In the fashion world, Kimora Lee Simmons is a well-known model and reality TV star with a huge global following thanks to her show, Kimora: Life in the Fab Lane. After a long career that has taken her to the catwalks of Rio de Janeiro to Paris, the former Karl Lagerfeld muse is now heading in a new direction. Kimora, 39, has her sights set on becoming the next big thing in high-end womenswear and is confident she can give the established Victoria Beckham – who has made the often-difficult transition from celebrity to respected designer – a run for her money. After spending a weekend with the mother-of-two, doing what Ahlan! does best (namely shopping, chatting and eating), we can tell you that Kimora is passionate, driven, ambitious and madly in love with hubby, Tim Leissner.
Speaking exclusively to Ahlan! while enjoying her fleeting visit, during which she presented the Dubai Summer Surprises Style Session at The Dubai Mall, Kimora revealed why Naomi Campbell and Tyra Banks need each other, how to balance your work and home life, and why making stylish abayas is on the horizon for her new line, KLS.
You already had a successful career as a model and then a businesswoman. Why have you decided to start a new fashion line with KLS?
I started off at a very young age. At 13 I was selected by Karl Lagerfeld for Chanel and that kind of formed my interest in design. Working with Karl, I learned how to have the confidence to work in the field of fashion and I was really a clothes horse. I learned the inner workings of the industry from the manufacturing of the clothes, to accessories and beauty. It became very clear that I couldn’t be a model forever and I wanted to go into the design part of it and learn the business. It was a natural progression for me and once you’re in it, what fuels it is the feedback you receive from people about your designs. It’s a fantastic feeling when you see that jacket you spent hours slaving over being worn; it really inspires you to work even harder. For me it’s all about the women I design for, living and growing with them, and I’m one of them.
Why is KLS so suited to the Middle East?
I’m launching KLS here next spring, so right now this is my higher-end designer line and it really caters to women I’ve seen around the Middle East and Asia, women who identify with me in terms of growing as a woman, and also in fashion, sophistication, elegance and a working lifestyle.
If you could showcase KLS at any of the global fashion weeks, which would it be?
New York is amazing, but now I think Paris would also be a great place, particularly because it’s so different. I started with designers who were from Paris, Milan and London, so those places would definitely be exciting, just like Europe in general!
You’ve been to Dubai a few times. What is it that keeps drawing you back to the emirate?
I absolutely love the people and I love all the buildings, like every time I pass by one I’m always saying stuff like “wow!” and everyone’s like “ah, that’s just the Financial District”. There’s a hotel shaped like a boat, and all the buildings are so tall and beautiful. I also love the fashion and the style, and I love the sense of independence and beauty. I love the make-up and hairstyles here too – they’re unique!
Kimora, you really seem to “love” a lot of things in Dubai! What do you think of abayas, from a fashion point of view?
I love them, absolutely! Women here like their abayas embellished and I buy them like that too! I have them made about 6ft 4in long, which comes to about my height in heels. Whenever I’m shopping I try to understand the manufacturing process. This is what the princesses and queens wear to dinner, and I definitely want that! Abayas are made from such rich and luxurious material. It’s just so flowy and fabulous, and the embroidery is impeccable. They’re right up my alley, so I would definitely design some!
How do you switch off and unwind after a busy day at the office?
I’ve been a homebody ever since I was very little. Being relaxed and having a good time is very important to me, but, to be honest, I wouldn’t trade being a mum for anything. I live for things like telling my kids not too eat many cookies, or to do their homework.
We’ve spent two days with you and your hubby Tim, and you two are so in love! Can you tell Ahlan!’s readers the secret of keeping the spark alive?
Well my husband and I travel a lot – we’re always all over the world – so I think it’s about trying to carve out your time for each other. Always making time for one another. In my case I’m so involved with fashion and beauty and he’s all about finance, so when he comes home I always try to make time for him. My husband really supports me a lot – even if it’s just by listening to me, he’s always there for me.
Speaking of your industry, Naomi Campbell and Tyra Banks are both rather fierce personalities, but who do you think is the toughest?
Oh my goodness! You know what? Naomi is crazy-funny and sometimes I think her reputation precedes her, but I love her. When I moved to Paris she was really great at looking after me. I was only 13 and she was about 19 and neither of us had our mums with us, so Karl [Lagerfeld] was like: “OK, you don’t have mothers here, so you will look after each other and be friends.” But, you know, Tyra is godmother to one of my kids and she’s just fantastic at everything she does. I’ve been friends with the two of them for so long and it’s great watching them working on their individual endeavours. The thing is, though, you need competition to succeed, especially in modelling. None of us can be the only person doing it – we all have to push each othe