On Tuesday, MILLY held an event at its 158 Mercer Street location in New York, launching a collaboration between the fashion brand’s co-founder and creative director Michelle Smith and artist Laurie Simmons. The project—a limited-edition t-shirt—is in support of Planned Parenthood, celebrating its 100-year anniversary. The front of the t-shirt has an image related to Simmons’ well-known “Walking & Lying objects” series, featuring a bouquet of bright flowers and a pair of legs in shorts and running shoes. The back reads, “100 YEARS STRONG.”
Guests like Marilyn Minter, Sharon Coplan Hurowitz, Shelly Fremont, Ippollita Rostagno, Steven Kolb, Kitty Cash, Elliott Sailors, Ashley Bouder, Nia Alleyne, Jordan Landes-Brenman, Carolina Fryer, Amy Perez, Courtney Quinn, Marissa Fuchs, Allie Rizzo, Anne Marie Kortright, Rachel Thomas, Katie Danziger, Coco Rohatyn, Keith Corso, Andrianna Campbell, Lisa Beattie Frelinghuysen, Nancy Chilton and more, were able to purchase the t-shirt for $75 with 100% of the profits going to Planned Parenthood (the shirt is available online and at MILLY’s SoHo and Madison Avenue boutique).
Whitewall was there and spoke with Simmons and Smith about working together and their longtime support of Planned Parenthood.
WHITEWALL: Michelle, while being a Planned Parenthood supporter for years, this is the first time you’ve used your role as a designer to offer creative support. How did you connect with Laurie Simmons to design this t-shirt?
MICHELLE SMITH: We connected through Planned Parenthood. I’d been a supporter for many years, and I have to say, I became complacent during the Obama presidency. But when Trump was elected, it was a disturbing wake-up call. I think we all felt threatened as women—our rights were threatened, Planned Parenthood was threatened—so I really jumped back into it. I made 1500 “Don’t F*ck With Us. Don’t F*ck Without Us” t-shirts to donate to guests for the Planned Parenthood gala.
I’m friends with a few board members and was [later] asked to collaborate with Laurie. I was like, “That would be the biggest honor of my life! Would she be down with it?” And she was totally down with it. We had a drink Brooklyn and talked about what we wanted to do with the t-shirt. We’re donating 100% of the profits to Planned Parenthood and it’s a great way to celebrate the 100 years.
This is the deepest I’ve been involved, using my voice, throwing my heart into it through my design. And collaborating with Laurie was such a great opportunity.
WW: What did you think of the image she chose?
MS: I think it’s so empowering. It was inspirational for my spring 2018 collection, “Wildflower.” The bouquet with the legs running—it’s beautiful, it’s strong, it’s empowering. There’s strength to it.
WW: Laurie, can you tell us about the image you chose for the t-shirt?
LAURIE SIMMONS: At the [Planned Parenthood] gala last spring I made prints of this image. I worried, “Oh, is anyone going to buy one?” And they sold out in like 45 seconds and we made about $150,000! I was flying that night! I thought, OK, this is a magic image.
The bouquet is to commemorate and congratulate Planned Parenthood. It’s based on my work from the late eighties. But the legs are strong running legs, rather than these little ballet legs.
We’re in it to win it. Defunding Planned Parenthood can’t happen. It cannot. And I think so many people are on board to work for it, to save it, and to honor it.
WW: What was it like collaborating with Michelle to design the t-shirt?
LS: Easy. She has great design sense. I have to say, it’s beautiful. I’ve done other t-shirts but this one is really great.
WW: How did you originally connect with Planned Parenthood?
LS: There isn’t a way to put this politely. As soon as the shit started hitting the fan, it seemed like everyone I knew started paying attention. My daughters and my whole family is super active. It seemed like opportunities to help came to us and Marilyn Minter, Cindy Sherman, and I made an auction for Planned Parenthood a couple of years ago.
I have so much respect for the organization, so much respect for Cecile Richards. You take away Planned Parenthood, you take away healthcare, you wreck the United States for women. You really do. Women are under siege right now and it’s hard to believe that the clock could go back.
Laurie Simmons will have a retrospective in 2018 at the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, travelling to the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago in 2019. Her first feature film, My Art, premiered at the 73rd Venice International Film Festival, at the Tribeca Film Festival in 2017, and will begin a theatrical release at Quad Cinema in New York in January 2018.