Models Inc.

After the lights went down on their runway careers, these former fashionistas stepped into the role of business owner

to me is so scary. I don’t want to be hot. I just want to be a staple. I want to be something that’s trusted.”

Fabulous may be the best way to describe a modeling career that started with Kimora Lee Simmons walking the runways in Paris at the tender age of 13 and led to her marriage to Russell Simmons, the force behind legendary hip-hop brands Def Jam and Phat Farm.

Even though Phat Fashions was sold to Kellwood Co. in 2004 for a reported $140 million, Simmons, 31, retains her position as president and creative director of Baby Phat. “It’s my baby. I’ve been there since its inception, since it was dust,” says Simmons.

“Selling it to Kellwood allowed us to do things in terms of manufacturing and distribution that we could have never accomplished on our own.” But Simmons admits that she is even more hands-on now. “When you bring more cooks into the kitchen, you have to watch your recipe that much tighter. You have to be sure people develop products with the same integrity.”

After a successful foray into fragrances last year with the launch of Goddess, which posted $35 million in retail sales, Simmons is introducing a new fragrance — Golden Goddess — this month. Both are through a licensing agreement with Coty Inc. Baby Phat is also venturing into home fashions this fall, with a line of bedding, bath linens, and window treatments.

Never one to rest on her heels, Simmons is building her next brand: KLS. It started with the launch of KLS Cosmetics earlier this year. The 62-product collection is available exclusively at Sephora. “I did it myself, my own dollars invested. I’m involved in every single step: the packaging, the ingredients, the testing, everything,” she says. There are also plans for a KLS fashion line.

With a self-described dominant personality, it’s no wonder Simmons has set out to dominate the market: “Baby Phat and KLS make everything — the lingerie, the jeans, the fragrance, the jewelry — every single thing that a woman needs in her life to function and to be, you know, fabulous.”

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