Russell Simmons’ embellished legacy as co-founder of Def Jam Records will (likely) be overshadowed from here on by multiple allegations of sexual assault by women, leading to Simmons’ resignation from his company on Thursday.
However, Simmons’ success story is not based solely on music. He is also a key player in the so-called “urban” fashion movement of the late period 1990s as the founder of Phat Farm, the clothing and footwear brand he launched in 1992 around the same time the alleged sexual assaults occurred. During that period, Phat Farm quickly became a go-to for hip-hop fans — and a multimillion-dollar business, establishing Simmons’ stature as a rich and powerful man.
In 1998, Simmons’ then-wife, Kimora Lee Simmons, continue to develop Phat Farm’s women’s clothes partner, Be Phat; both brands, under the umbrella of Phat Fashions, were sold to Kellwood Apparel in 2004 for a reported $140 million. (Russell and Kimora divorced in 2009; she now has her own eponymous clothing line.)
But finally ‘90’s and soon’00s, Phat Farm and Baby Phat reigned supreme alongside Tommy Hilfiger and Ralph Lauren (two brands that eventually earned hip-hop acclaim) and were sold at brick-and-mortar stores like Macy’s. Their runway shows at New York Fashion Week were the pop culture event that helped unite the fashion and celebrity worlds, and featured everyone from Lil Kim to Brittany Murphy to Vanessa Williams.
Urban Street clothing The brands are seen as an extension of the fashion influence of hip-hop artists, as musicians are not only aspirational style icons but also educators, luxury designers such as John Galliano or Versace in their national anthems and nurture a new generation of brand lovers.
After feeling unrequited appreciation from European brands, several artists launched their own labels, including Diddy (Sean John) and Jay-Z (RocaWear), defining a whole new apparel market. As we all know, the attitude of haute couture towards hip-hop culture has changed in mid 2000s when designers like Givenchy’s Riccardo Tisci and Alexander Wang began designing high-end versions of the Street clothing. Those collections and their influence on the industry at large sparked thousands of thoughts about the appropriation of black culture.
Today, Phat Farm and Baby Phat are essentially extinct, with no Instagram or Twitter accounts. No brands were listed among Kellwood Apparel’s repertoire, and an investigation to the Kellwood Apparel office was responded, “What is Fat Fashion?” by the front desk, who then transferred the call to voicemail.
A quick Google search reveals Phat Farm products – including acid wash jeans for boys that will give you the early ’00s deja vu – is still on sale (and on sale) at Sears and K-Mart stores, though it’s unclear how long these products have been on virtual shelves. For the most part, both brands appear to have been quietly dissolved.
While the Phat Fashion empire collapsed, Simmons was busy with plans to return to the fashion world with Argyleculture – a 180 from oversized denim and flashy hoodies but matching Phat Farm’s later preppy style. JC Penney brand sells floral print button-down shirts and Tommy Bahama sign shorts, as well as turtleneck sweaters. In a 2016 interview, Simmons said of his latest project, “It’s classic American work but there are certain aspects to it. These are the guys who bought Ralph Lauren and J. Crew but took the pants. So we see this as a great opportunity to fill in the white space in menswear design. ” JC Penney has since quit Argyleculture line following sexual assault allegations against Simmons.
With the allegations against him now in the spotlight, one wonders if Twitterverse will respond by doing what Twitter users do best and calling for a boycott. So far, there hasn’t been one, although that seems to be mostly because consumers aren’t really aware that Argyleculture even exist.
The only apparel items that Simmons actually participated in selling recently were $108″Tanostretch“Leggings and $198”Tanoluxe” unify offered in his new Los Angeles Tantris The Yoga Center, where he said after allegations of sexual abuse surfaced, he would transform into a non-profit center for healing and learning.
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