“Every event you plan, I hope you have on great shoes.” Kimora Lee Simmons
Kimora Lee Simmons gave a day long Master Class in Celebrity Business/ Branding at FIT. Kimora Lee Simmons, Former Supermodel, shared her personal business story and secrets to creating a successful media conglomerate. She shared how to launch and maintain a celebrity brand business from business model to success. The day-long class was presented by the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT). The event was facilitated by Jennifer Bartok, Producer of Celebrity Catwalk. Kimoras entire executive marketing communications team also shared how Kimora has created a successful empire.
Kimora Lee Simmons is a very well established woman, and I was inspired by her strong drive for women’s empowerment. Kimora is a former supermodel and CEO of Phat Fashions. She discussed how she transformed her company into a major brand owned by Kellword, one of the largest apparel manufacturers in the U.S. Kimora started out when she was 13 years old on the runways in Paris. Karl Lagerfeld deemed her “the face of the 21st century.” From there, she worked in every runway, in every atelier and she listened to everyone around her. BabyPhat originally started 13 years ago. Russel Simmons started a line for women and Kimora created a whole new silhouette. Kimora is the muse of the look that she created.
Kimoras tip pointed out that Kimora was very ahead of the curve with social media marketing. Heather Gataya, Marketing Director of Phat Fashions said, “Kimora has gathered and galvanized a community through her Facebook and Twitter accounts.” Kimora herself referred to her “twitter family” numerous times throughout the event and encouraged others to tweet and be authentic when representing your personal brand.
Kimora recently broadcast a fashion show live from Times Square in honor of celebrating a decade of fashion. Her branding goal is to show that her “over the top, jet set lifestyle” encourages other girls that they too, can have it all. Her motto is “Always express the 3 F’s- Feminine, flamboyant, foxy.” Her VP of Marketing referred to the brand as “over the top, celebrity rich, high style and edgy.” The goal of branding should be to develop a memorable, unmistakable persona.
Kimora has achieved this through the creation of the cat- the iconic piece of the brand. The Baby Phat cat logo is internationally recognized. Kimora also stressed the importance of brand diversification. Her hit show “Life in the Fab Lane” airs on networks in over 200 countries worldwide including the Style Network E!, Sky Networks and ProSieben. Kimora has also recently launched a fragrance “DareMe” as well as a limited edition “Kimora Barbie.”
From a branding perspective, I found it interesting when Kimora’s Marketing team shared the mood board that she created for her most recent fashion show. You can see the Moroccan print in the background. The vision is delivered throughout all aspects of the final fashion show.
Licensing and partnerships
A relationship between licensee and licensor is inherently a fight. It is like oil and water. It does not mix. With your product, you will always look at it for the design, beauty and relevance. It will always be a fight about creativity and budgets- it is inherently a ton of issues. You always have to protect the integrity of yourself. As a licensee, you have to protect your investment and team. Find a way to please you customer and not rip them off. Find a way to put so much into a product and work it for the biggest ROI.
It is imperative to partner with retailers. “My goal is global domination for 2010.” Kimora said, “I would love to get into vertical retail, I want to roll out in Europe and Asia.” Kimora’s Marketing team stressed the importance of creating a solid digital press kit. The kit should include a company, bio, sizzle reel and recent editorial. Mail the kit out to potential partners.
Tell us about your passion for fashion
When it comes to all things fashion I love what I do- I love every aspect of fashion, I love what I do and I am very passionate about it. You don’t make a lot of money doing this- it is not all about the money, neither is TV. You have to put it together and build it. I love to be involved in the creative aspects because I feel like my lines are creative, aspirational brands. It is about the lifestyle and the emotion that goes along with it. It makes me proud to see people support my vision.
I love to be able to inspire people, help people reach their goals and I like to talk to people about what they do. It touches me when someone says, “I read your book and it helped me overcome abuse etc.”
How do you balance being a wife, mother, creative director, boss- how do you juggle 25 different things?
I pray for more hours in the day! I have great kids. Things fall into place- it’s not one thing over another that makes any of us different- it is small steps along the way that make the difference.
I meet everyone from the homeless man on the street to kings and queens. I am always inspired by people I meet and I draw from the inspiration. I think that has contributed to all of the brands success so it is a reciprocal relationship- I am not sure they always know that I look up to them also. I really communicate with people and I keep my pulse on what’s going on.
Tell us about the vision of your brand.
I oversee everything from product placement, licenses, designing colors palettes and trends. I also oversee the vision of the brand- how to roll out a brand, where to roll out a brand and that’s my job; it’s like being the head designer
I have built a lifestyle and a brand that I’m trying to support. I’ve built this and this is my vision but people will come along and they will try to buy you and a lot of people whether its Vera Wang, Calvin Klein, Ralph Lauren or Donna Karen. It’s difficult to watch your baby in development and be part of the corporate structure.
Any Words of Wisdom for Women Entering Business?
It is about the grace, the finesse and the determination that you choose to live your life with. It is about the boundaries, the limitations or the goals you set for yourself. It is about aligning yourself with like-minded people. It is about every step you take and how you do that.
You have to always perform and you have to always be on. Don’t ask people to do things that you cannot do
It’s about how you take your steps in life and how you juggle your challenges. You can have what you want and make what you want of your life. More importantly, it is about how you rebound from it because everything can’t always be cotton candy. It is about the grace, dignity and the way you carry yourself
Don’t be making raunchy tapes and then tell me you want to be my assistant- have a greater goal for yourself!
Always note that there’s something out there better for you. Every decision of your life should be within that larger goal you set for yourself
It is about planning out your life to the best of your ability. I don’t think anybody is in their perfect dream job and I don’t think it’s always that easy. To be great people we want to be determined.
Never be complacent- never think you have “so arrived” or that life is all about you.
We all make up a whole big unit, whether it’s our resources, energy or fashion. You should always know you are one very small piece of a whole big puzzle. You should always live your life and think about the best way to contribute and fit into the bigger puzzle. My motto is- always keep it moving, always pick it up.
Always do something knowing its not just about you- you cant be content in your job, always want something better for yourself, never think you have all the money in the world, always know it’s a better picture, always be as kind as you can to someone.
Life is like water- you want it to flow, change and be beautiful and clean.
Try not to live a life that makes you overly apologetic.
Surround yourself with people you admire. I never want to be the smartest or the richest. I want to be with other creatives and people I respect and learn from. Sometimes I want to meet people who are not necessarily weaker, so I like to spend my time with kids or people who I can also inspire.
What are your pet peeves in business?
I hate liars, I hate cheaters, people with low self esteem, low integrity, people who do anything to get anywhere. I like to keep it clean and straight. I don’t like people that are overly negative and want to hold me back. I don’t want people who are overly pessimistic. Loyalty is huge- disloyalty is a problem.
What advice would you give to people for starting a team
Create a team with people who are very smart, have a shared vision, cultural diversity, and ethnic diversity. If you are interested in joining our team you can email us at, [email protected]
Kimoras views on men, entrepreneurship and love
Respect yourself and command that others respect you on a business & professional context
Personal Branding Advice? Stay true to your core brand
Fashion is my base- you need a base for your personal brand. People look at me and think “ She knows what she’s talking about when it comes to fashion. If I do beauty or cosmetics- it is all about what I know which is fashion. People have to watch spreading themselves too thin.
While you have the attention, work it –but don’t go in blindly thinking “oh I sold albums so I can sell jeans. People have to know you and respect you on being an authority- we cannot not believe in it.”
Even though Lady Gaga is hot, she could sell a nail polish line, but as time goes on her product is only as good as her next song so it means you don’t have the foundation.
I was into fashion and the work I did speaks for itself- then that grew into a bigger picture into the life and lifestyle and that turned into how I look and how I live.
Kimoras Team had some great nuggets of advice:
“You have to get fans- utilize social media networks! Reach out and engage with your customers!”
“Don’t take no for an answer, and don’t be shy speak up”
“Nobody knows more then you do. You have to tell yourself every day that you are in the top 1%”
“When you see the opportunity, get on it. Do whatever you need to do outside of your job.”
“No retailer has your own best interest at heart. You must own and control your brand.”
It is really great to see a celebrity who actually responds authentically to their twitter messages & engages with their community: