Fashion / Style

Model Turned Fashion Designer Gets Help From an Old School Houston Diva

Two Divas Trump All

BY // 03.19.19
photography Kimora Lee Simmons

NEW YORK — Two divas are better than one.

That seems to be the philosophy of Kimora Lee Simmons, the 6-foot-tall fashion model-turned-designer, when she was seeking a design director for her namesake label. Simmons recently hired Houston-born-and-raised designer Cesar Galindo to infuse her contemporary Kimora Lee Simmons women’s line with a “youthful energy” and a “young, fun aesthetic.”

“I’ve known Cesar for a while and loved all of his work. He’s so creative and always so fun,” Simmons says. “And I always thought that inside of him is an old school diva. And inside me is the same person.

‘From the second I met him I thought so.”

Galindo, who previously executed the design for Gwen Stefani‘s now defunct L.A.M.B. line and has created attention-getting outfits for Joan Jett, Wendy Williams, Missy Elliott and Mary J. Blige under his own Cesar Galindo Collection label, worked closely with Simmons to create the Kimora Lee Simmons fall collection that was unveiled at New  York Fashion Week.

“A lot of people I grew up with have a bold Texas personality. Kimora has a lot of that same energy. And she loves fashion. She loves style. That makes it more fun,” Galindo says. “I channel her. I try not to overthink it.

“It comes to me. And I’ve known her for a long time. It’s our synergy. She walks into a room and commands attention. She didn’t create that; it’s who she is. And she has a point of view. That makes it easier for me.”

Simmons, who commutes between her home in Los Angeles and New York, recently moved her New York studio from the trendy Flatiron District to the more down-to-earth Garment District, where she showed the new collection in private appointments.

“I wanted to have a return to basics. It reminds me where I started,” she notes. “It just feels great to me here. There’s nothing like showing your fall collection in New York.”

The new collection, which is available in Houston at Elizabeth Anthony, includes a number of everyday staples, like watercolor print shirtdresses and silk blouses that have traditionally been best-sellers, as well as statement pieces like a silver brushed sequin jumpsuit, a leather bustier with sheer long tulle skirt, an embossed lace coat with eyelash edges, and sharply tailored sequined pantsuits. Colors range from blue navy hues to purples and fuchsia shades and fabrics include stretch leather, satins, and velvets, with faux fur and beading as accents.

“It’s a luxurious sensibility without breaking the bank,” Simmons says. “This reflects where I am now. It’s sexy without overlaying it with something else. To be sexy, you don’t have to have everything hanging out.

“A lot of girls are doing that, but it feels a little gratuitous. You want to feel like your best self. You want to feel fresh and new.”

Simmons agrees that she and Galindo are on the same wavelength about the brand and where it’s going.

“I have gone through many incarnations of design teams and changes,” she admits. “You need a team that evolves with you. They have to be able to translate your message. I’ve got the eye (about) what I want, how I want it to be.

“You have to make a comprehensive picture and interpret what I see. It’s a very delicate dance. It’s something that you’re proud to stand by and, obviously, that tag is on there with your name on that. It has to be everything that you love.”

“She’s given me creative freedom to push this a little bit, so it’s good,” Galindo says. “But it’s not about me. This is about her. That’s how we have this synergy. It’s fun.”

Baby Phat’s Back

Things may be coming full circle for Simmons with the announcement that she will relaunch Baby Phat, the brand she founded in 1999 that put hip hop-inspired women’s fashion at the forefront of pop culture for the first decade of the 2000s.  The brand and its designer were once the toast of New York Fashion Week with runway shows that attracted celebs like Lil’ Kim and Britney Spears (and often started two hours late).

Simmons left the company in 2010 after it was sold to Kellwood, but she recently purchased the rights to the BabyPhat name and will unveil her first new collection later this year with input from her two teenage daughters, Ming, 19, and Aoki, 16. Simmons will retain her Kimora Lee Simmons label as an independent brand.

“BabyPhat was where I started. I had another (collection called) KLS, which was a little more contemporary,” she says. “I had Fabulosity. I had Koture. I had Phat Farm for a time. People don’t know that I have had many incarnations.

“You throw things against the wall and see what sticks. And some things are great and timeless and some things are going to go another way. Sometimes you have certain partners involved and that’s not the way I want to go. I’ve had a good strong 20 years, maybe a little bit more.”

And she’s not about to stop now.

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