Kimora Lee Simmons is launching a luxury-priced fashion line for women who are juggling work and family, women just like her, she says.
The ‘just like her’ part is eyebrow-raising. Few women have been a Chanel model or the wife of music mogul Russell Simmons. Her diva antics as a divorced-mom fashion entrepreneur on the Style Network reality show “Kimora: Life in the Fab Lane” made her more gawk-worthy than relatable.
But reality TV, Baby Phat fashion and the JustFab retail website are in her rearview mirror, Ms. Simmons says. Ahead is the stability of family life with her investment banker husband Tim Leissner, who is chairman of Southeast Asia for Goldman Sachs, and son Wolfe, who was born in April.
She has resurrected the name KLS from a less-expensive juniors label that was discontinued five years ago. The first KLS store opened here on Beverly Drive several weeks ago, stocked with body-conscious suits, dresses and separates.
This is a line for women who don’t want to cross the line between sexy and trashy at work. Sturdy, stretchy fabrics hold the body snugly in place. Pencil skirts are trim but fall respectfully below the knee. It only goes up to size 12.
There’s just a whiff of denim. “Baby Phat was $50 jeans. These are $400 jeans,” she says. “This is not mass.” Filling out the collection are bags and wallets, big enough to carry what working women haul around.
Manufactured in New York, KLS is available at her store and website. Prices range from $425 for pants to $1,550 for some dresses.
A 6-foot-tall whirlwind who rocks 4-inch heels, Ms. Simmons blew into the store recently accompanied by an entourage: a nanny, nine-week-old Wolfe, Mr. Leissner, one highly attentive personal assistant and three hair, makeup, and wardrobe stylists. She was running late, but paused to pose for paparazzi gathered on the sidewalk.
She pointed to the arm of a sofa and announced that was where she’d like to perch for a photo shoot. “I like the edge because I’m fat,” she said. She threw herself into a chair and asked for her hair to be flat-ironed.
A former fashion model who was hired by Karl Lagerfeld at 15, Ms. Simmons, now 40, has lived in the fast lane for all of her adult life. Her four children include two daughters, Ming Lee Simmons, 15, and Aoki Lee Simmons, 12, with Mr. Simmons; and a son, 8-year-old Kenzo Lee Hounsou, from a relationship with actor Djimon Hounsou. She met Mr. Leissner while sitting in business class on a Cathay Pacific flight from Hong Kong to Kuala Lumpur, where they disagreed about who had dibs on the empty middle seat between them. Airline officials had told each that the seat was left empty for their comfort as frequent flyers.
“She piled all her stuff on it, like it was her seat,” Mr. Leissner says.
“It was my seat,” Ms. Simmons replies.
Mr. Leissner says he proposed to her by the end of the four-hour flight. They married in 2013 and are sometimes photographed as a family with Mr. Simmons included.
Now, Ms. Simmons is dabbling in venture capital and other deals alongside Mr. Leissner. Their ventures range from a Paris-based cosmetics line called Codage, an energy drink called Celsius, a sports-team investment fund and an artificial-intelligence company.
She has stayed largely out of the limelight since her TV show went off the air in 2011 after five years. Now, with one of her daughters just out of the hospital after spinal surgery, and her days punctuated with pumping breast milk for the baby, Ms. Simmons refers to her new stage in life as “Kimora, Version Five.” “I want [people] to know me for having a high-end and elevated brand,” she says.