Thursday, September 30, 2010

Kimora's Struggle is That of Every Woman

Women work two-thirds of the world's working hours, produce half of the world's food, and yet earn only 10% of the world's income and own less than 1% of the world's property. (Source :End Poverty 2015 Millenium Campaign)

Oxfam tweeted that and other shocking bits of information about women and equality a few weeks ago and I have been unable to get it out of my head. Women work two thirds of the world's working hours, yet earn only 10 percent of the world's income. And, own less than 1 percent of the world's property. That's a serious gut punch. Let it marinate in your mind for a bit...what it means for alllll of the women in the world to do most of the damn work and yet earn a mere pittance of the income and own less than a pittance of the property. Not 2/3rds amongst poor women. Not 2/3rds amongst middle class women. Not 2/3rds of the hours amongst wealthy women. But, ALL of womankind does 2/3rds of the work globally. Not even Oprah could save us from this sorry statistical state that we're in.

So what? So what is that as this situation between Kimora Lee Simmons, Kellwood and Sun Capital plays out, I think it's important that women, especially, really consider what's happening here. If you haven't ever had to deal with a sexist pig at your job, trust me, just give it time and you'll get your chance. They are rude and disrespectful and the last thing they want to deal with is a woman with some power and an opinion. They can't stand it. The way that Kellwood handled parting ways with Kimora reeks with the stench of at least one such pig and it makes me sick.

I think that many women tell themselves, "Kimora's wealthy. She doesn't need me to care. She doesn't need my help. Our struggles are not the same." But, that couldn't be more wrong. Does wealth mean that a woman becomes void of all emotion, incapable of feeling disappointment? Hell no! I imagine that if anything, in moments of reflection, a woman of considerable wealth must shudder to think that even with all of that cash at her disposal, she still has to deal with such bullshit.

Imagine how you would feel had your local newspaper published an article that said you were dismissed from your job (in Kimora's case, a virtual empire that she built from the ground up), in part, because your supervisor thought you were too fat. You'd feel terrible and who wouldn't be able to understand!? Kimora is tough, and at least publically, she's handling this like a champ. Absolutely, we don't know how she's dealing with it away from all of the prying eyes, but as a woman I can imagine and I would hope that any other woman reading this can do the same.

My very best friend in this world was once in a very public position and things went South hard and fast when the pig she was working for crossed the line and then retaliated when she wasn't cool with it. I can remember sitting on the phone with her literally for hours some days as she shared her frustration, shock and disappointment. Her career was just taking off and the drama couldn't have come at a worse time. I will never forget spending hours helping her draft documentation for a mediation session dealing with that bullshit, and that was several years ago. Situations like that just sort of burn themselves into your memory bank and just sit there, ready to provide the needed juice to help another woman get through her own "situation". It's driving me now to help Kimora in this Kellwood situation in whatever small way that I can.

Do not let your intimidation of Kimora's financial status cause you to miss the fact that just like you, she's a woman, a wife, a mother, a daughter and a friend. Men support one another, and most definitely I would hope that they too are as upset about all of this as I certainly am, but we women have got to band together in situations like this. We will never be able to change statistics like those at the top of this post until we do. Support Kimora by visiting her website, and find out how you can buy products that she owns without putting a red cent into Kellwood's pockets. No respect? No dollars. Kimora will be stronger than ever once all the dust settles from this mess. I can't wait. It will be a triumph that all women should be proud to witness. --Sugar

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Kellwood, Burned By Sun Capital, Burns Kimora?

As I continue to research this Kellwood, Kimora Lee Simmons and Baby Phat situation, the plot gets thicker and thicker and I'm getting angrier and angrier. I stumbled upon this New York Times article earlier today, Sun Capital Gets Hostile With Kellwood. And, this one, For Sun Capital's Partners, Madoff Losses, Layoffs and Another Bankruptcy, and this one Kellwood Accepts Sun Capital's Takeover Offer, among many, many others about Sun Capital's aggressive attempts to acquire Kellwood Company in 2007 and 2008.

The two guys in the photo above are Marc Leder (left) and Rodger Krouse. They are the founders of Sun Capital Partners, a private equity firm. Pretty young guys to be kicking up so much dust to get their hands on Kellwood. Their reputation preceeded them at Kellwood I'm sure, because they've left a trail of tears behind them in their apparent quest for world domination.

Just over a year after they snatched Kellwood, Josh Kosman wrote this in an article for Lexis Nexis about Sun Capital:

Sun Capital Partners, which just a couple of years ago was among the hottest private-equity groups in the country, has fallen upon hard times of late - a victim of the recession, bad management decisions and - according to critics - outright greed.
Right after they acquired Kellwood, Jason Bernzweig, vice president of Sun Capital said this in a Reuters article:

Jason Bernzweig, vice president of Sun Capital, said the firm is prepared to commit "substantial resources beyond the purchase price to build Kellwood's business" and plans to "work closely with management and employees at Kellwood to strengthen the company and develop its branded portfolio."
Well, we know that's a lie because they got their mitts on Kellwood in February 2008 and before the year was over, Kellwood was trying to give Holly Dunlap and her Hollywould, Inc., maker of handbags and shoes, the boot. Kellwood says that the plans were in place before the takeover by Sun Capital, but I don't believe that either. They did at least have the decency to offer a brief statement about the split, stating that both parties had:
"mutually agreed to explore a range of strategic alternatives for the business".

I'm so sure. What I'm not sure about is why Holly was given the courtesy of a statement when Kimora was not. I have never even heard of any Hollywould, Inc. No disrespect to Holly. Myself and millions of others do know who Kimora Lee Simmons is and she's sent away in the dark of night? The hell?

So, what's the deal? Is Sun Capital a fu*k up that bit off more Kellwood than it could chew, subsequently leading to the untimely dismissal of Kimora Lee Simmons and her staff from Baby Phat/Phat Fashions, or are they both (Kellwood and Sun Capital) fu*k ups who just didn't know what to do with a brand that started out with an urban and African-American slant, but which grew to become so much more, crossing all demographics? Whatever the case, they fu$ked up because I'm going to work hard to see to it that this is a red Christmas for both of them where Baby Phat is concerned. You didn't have the decency to let the customer base know that you've unceremoniously shown Kimora the door, continuing to try to make sales off of unsuspecting buyers. That has to and that will stop. No respect? No dollars. If you want to know how you can still support Kimora, visit her website, --Sugar

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Are You Kidding Me?

I thought about naming this post "Ain't This a Bitch?", but for the sake of Bing and Google searches, I figured this title would be more prudent, and still make my point. As I write this, I'm still shocked at the most recent developments in this Kellwood/Baby Phat/Kimora Lee Simmons situation. I recently started following one of her young supporters and yesterday, she sent a flurry of tweets that alluded to some new crap that Kellwood Company was pulling. But, I was tired and I figured it could wait until today. Oh how I wish I had looked into it last night.

This morning, the angry tweets continued from several of Kimora's young supporters, again obviously upset with Kellwood about something. So, I decided I'd hold my nose and visit the Baby Phat Twitter page to see what all the fuss was about. I gasped the second the page fully loaded when I saw this:

I thought to myself, "they can't be serious." The "new" twitter page. No, that's the old Baby Phat twitter page, you just changed the background image and logo if my memory serves me well. The thing is, I still can't really decide what pisses me off more. The whole "new twitter page" bit or the "new collection that just hit stores and" line. Well, yes I do. It's the new collection that "just hit stores" line.

It's been just over a month since Kimora officially announced that she wasn't going to be heading up Phat Fashions, which includes Baby Phat, anymore. An announcement that she solely made. There has still been no official statement from Kellwood on the matter, and before I go any further, let me let them know that at this point, they can go to hell where a statement is concerned. I mean, what might they say to loyal Baby Phat supporters now, a month later, that is sufficient and truly contrite? Not a damn thing. So, the only thing I'm shooting for now is a full and complete boycott that cripples the brand altogether. You had your chance Kellwood. A statement at this point is like popping a birth control pill after unprotected sex. Too late. You're fu#ked.

So, before I ramble on for too long. This is the short of it. Yesterday, Kellwood had whatever lackey is managing the Baby Phat Twitter page send a tweet with this "big" announcement. That they had a "new" Twitter page, which it isn't, and that a new collection had just hit stores. They managed to take care of all of these things, including reworking the Facebook page, but could not find a spare moment in the past month to properly handle parting ways with Kimora Lee Simmons. Who the HELL do they think we are? A bunch of fools?

Let me remind readers what happened in this whole saga. Kimora was booted from Phat Fashions, against her wishes and unceremoniously, no proper explanation was given to lifelong fans of the brand and allegations continue to swirl that Kellwood thought that Kimora, a 6 foot tall mother of 3, is too fat in her alleged size 10 figure.

No matter who I relay this information to, young and old, the reaction is always one of shock and disgust at Kellwood. I mean the insensitive fashion in which this was all carried out is just shocking to say the least. Kimora and Russell built a powerful brand, a movement, that now spans the globe and would have brought with it a most loyal customer base. No exaggeration, every single day several twitter users (from all over the world) reach out to Kimora so excited about some new Baby Phat store or apparel that they've discovered in their city. The reaction once she graciously tells them that she is no longer with the company is always one of shock and disgust. They always tell her some variation of, "if you're not there anymore, I'm not buying it anymore." This will continue.

To the moms and dads, big sisters and brothers, aunts and uncles, grandmas and grandpas who are getting those holiday shopping lists together, whether it be for Christmas, Hanukkah or Kwanzaa gifts, do not buy any Baby Phat apparel. The brand is tainted now. Do not support a company that has so little respect for its customer base or for a woman who did so much to make it a brand that you'd even consider supporting. If you want to support Kimora, visit her website, and check out the number of ways that you can do so. It's too late Kellwood. A song below for those mamas who were planning to pick up some Baby Phat gear for holiday gifts. No respect? No dollars. --Sugar

Monday, September 27, 2010

The Black Dollar is a RELIABLE Dollar

An article in Friday's Philadelphia Business Journal, Focus: Black Buying Power gets to the heart of the issue that I have with Kellwood Comopany and their unceremonious and disrespectful (to both her and the Black and urban customer base) dismissal of Kimora Lee Simmons from Phat Fashions several weeks ago. In the article, Athena Merritt writes:

The nation’s 1 million black-owned businesses account for more than $100 billion in annual sales. Black buying power is estimated at $913 billion this year nationwide, meaning only 10 percent of dollars spent by blacks are supporting the enterprises, said Nicole Giles, acting executive director of the African American Chamber of Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware.

Nearly a TRILLION dollars. That's massive. Merritt's article discusses the attempts by Black business owners in the Philadelphia area to get more of those dollars in their hands. Especially with the holiday shopping season coming hard and fast.

This is something that Kellwood Company obviously didn't consider--this powerful Black dollar--when they dismissed Kimora in the fashion that they did--disrespecting her loyal fan base. There was a proper way to go about cutting ties if that's what Kellwood felt needed to happen, but this wasn't it.

It is absolutely amazing to read people's reactions on Twitter and elsewhere on the internet when they finally learn that she is no longer with Phat Fashions. Instantly, they say they will not buy anything related to Baby Phat anymore. As we get closer to the holidays, I will work to make sure that many, many more individuals are aware of this. Buying nothing from them. No respect? No dollars. --Sugar

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Who is Kellwood Company?

Let me first say, I don't think I've ever seen a more vague website than the one owned by Kellwood Company. It's so void of information about the ownership, one can only wonder what's really going on behind the scenes. Why so secretive?

Anyway, as we get closer and closer to the holiday season, it's important that you know not only that Kellwood "designs manufactures and markets a growing collection of premier fashion brands". It's also important that you know what those brands are. As of this date, on their website, they claim ownership of (in this order on the site):

Baby Phat
Sag Harbor
Briggs NY
My Michelle
David Meister has a great deal more information about Kellwood, including how the company got its start, but this at Bloomberg Business Week has a more well-rounded cache of information, so check that out too. Bottom line? They're huge and they most definitely knew that handling the dismissal of Kimora Lee Simmons in this manner was inappropriate. --Sugar

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

It's Kimora This Time, Who's Next?

First they came for the Jews
and I did not speak out
because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for the Communists
and I did not speak out
because I was not a Communist.
Then they came for the trade unionists
and I did not speak out
because I was not a trade unionist.
Then they came for me
and there was no one left
to speak out for me. --Attributed to Martin Niemoller, protestant pastor and social activist

While the impetus for Niemoller to speak the oft-quoted words above was a very dark time in world history, they can be applied and have been applied to many different situations. I think they apply quite well to the situation involving Kimora Lee Simmons' dismissal from Baby Phat/Phat Fashions because the relative silence about the matter has been deafening. Where is the outrage by Black media, including radio? Where is Al Sharpton? Where is Tavis Smiley? Where is Essence Magazine's reactive piece? Because while it may be Kimora on the receiving end of this unjust action now, it will be someone else before long.

How can this story be getting such little attention when an absolute injustice has occurred? No, nobody was killed or beaten, but an assault on the spirit of innovation has taken place and that does deserve a closer examination. Kimora is one of only a handful of women of color in an industry that is notorious for discriminatory practices. At the very least, I expect that some of the opinion-makers in Black America will ask some questions about what's happened here. Kimora has stated repeatedly that she did not want to leave Phat Fashions and yet Kellwood Company unceremoniously dismissed her without offering the customer base, predominately urban and African-American might I remind you, a single explanation. In fact, they are still poaching off of sales of Baby Phat wear as customers continue to make purchases, assuming that they are doing so in support of Kimora.

And, lest we forget, the issue is about more than fashion. It's also about the allegations that Kellwood Company dismissed Kimora in part due to the fact that she, a 6 foot tall mother of three, including a not yet two year old baby, allegedly wears a size 10. The allegations alone should have created a firestorm in the media. Discussions about women of color and body image, especially what's acceptible in the "mainstream", the message being delivered to young girls about what makes them beautiful, all of it. Instead, it's been so quiet it's eerie and I don't like it.

So, Kellwood, I will do the job that the media, both mainstream and otherwise, has failed to do. And, I'm pretty good at it, as evidenced by you snooping around here already. But, I'm only just getting started. I didn't have time to go down into the "belly of the beast" this past weekend, but I will and momentum is slowly building. Stay alert. No respect? No dollars. --Sugar

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Kellwood, Kimora and Kindling

As I continue to ponder the dismissal of Kimora Lee Simmons from Phat Fashions/Baby Phat by parent company Kellwood, one thing sticks out to me most. Kimora, a woman of both Asian and African-American descent, is one of only a handful of designers in the fashion industry who can be classified as a person of color. This is especially important to consider with regards to Baby Phat and Phat Fashions because the brands have a predominately urban and African-American customer base. Not that the products in the line aren't purchased by all races and demographics, because they are, but the foundation of the brands is mostly urban.

So, you have a woman of color leading the charge at a still successful brand after more than a decade, a customer base that is probably just as loyal, if not more, to her than the actual brand itself and a group of executives at a hub of retail brands which has yet to see the forest for the trees. Kellwood's silent and cowardly dismissal of Kimora has allowed them to continue to profit from sales of Baby Phat items as her fan base continues to make purchases under the assumption that she is still leading the company. This has to stop.

If Kellwood feels that they can manage Baby Phat better than she could, then they need to step out and make a public statement as to why they made this decision. Let the customer base know what the real situation is.

As far as I'm concerned, Kellwood has offended my racial sensibilities by not making a public statement. Would they have dismissed the creative directors at Sag Harbor or David Meister in such a tongue in cheek fashion? No statement, no assurance to the customer base, nothing? I don't think so. Kellwood has made it apparent that they don't respect the urban or African-American customer as they've dismissed Kimora in much the same fashion that a wreckless pet owner puts a litter of kittens in a box and places it on the side of the road.

Much of this is speculation on my part. Absolutely. Who knows what actually went down behind closed doors but the parties involved? But, it is not speculation that Kimora has stated repeatedly that it wasn't her choice and she did not want to leave Phat Fashions. Kellwood has been silent on the matter. So, what are we to think and do? There's only one sensible thing that we can do and that's to boycott all further purchases of any Baby Phat/Phat Farm items. We will use the little nuggets of information that we have been given in this news article and that one as a type of kindling to keep the raging fire of disgust that we feel for the way this has been handled burning. No respect? No dollars. --Sugar

Kellwood Can Have Baby Phat, But Not Our Dollars

Here's what Kellwood Corporation needs to know. Your failure to offer a statement regarding the dismissal of Kimora Lee Simmons from Phat Fashions is an utter disrespect to fans of the brand. The great majority of buyers do so in support of her. At the very least, you could have offered a written statement. One can only wonder whether you might have handled this differently if the customer base weren't predominately urban and African-American....

Many are still buying Baby Phat under the assumption that Kimora Lee Simmons is still with the company. We will see to it that that ends. The word continues to spread. The only goal now is total breakdown of the brand. Why should we, the customer base, continue to support a brand that is owned by a company that has no respect for the said base? We will not. --Sugar

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Why Boycott Baby Phat?

(This is gonna take a minute. Background first. Can't just randomly call for a boycott without first explaining. Come on, now. Fix a spot of tea and get cozy.)

Several weeks ago, Kimora Lee Simmons, who I dilligently follow on Twitter, started sending tweets that sounded suspiciously as though she might be leaving Baby Phat/Phat Fashions. As far as any of her supporters knew, there was no reason for this, so most probably didn't even realize what was happening before their very eyes.

I don't send her a lot of correspondence throughout the day as some of her young supporters tend to do. But, if she sends a tweet, almost invariably, I'm gonna retweet it. It's my small way of showing my support for her efforts. So, when she started sending those tweets, dripping with hints that something major was about to happen, I carefully watched and waited to see what was going to transpire. On one occasion, she even sent a tweet that said something like, "I'd never leave voluntarily" or "by choice" or something to that extent. This really aggravated me because it sounded as if she was under duress. Still, I watched and waited, fully aware that something was up, and hoping for the best that it would be to her and Russell's advantage. Then, it happened.

On a Friday night (August 20th), late, she responded to a tweet from a supporter who expressed that she (or maybe it was a he, I can't remember for sure) was shocked that Kimora was leaving Baby Phat, with "I know. So sad." The news went around the world in 80 seconds and the speculation was rampant. I was shocked. Kimora was mostly vague in her responses, except to tell her supporters that she was moving on to a new chapter, she appreciated the support and she hoped that we'd all be along for the next chapter in her life. My every instinct was that this was not what she wanted. So, again I watched and waited, and called and emailed Kellwood, current owner of Phat Fashions, myself to see if I could get some answers. Each time they stated that they were not going to be making an official statement "at this time". I wondered, "Then when dammit?!"

In the days following, rumors and more speculation continued. Then, one allegation in particular started popping up everywhere and it was all I could do to keep from losing my damn mind. The New York Post reported:

"But another Baby Phat insider it could have been a way to slash costs: "Kimora was going over-budget. She'd pay herself a fee to be in the ads, plus she paid her children fees to appear in ads. It costs thousands of dollars to airbrush her because she's a size 10."

I was pissed. First of all, what the hell would be so horrible about her girls being paid to be in those ads? She and Russell didn't own Phat Fashions anymore. Why the hell should their children work for free?! But, seeing as how the New York Post isn't exactly distributing Pulitzer Prize winning material (translation: credible) on a yearly basis, I thought maybe it was just more rumor and speculation. Because, if this was true, this meant that Kellwood was forcing Kimora, a six foot tall mother of three, with a still relatively fresh from the womb (Okay, he's several months old, but he isn't in kindergarten dammit. He's still a baby. Only 16 months old I believe.) little one in tow, out of a company that she built from the ground up. A company that she obviously loves and adores. A company that she obviously was not ready to leave behind....because they thought she was too fat.

So, as I watched and waited, Kimora continued to send tweets related to her departure and eventually, she began to address the allegations about her weight. In an episode that absolutely broke my heart, she sent a string of tweets that encouraged women of all shapes and sizes to embrace their beauty both on the inside and on the outside and to be themselves and pondered when it became a crime to be a size 10. I was livid because she shouldn't have even had to address something so personal.

I hoped against hope that Kellwood would immediately release a statement saying the allegations were baseless, they'd never do something so ridiculous as show Kimora the door for this reason and just set the record straight. You know, maybe they just decided to go in a new direction. That would have still stung, but it would have been a bit more palatable than rumors floating out here that they'd let Kimora go in great part due to her weight. To date, Kellwood has only responded with this:


Got it? Not a damn thing. They haven't said a thing. No official statement, not a tweet, not even a status update on Facebook. Just...nothing. So, what are we to think? Kimora had originally announced that her last day at Phat Fashions would be September 1st, but days before, she announced on Twitter that her last day was "effective immediately". How could that translate into "oh, something good must have happened"? It can't! The drama was obviously still underway and Kellwood was still silent.

To that end, Kellwood's absolutely disrespectful treatment of buyers of all things related to Phat Fashions is deplorable and they do not deserve any further support. Kellwood's absolutely disrespectul treatment of Kimora Lee Simmons, the one who built Baby Phat into what it is today, is deplorable and they do not deserve any further support. Kellwood's absolutely dis-re-spectful message to the women of this country, that a six foot tall mother of three is too fat at a size ten is deplorable and they do not deserve any further support. The average woman in this country is 5'4" tall and wears a size 14 dress. One third of all American women wear a size 16. Absolutely, health has to be taken into account. Always. But, last I checked, Kellwood Corporation is not the headquarters of the Surgeon General's office. They are a retailer. Focus on retail you bastards. And, if you are so concerned about what size this woman and that one is, we can help make sure that the women of this country know exactly how you feel about it when they go to make decisions about what to buy at their local department stores. That won't be a problem at all.

So, in sum, DO NOT BUY THEIR SHIT! Nothing. But, it's important that we start with Baby Phat so that they can feel the real impact of their dismissal of Kimora. The only thing any true Kimora Lee Simmons should be purchasing are products from her KLS Collection, Kouture by Kimora or any of her fragrances, which can be found at most department or fragrance stores. The fragrances will mostly still have a Baby Phat logo on them but they are fine to purchase. I'm hoping that soon Kimora and her team will be able to rebrand all of those items so that she can fully make them her own and not allow Kellwood to piggyback off of her efforts.

I apologize for making this post so long, but I had to give all of the background in order to go forward with this call to action. I promise the rest will be short and sweet and I will do my best to limit the cursing, but this all makes me extremely angry. I don't know Kimora any further than our interactions on Twitter and in my following her work in both fashion and philanthropic circles and she seems to be nothing but some of the best that God sent down to this globe. Nobody's perfect. Hell, I'm not. But, she's a hell of a lot better than some of the other trash walking amongst us.

Kellwood, the song below is all for you. Strap in because you are going to have some decisions to make soon where Baby Phat is concerned. No respect? No dollars. --Sugar


If you were sent a link here, thank you for stopping in. If you stumbled upon this blog, that probably means you are as disgusted about what has transpired in the past month regarding Kimora Lee Simmons' departure from Baby Phat as I am. If you "stumbled upon" this blog looking for some negative information about Kimora Lee Simmons you can forget it and I advise you to click the red "x" in the top right corner of your window here and keep it moving.

In the coming days, this blog will evolve...and grow. I am singularly operating it to help spread the word that Kimora Lee Simmons is no longer with Baby Phat, and to make sure that the public knows the disgusting reasons why that is so. I'm a dilligent blogger Kellwood. So, this will not be a one shot situation. If this takes me until the next year, to make sure that the public is made aware of what you've done, so be it. Enough is enough. --Sugar