If you owned a pink Nextel phone or a ruffled denim skirt in the early 2000s, there’s a good chance it was made by Baby Phat. The women’s streetwear line was popular for creating some of the most iconic looks associated with the intersection of hip-hop culture and fashion at the turn of the millennium—and it appears that the brand is planning to continue that legacy in 2019.
In a cryptic tweet posted on Tuesday, Forever 21 announced a possible Baby Phat relaunch through its stores. “[Two] more days til the cat is back... stay tuned for 6/13,” teased the tweet, which was posted with a video featuring the initials “K.L.S. ” The tweet led some on social media to speculate on a potential collaboration between the fast-fashion giant and Baby Phat, whose founder is former model Kimora Lee Simmons, and sparked a full-blown online stan session of the 2000s streetwear brand.
Simmons previously announced the Baby Phat relaunch back in March on International Women’s Day, describing it as the “rebirth of [her] baby,” and mentioned that the first collection would drop in the summer.
Baby Phat first launched in 1999 as a subsidiary of Simmons’ ex-husband Russell Simmons’ Phat Fashions clothing line. Highlighted by signature pieces such as velour tracksuits, fur jackets, and embellished jeans, Baby Phat became a brand known for celebrating women of color and their influential role in the world of streetwear and fashion at large. However, in 2010, Simmons announced via Twitter her departure from being the brand’s creative director.
Now, it seems like Baby Phat may make its return as soon as this Thursday, much to the delight of fans tweeting about their nostalgia for its turn-of-the-millennium trends. However, the brand partnering with Forever 21 for its relaunch does spark some concerns. Baby Phat’s legacy of being a trailblazing clothing line in Black culture doesn’t necessarily fit with Forever 21’s mainstream appeal, and the collaboration could potentially lead to Baby Phat’s whitewashing. Baby Phat was known for featuring Black artists on its ads and in runway shows, while Forever 21 has been criticized for using white models in culturally questionable contexts.
Baby Phat was also one of the first fashion brands to celebrate Black women’s curves, which has more recently been co-opted by Fashion Nova/ Kardashian Instagram culture; it will be interesting to see if Baby Phat reclaims that space.
A rollout with Forever 21 seems to be a step in the wrong direction, but we'll have to see how the collection is packaged to draw any real conclusions. Neither Forever 21 nor Simmons have officially confirmed the news outside of mysterious social media posts. Although it may have been more appropriate for Baby Phat to partner with a company that understands its rich legacy in Black culture, we're nonetheless eager to see how the brand reintroduces itself for a 2019 audience.