Was Baby Phat Ahead of Its Time?

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Ice Spice was born on Jan. 1, 2000, so it seems fitting that her personal style has often involved Y2K fashion. The rapper leaned heavily into the era at the Grammy Awards on Sunday, wearing custom Baby Phat. She arrived in a fur-lined denim jacket and a matching maxi skirt that trailed behind her as she walked the red carpet.

Baby Phat was started by Kimora Lee Simmons in 1999. The label, rooted in hip-hop culture, largely influenced women’s streetwear in the decade that followed. Baby Phat was worn by celebrities like Missy Elliott, Lil’ Kim and Jennifer Lopez and was beloved by women and girls of color for its celebration of Black identity and style. Its items were relatively affordable yet still had an aura of glamour.

But in its heyday Baby Phat never had a big presence on red carpets. The brand’s aesthetic — a mishmash of fitted denim, fur, oversize logos, chains and jewels that Ms. Simmons described as “ghetto fabulous” — was not exactly reflective of high fashion in the early 2000s.

Since then, though, streetwear and hip-hop have only become more influential at even the most rarefied houses. That was on display at this year’s Grammys, where Lil Durk, Peso Pluma and Beyoncé were among the stars who wore items designed by Pharrell Williams for Louis Vuitton.

Ms. Simmons developed Baby Phat as an expansion of Phat Farm, a brand owned by her ex-husband Russell Simmons, who sold both labels in 2004. Ms. Simmons, who left Baby Phat in 2010 only to buy it back almost 10 years later and install herself as chief executive, said that Ice Spice’s wearing the brand on a major red carpet was “a full circle moment” that would help Baby Phat finally get the recognition it deserves.

“We don’t always get our shine,” said Ms. Simmons, 48, who is Black and Asian. “But I do it for the culture — make no mistake.” She added that Baby Phat’s Grammys appearance 25 years after the brand’s founding was a testament to its enduring appeal.

Ice Spice, whose forthcoming album is titled “Y2K,” worked with the stylist Timothy Luke Garcia on her outfit for the awards show. Mr. Garcia, 27, who is from Brooklyn, said he and the Bronx-bred rapper, who is Black and Dominican, wanted a look that “felt the most Latina, felt the most Bronx, felt the most New York.”

“Authenticity was the most important thing for both of us,” he said, adding that when he and Ice Spice were growing up in New York City, “Baby Phat was everything.”

Mr. Garcia and Ice Spice collaborated with Ms. Simmons to develop the denim separates worn by the rapper, who accessorized the look with a chain, tight orange curls and long acrylic nails. “I’m giving Bronx baddie tonight,” Ice Spice said in an interview on the red carpet.

Some longtime fans of Baby Phat said it was exciting to see the brand among the tuxedos, ball gowns and couture garments that typically characterize awards season fashion. Virginia Lowman, a 33-year-old digital director in Manhattan, said she had been wearing Baby Phat since she was a teenager, when, she remembered, it was categorized as an “urban” brand.

“Oftentimes, something is considered ghetto until a non-Black or non-minority brand brings it to their runway,” said Ms. Lowman, who is Black. “So I think it was neat to see Ice Spice decked out in denim and fur in this luxury look from a Black-owned brand.”

Evelina Kurayeva, a 24-year-old fashion designer from Queens, said she appreciated seeing a label she could actually afford on a red carpet, where the attire often seems “unattainable and out of touch,” as she put it.

Ms. Kurayeva has also been wearing Baby Phat since her teenage years, she said, and the mini skirts and fur-lined jackets she now makes are inspired by items Ms. Simmons designed for Baby Phat. Seeing the brand on the Grammys red carpet made Ms. Kurayeva feel more confident about the clothes she makes, she said.

“I’m not going to be scared of it being frowned upon because now I’m seeing it in these kinds of spaces,” Ms. Kurayeva said. “Kimora’s been influencing high fashion for decades anyway, and now I’m finally seeing her on the red carpet.”



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