In Excess

Kimora Lee Simmons' Baby Phat show brings out the celebrities, the bling and chaos for one big party.


February 07, 2005|By Tanika White | Tanika White,SUN STAFF

NEW YORK -- Fashion Week began here officially on Friday morning.

But it didn't jump off until Saturday night.

Don't know what jump off means? Then you haven't been to designer Kimora Lee Simmons' Baby Phat show -- what many expect to be the biggest, wildest, most-over-the-top fashion show at this week's exhibition of top American designers' fall collections.

Held in a warehouse-like event house near the Midtown Tunnel -- dozens of city blocks away from the official fashion show tents at Bryant Park -- the Baby Phat show is the jump off. In other words, it is how watchers know that Fashion Week has begun.

Love it or hate it, Baby Phat's circus of celebrities, hip-hop music, paparazzi, pushing crowds, expensive jewelry and big-haired models has become the get-it-started party of the most glamorous seven days in New York City.

"This show is what defines Fashion Week," says Paula Abdul, who skipped an American Idol Super Bowl event in Florida so she could be where so many other stars of the hip-hop crowd -- Lil' Kim, Missy Elliott, Vivica Fox, Mos Def -- come to see and be seen.

"Oh my God!" says stylist-to-the-stars Phillip Bloch, backstage after the concert-like fashion show. "The music! You dance. You jump. You party. It's like `Everybody get your hands up!'"

The crush, the chaos, the fever, the red carpet, the wild designs (Bond-girl-meets-naughty-nurse). Since Baby Phat's Fashion Week debut in 2002, Simmons has known what she wants in a show, and this is how she wants it.

"This place sat 1,500. We had well over 2,000 inside and another 1,000 locked outside trying to get in," Simmons, 29, says, grinning ecstatically after the show. "There are beautiful girls, a lot of diamonds. I invited all my friends to come out. I picked every single song myself. It's a very high-energy show."

Many fashion fans, editors and fashionistas -- stuck outside the Hudson Street show in the cold, getting screamed at by security guards, and shoved from behind -- would probably call the show, and Simmons, something else.

Profanities were thrown around a lot as hundreds were denied access to Simmons' pre-show party, a staged jewelry heist a la The Thomas Crown Affair, where she unveiled over $1 million worth of "phabulous" jewelry from her new Simmons Jewelry Co. line. The designer herself was wearing a $50,000 Hello Kitty pendant, part of the Kimora Lee Simmons Collection.

In a cream-colored jumpsuit open from her neck to below her iced-out navel, Simmons was oblivious to the angry crowd outside. She was the stunning, ghetto-talking, pro-female, pro-feminine life of the party that is Fashion Week.

"You can be broke in the ghetto, but you can still be fabulous! I want everybody to be fly!" she says on her big night, with a "Let them eat cake" lilt to her high-pitched voice. "I want everyone to have their lip gloss on."

Kimora Lee, as she is called, stands 6 feet tall. In her signature stiletto heels, the designer, former model and wife of hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons, is 6-foot-4. You cannot miss her.

Her hair cascades past the small of her tattooed back. She gestures wildly. She screeches. Her hands, her wrists, her ankles, navel, neck -- even the corners of her eyes -- are dripping in glittery jewelry.

Kimora Lee Simmons is a spectacle in the best sense of the word. (Some of her clothes are, too -- ripped black vinyl pants and a Kiss of the Spider Woman bathing-suit style ensemble. Huh? But that's beside the point.)

That spectacle-quality makes her the perfect woman to stage the jump off show of New York's Fashion Week.

"When Puffy was doing it [the big Fashion Week party] on the Saturdays," Phillip Bloch says, "he was on it. But now Kimora Lee is doing it; it's all her."

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