Aoki Lee Simmons is fashion royalty—after all, what else could one be when their mom is Kimora Lee Simmons? However, the 19-year-old is a full force in her own right, having led a successful modeling career. Did we mention that she’s also a junior at Harvard University?
Between attending college classes and walking runways for brands like Pyer Moss, Aoki found time to create a new fashion collection for affordable fashion brand JustFab. In a way, it’s a homecoming; the label was founded by her mom in 2010, who left five years later to develop her own high-end line. However, the new collection — aptly titled the Reboot Collection — is entirely Aoki’s own.
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The line includes numerous pieces inspired by the teenager’s classic style, including cropped cardigans, ruffled shift dresses and tweed separates that can be mixed and matched. Shoe-wise, it also includes a wide range of versatile heeled ankle boots, mules and pumps in a black, white and red color palette. Many are shoes Aoki herself previously wanted in her own wardrobe, but couldn’t find elsewhere due to her larger foot size.
“Finding a nice quality [and] quantity of shoes is hard for me,” she exclusively tells FN. “I have five pairs of Stuart Weitzman heels, Jimmy Choo’s, very basic shoes—but I’m not really able to hop on trends or try new things. I can only go with the black pump, the nude pump, the navy blue strap-on, whatever. So, it’s been really great to design so that I can be more versatile, while also fitting into my classic wardrobe.”
FN recently sat down with Aoki to discuss her inspirations and experience designing JustFab’s Reboot Collection — plus, the best fashion advice she’s received and what it’s like to borrow bags from Kimora’s fabulous closet.
How did you become involved with JustFab for this collaboration?
Aoki Lee Simmons: “I have known about JustFab for a really long time. I spent a lot of time in the office as a kid, my mom was there and it was really fun. And then, recently this year, they reached out to my agent, and I was like, ‘Oh yes, I know them!’ She was like, ‘Oh, okay.’ And then we started to talk about how they wanted to give me a lot of creative leeways. I love that, I love collaborations where I have the opportunity to be creative and have my input. And I really like how they wanted to do kind of a legacy thing, without having the overbearing parent. [They were] like, ‘It’s nice that your mom was here. That’s lovely. And now she’s not, so don’t worry about it!’ So, they had a great proposal and I was really excited about it, so that’s kind of how we connected.”
What was your inspiration for these shoes? Did you have any particular eras, people or characters in mind, or on any moldboards?
ALS: “I’m a big ’90s person — I think we all are today. Definitely, my mom was my mood board, Kate Moss, Lily-Rose Depp; I love her style, it’s really classic. The idea behind the shoes was classic and fun. No one would ever really call me trendy, but the trends are somewhat current, but a lot of ’90s. It has a very ’90s, youthful feel, but also classic appeal, and shoes you can wear all the time. See, the thing is, I have a very big foot — TMI, I have a size 12 foot. So finding a nice quality [and] quantity of shoes is hard for me. I have five pairs of Stuart Weitzman heels, Jimmy Choos, but I’m not really able to hop on trends or try new things. I can only go with the black pump, the nude pump, the navy blue strap-on, whatever. So, it’s been really great to design so that I can be more versatile, while also fitting into my classic wardrobe.”
Courtesy of JustFab
What are some of your favorite styles from the collection?
ALS: “Ooh! Definitely the Lou active knit. It’s an active bootie-sneaker thing. It’s really cute. It’s very tall. I really love a tall heel. I think now people are very into different kinds of flats, sneakers and sweatpants — I am not a sneakers and sweatpants person. I love my heels! And they’re comfortable, and I wear them a lot in New York for modeling castings. I’m still very much subscribed to the model-off-duty of 2010, like skinny jeans, graphic tee, super high heel, big bag, let’s go on the subway! So I really like them for that, and I like that they’re so comfortable. I don’t have to bring heels in my bag and wear the flats to the casting. I can just wear the heels the whole way — that’s how great they are. They’re very breathable, very comfortable and they kind of fit any foot. So, very soft. I like them a lot.”
A lot of these shoes have prints and textures that are very bold, but their tones and colors make them really versatile. How would you style them in your own wardrobe?
ALS: “So, the patterned ones and the embellished ones, I like to go with a simple dress, and then make the shoe pop. I really loved the Arabella [mule pumps] with the little pearl on it, that’s really cute. With the chain design on it and a black dress, your shoes sparkle, dress is simple, very cute. The Lou shoes I wear a lot, either black and white or black and cream, that’s really great. My wardrobe is, like I said, very simple and classic so the shoes fit in amazing. Not that I’m not self-centered, but I made them for me. They’re wonderful [Laughs]! I took them all home from the first shoot day; I took all the samples home. I was like, ‘Can I take these?’ And they’re like, ‘Yeah, I guess! You made them.’ So, I took them all home. They’re very much for me. They fit into my style. I wear a lot of colors, but jewel tones with the gold accents, and the blacks and the whites and the creams, go great with what I have on now. I could wear black, I could wear a cream shoe. It definitely fits in really well with my wardrobe — and my sister’s! And she’s more punk rock than me, that’s quite cool. It’s very versatile.”
Courtesy of JustFab
You collaborated on creating this whole range of shoes with JustFab, but you also modeled in the campaign for the collection wearing those shoes that you created. What was that experience like for you?
ALS: “It was so fun! So, it was one of my first big set shoots post-COVID — full set, full production team. This is going to sound really corny, but I got to submit my first rider, which is those things that people ask for behind the stage, like celebrities. So, I got to ask for my favorite peanut butter cups and a certain kind of water. I felt very cool. It’s a very big production, everyone was lovely, their office is great. I had a really great day. It was a long day! We shot seven looks, and then we were in and out of the looks — it was seven, but more like fourteen changes. But the environment made it so easy. I was there thirteen hours, but I had so much fun. It was one of my best, longest shoots. It was really great.”
How do you how did you balance being a full-time college student while working on creating this shoe collection for JustFab? It’s a big project!
ALS: “Time management? Coffee? People ask me that a lot. I definitely just wing it a lot. I’m just like, ‘Okay, it’ll all turn out, it’ll all get there.’ I just try to stay on top of it in general. When I’m doing homework, even if it’s twenty minutes backstage, really fast, I try to focus on the homework. So if I have an hour to study, we’re studying, phone is on silent, not calling my agent, not worrying about anything. And when I’m working, I’m not thinking about school, I’m not checking my school email. I’m really trying to be present in whatever I’m doing because that way you can maximize your time— because an hour spent doing both is a lot worse than thirty minutes spent doing one, thirty minutes spent doing the other. Compartmentalizing, coffee and praying. I don’t know! I hope it works out.”
Courtesy of JustFab
Let’s talk fashion! You come from a very stylish family that’s been involved in the fashion industry for a long time. What’s the best fashion advice you’ve ever received from your mom?
ALS: “Definitely to — this sounds very corny — but be yourself. If you noticed, my sister and I are very, very different, and my mom is also very different. But her best fashion advice is [to] wear what you want to wear. Have your own thing. You don’t have to wear a trend to look good, to look nice. She really would since I was a kid praise me for wearing whatever I want, whatever made me happy and going from there. Also, good advice: we went to a wedding once, and she let me borrow a silk dress. I was like, ‘I’m not sure, is it too mature?’ And we’re at the front door. And she was like, ‘Either you’re going to wear the dress, or you’re not, because you look very upset. Do not let clothes wear you. So, figure it out.’ I was like, ‘Okay, no, I’m going to wear it,’ and I had a great time. But she’s very adamant that you cannot let things wear you. If you don’t like it, it shows in your face. So, you have to like what you have on, like what you design and go forth with that energy.”
That’s solid advice! This collection has a lot of high-heeled silhouettes and shapes. How did you first learn to walk in high heels, and who taught you?
ALS: “I think maybe my mom? I learned at, like, [age] two. We love heels over here. My mom has a lot of heels, and we spent a lot of time in her closet. If you saw her show when you were a kid, she has a big closet in our home in L.A. She has chairs and seating, and we sit there and talk and try on shoes. So, I’ve been walking in heels for a long time. I really love them. But, like I said, the activewear trend is great, the casual, ‘a woman should be comfortable’ thing. That’s wonderful. But I personally love heels, love how it gives you a different walk, love the noise it makes. I’m a big heels girl all the time. So, probably when I was three, and then I started wearing them out when I was 13 if I was allowed to leave the house in them. And now, I wear them to class, and people are like, ‘You’re doing the most.’ I’m like, ‘You’re not doing enough. So, glad we talked.’ I wear heels to class all the time. So, I really do love heels and have been wearing them for a long time. They’re great.”
Courtesy of JustFab
What’s your favorite piece to borrow—or “borrow”—from a family member’s closet?
ALS: “Okay, so Ming started influencing and being more social before I did. She got a lot of gifting, so I would borrow a lot of her Instagram gift clothes. But definitely from my mom. She is not as generous as you might think. She’s very much like, ‘You have to wait,’ which I agree with. But she had a lot of very classic purses, very classic jewelry that I like to borrow. And it’s great because if you have an outfit and you don’t have the purse for it, you can just take it. And then bring it back! Oh, my gosh, bring it back. I take care of it. That’s the one thing: when I’m using her stuff, I’m on edge. People bump me and I’m like, ‘Never come near me again. Take the drink away, move away.’ I get very nervous. Jewelry of hers is good to borrow because it can’t really get too damaged, it can’t get stained. Definitely my favorite piece, I like the [Hermés] Birkin bags. She had a lot of them. She’s been collecting them for a long time, and she has a lot of colors. They’re just a lot of fun and they really elevate an outfit. But I think I’m more of a[n Hermés] Kelly person. I have to have a strap on it. My mom is difficult, though. You have to check it out. Like, ‘I’m coming back in six hours. I will be here. It will be here in the dust bag, okay?'”
That’s very specific!
ALS: “There’s a system, yes. And if you violate it once, you’re done. If you never bring it back… because she’ll look up in like three months — Ming does this — and she’ll be like, ‘I have never seen my bag again. Did you acquire it?’ And she’ll be like, ‘Well, you didn’t want it back, so I held onto it.’ So, you have to bring it back, or you’re out of the bartering system and it’s over for you.'”
You’ve had a very fashionable year so far after you made your runway debut at Pier Moss’ couture show. Now you’ve launched this JustFab collection. What are you looking forward to in the future? Can we expect to see you at Fashion Month?
ALS: “Yes, that is the goal, definitely more modeling and more shows. It’s been really just a great time. I love the show I did in New York. It was everything, was amazing. So, definitely more fashion shows. I’m planning on hitting all four weeks this year. So, I am trying to do as much work as I can while staying on top of my schoolwork, and pretty much just working more. I really enjoy being independent, making my own money, supporting myself through work. It’s been really a lot of fun. Definitely more runways, more working and branching out creatively more. I really enjoyed this opportunity. I used to think I was only going to model — like, you make it, I wear it, I don’t really have a creative part of my body. But then I was like, ‘There are things that I like, and people might like them as well.’ I like simple things — I’m not the most trendy, but simple is never out of style. So, if I want to add my twist to simple things, there is a market for that and interest for that. I don’t have to make every micro-trend and be on top of that to create something.”
You can currently shop Aoki’s JustFab collection on JustFab.com.
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