When Vetements teamed up with Juicy Couture for its SS17 collection, the 90s stronghold over fashion as we knew it had vanished as fast as the Y2K havoc that ended the instance the second hand jumped past midnight. The velour tracksuit of the early 2000s suddenly shook loose our stifled memories of Von Dutch trucker hats, Puka shelled necks and crack-showing bumster jeans.
Britney and Justin’s iconic denim ensemble, Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie’s Simple Life outfits and the burgeoning of many streetwear brands brought about the aesthetics that shaped the early 2000’s. Teenage bedrooms groaned at the weight of posters that depicted the faces of our pop culture style icons. But despite these self-evident ‘idols’ that inspired our kitschy streetwear style, the one fashion brand that truly defined the noughties was Baby Phat. Picture yellow-tinted glasses, large hoop earrings and a pastel pink corset… we’re not referencing pieces from Versace or Fenty X Puma.
It’s a welcome departure of the post-Soviet and English footie attire that dominated the streetwear scene of late. Fashion has flown back to it’s nest after a long Eastern furlough to revisit its streetwear origins – an aesthetic that grew from America’s hip-hop scene. Founded in 1998, Baby Phat sprung from these roots, a style that some labeled as ‘urban’, whereas Baby Phat’s founder Kimora Lee Simmons saw as being ‘just fashion’. Breaking into a scene when American fashion was rife with Tommy Hilfiger denim and Ralph Lauren polos, Baby Phat’s success didn’t come overnight. But Simmon’s ability to merge together high fashion and hip-hop culture gradually caught the industry’s attention and like Paris’ ‘that’s hot’ was coined, so was Simmon’s blatant ‘fabulosity’.
Puffer jackets, oversized logos and faux furs can be accredited to Simmon’s unabashed nature in reflecting her culture. Paying homage to styles prevalent in black communities for decades, Baby Phat popularized these pre-existing aesthetics by pushing them to the forefront of fashion. “A big thing that we made was the down puffer jackets with the fur around the hood. We pushed that jacket until it was at the MET Ball on the red carpet. We weren’t the first ones to make a ski jacket, of course people, have been skiing for a hundred years but we were the first ones to make that fashion.”(1) And let’s not forget Lil Kim’s look on Baby Phat’s 2008 runway, a full length fur coat that did little to distract from the swinging gold cross atop her bikini ensemble.
The more you look at Baby Phat’s noughties style, the more you can dissect it’s influence over the high fashion scene. With an impressive fan base, Baby Phat’s magnetism pre-Instagram era has survived longer than many streetwear brands. While the death of ‘urban’ inspired streetwear pointed its fingers at many brands that came under fire for exploiting and appropriating culture tribes, Simmon’s approach to designing ‘what you know’ has kept Baby Phat’s legend alive.
(1) Starling, L. 2016.’Kimora Lee Simmons Turned Her Culture Into A Billion-Dollar Fashion Brand. Now She Says A Little Credit Is Due’. The Fader