The ever-evolving mogul and larger-than-life St. Louis native Kimora Lee Simmons has begun yet another chapter of her model-turned-multimedia-tycoon career.
"It's my next evolution, reinvention …how many of those do we get as women," Simmons said by phone from Los Angeles.
Well, if you're Kimora Lee Simmons, it seems that supply of next adventures is endless.
She started walking the runways as a preteen. At 14, she was signed to a contract with Chanel because she caught the eye of Karl Lagerfeld. At 17, she caught the eye of music producer and entrepreneur Russell Simmons. At 23, she married him. At 24, he named her creative director and president of the Baby Phat clothing line. A year later she had her first daughter, two years later, her second. At 28, she won a Tony Award (yep, you read that right - for producing) and she and Russell sold Baby Phat and Phat Farmfor $140 million to Town and Country,Mo, -based Kellwood Co.
Along the way to 30, she launched a fine jewelry line, a number of fragrances, wrote a book on her favorite subject - fabulosity - and appeared in a handful of movies. At 32, she became a reality television star and was promoted by Kellwood to president and creative director of Phat Fashions. She officially divorced Russell at 33, but they had split amicably years before. When she was 35, Kellwood surprised everyone by firing Simmons as president, creative director and spokesmodel for the line synonymous with her image. She's now remarried to actor and model Djimon Hounsou and they have a son together.
When Simmons spoke to us just a few days after her 37th birthday she was feeling fabulous, and with good reason. She's launched a prepaid credit card that she designed, a new line of skincare for mature women and she's president and creative director of Just Fabulous, JustFab.com. She didn't name Just Fabulous. But with a name like that, the online retail outlet seemed tailor made for the queen of fabulosity - a word she trademarked.
The new website offers members a personalized shopping experience. After visitors fill out a profile of likes and dislikes, the site creates a boutique of items including shoes, handbags, purses, denim, jewelry and accessories all available for $39.95.
"It's not the $1,200 jean or the $1,200 shoe, but it's just as fabulous," Simmons said. "I should know because I've worked for them all, bought them all, worn them all."
She said JustFab is about making good fashion affordable and accessible. And convenience is key in our warp drive world; the JustFab customer might be sneaking in a little shopping on a break from work, at night after the kids are in bed, in the morning while the laundry is drying. In other words they don't have a lot of time, and they want an edited, stylish selection of items to choose from quickly.
She says she's passionate about affordable fashion. She wants more people to feel they can meet their goals and look good doing it. That was the whole premise of her popular 2006 book, "Fabulosity: What it is and How to Get it." So Simmons seems sincere when she explains, "I don't feel like I'm jumping on the bandwagon."
She notes it's now popular for celebrities and high-end brands to launch low-priced lines, but she has been doing it since, "Baby Phat," a phrase that she now says in a comic stage whisper.
Asked if there are any hard feelings over Kellwood Co. fodismissing her, she says, no. Although when it first happened she admitted it was a shock and she was hurt. Now she's just happy the brand is still around.
"There was definitely a separation or divorce or whatever you'd call it, but I'm still proud of what I created. That's my cat, Max, on the logo. I'm still proud of that, and I still have my tattoo (on her back); I'm not mad about that. You don't throw out the baby with the bathwater."
She's continuing the mission she started at Baby Phat with her new projects.
"I've always been about trying to offer girls luxury and lifestyle items at an affordable price, but now that customer has grown up with me," Simmons said. "We are in a different stage of our lives."
By that she means that her customer is now probably a working mother or career woman, too. Although, from the size of the high-heels on JustFab, she's not your typical working mom.
"Oh, she's busy, but that doesn't mean that you can't still be fabulous," Simmons said. "We're a little more mature, but that's not to say we have to compromise being sexy and chic."
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JustFab is one of a growing number of websites that offer similar services. They are all quickly developing programs that "sense" what styles a customer is most likely to purchase and delivers the curated selection to the customers in-box. The services are often targeted to the busy fashionista and it's popular for them to have a one-size-fits-all price that's moderate.
Simmons is proud to do something for working women and especially working mothers because she's a loud and proud career mom. She mentions it often, and she says that she understands what it's like to be busy and under pressure and yet still need to look good. Although, let's face it, she could retire tomorrow and still live like royalty.
"Oh, no. I'm really OCD and ADD. I can't stop working. I can never sit still," Simmons said. "Besides I'm from north county (St. Louis), so I've had humble beginnings, and I want to make sure my children understand whatever they have and appreciate it."
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