There was something surreal about sitting with Kimora Lee Simmons—demure, hugely pregnant, accompanied by her non-famous husband—and watching the presentation of her debut KLS Kimora Lee Simmons collection. She has been in the public eye for about 25 years now, ever since she booked an exclusive with Chanel when she was just 14. Old video of her on YouTube reveals a poised, cheerful, rather soft-spoken girl. Then she married Russell Simmons; ran Baby Phat; divorced Russell Simmons; starred in two reality shows; repeatedly swatted back rumors that she was, in tabloid parlance, an “extreme diva”; and showed up in places you didn’t quite expect her, like the video for the song “Tapout.” What part of that history are we supposed to tap into, as we encounter the latest incarnation of Kimora Lee Simmons and KLS, the designer-price-point label meant to reflect who she is today?
By way of introduction, Simmons said she was designing clothes for herself—things she was missing in her expansive wardrobe. The key look—reiterated multiple times—was a panel-constructed, body-hugging pencil dress, a silhouette that she described as “basic.” Hmm. The word clung a little tighter to items like a laser-cut leather tee and nicely tailored tuxedo pants with graphic insets along the side seam. Still, it wasn’t entirely clear what was newsworthy about these clothes, aside from the fact that Simmons made them. Women who already identify with her will have the chance, through this collection, to identify with her in a concrete way, by wearing her clothes. And come spring, when the KLS flagship opens in Beverly Hills, they will have yet another entrée to the Kimora Lee Simmons world. But for others who never really understood all the fuss about Simmons, the onus is on the designer to provide more vivid clues the next time around.