand which is one of the reasons why the brand excelled so much in its time – having two famous founders gave the brand the kind of built-in marketing engine no amount of advertising could buy. In a way, they opened the way for influencer marketing, these two started their brand on their father’s reality TV show – runs house and fans were able to follow their entire journey, from the initial idea to their actual shoe launch garnering a huge fan base. In addition to this, the brand utilised social networking sites like Facebook and myspace to push their brand, here they would post video blogs of the sisters and new ads/ promotions. This brand was clearly ahead of its time and it breaks my heart to know that pastry is no longer what it used to be, it hardly even exists.
As mentioned before, the brand launched when customers wanted something loud and fresh. “From the bold colours to the fresh silhouettes, Pastry is right where it needs to be,”. The shoes came into the market at a good time because no other brands were doing what they brought to the market. People recognised this and that’s why fashion enthusiasts like myself fell in love with the brand. I remember these were all that I ever used to talk about and then my brother got me them in 2011 (literally just before they died out) and I wore them everywhere I went, from that point no other shoe mattered, even if it didn’t go with my outfit I still wore them. These were the first pair of trainers I adored and probably the start of my sneaker addiction! But now looking back on these shoes I cringe a little because I could never imagine my ever wearing these with my sense of style now, they’re what you call a true ugly sneaker, however at the time I was a child so if they were ever to come back into fashion I think they’d be great as a children’s shoe. The bright colours and patterns just make sense for children.