Michelle Smith, creative director and co-founder of fashion label Milly, can thank artist Laurie Simmons for the inspiration for her spring 2018 Wild Flower collection, which she presented earlier this month at New York Fashion Week.
"My Wild Flower collection actually blossomed from my collaboration with Laurie," said Smith during a celebration of the tee — which features an artwork by Simmons depicting a bouquet atop a pair of running legs — at her Soho pop-up store Tuesday night. "I was working on this [collaboration] way before I started the collection, and the strong image of a flower as a symbol of female sexuality got the wheels turning."
Both Smith and Simmons have used their work to draw attention to the female experience — with some works more explicit than others — so a collaboration between the two that served to benefit a shared passion, supporting Planned Parenthood, was a natural fit.
All proceeds from the tee, created to honor Planned Parenthood's 100th anniversary, will be donated to the organization. The shirt is now available online and at the Milly pop-up store for $75.
"This is based on my earlier work that was 'Objects on Legs,'" said Simmons of the artwork, which was originally one of five in a series that was auctioned off at the Planned Parenthood Gala last spring and raised $145,000 for the organization. "That was done in the late '80s, early '90s, and the legs were very long and lean, sort of legs you could hardly stand up on like a Barbie doll. So I made this bouquet and we put them on really strong women's running legs. I though it was much more appropriate for our time."
She continued, "Women are under siege, but we're not running away from [the problems], we're running towards them, confronting them head on."
In 2017, and especially under the Trump presidency, the organization has become a hotbed for controversy regarding its services, and with controversy, comes trolls. Simmons' daughter, Lena Dunham, who is one of Hollywood's most vocal supporters of Planned Parenthood, is especially vulnerable to the hate speech on the internet.
"Everyone gets criticized, but comments that are threatening are terrifying as a parent," said Simmons of the language that has at times gotten so violent that Dunham had to take leave from social media. "In the beginning when all of this started happening I tried to understand what was going on out there, but now I don't read the comments. I tune out the negativity. It's not productive in any way."
As for what supporters of the organization can do now that its funding is being threatened, Simmons says, "I've been joking around with my friends, I say, 'Go online every night and say no to the dress, don't say yes to the dress," There are so many places to give ... I think people have to understand that every little bit makes a difference. "