For his spring collection, London designer Peter Jensen was first inspired by Frances Glessner Lee, heiress and amateur criminologist. Then came Corinne May Botz’s photographs, which documented the crime-scene dioramas Lee created. But the final piece wouldn’t click until Jensen’s stylist handed him a book of artist Laurie Simmons’ work featuring her dollhouse imagery from the Seventies. “Her photographs have a sort of naïve, childish innocence that caught my eye,” he says. “I wanted to transform that into grown-up clothing.”
But Simmons is more than just his muse for spring; she’s also become his collaborator. Jensen dressed a series of paper dolls in miniature versions of his clothes that Simmons then photographed in New York. The results will be unveiled today at the designer’s presentation at London’s Institute of Contemporary Arts. “Every spring-summer season I tend to have an American as the muse — Tina Barney, Jodie Foster, Sissy Spacek,” explains Jensen. “But it’s never been this sort of 50-50 collaboration.”
Indeed, there was plenty of back-and-forth between the two. The doll cutouts are actually photographs of model Barbora Dvorakova, shot and styled by Jensen’s team in London. Jensen picked the props — milk pitcher, latex dish gloves and footwear — while Simmons chose the poses. “I sent him a bunch of [scanned] poses from Sixties and Seventies fashion magazines,” says the New York-based artist. “They are a bit more mannered.” Simmons also clipped out hairdos from Bergdorf Goodman and J. Crew catalogues, and an issue of Playboy from the Seventies — and plopped them atop the model’s polished coiffure with a glue stick. The dollhouse backdrop and interior props, meanwhile, were recycled from Simmons’ own archives.
And although Simmons was well aware Jensen had mined her work for inspiration, she didn’t realize the extent to which he had appropriated her motifs for his Fifties-themed collection until after the shoot. The watermelon-shaped purse in one image, for instance, is modeled after a melon prop from a 1979 photograph. Another printed top takes after the green carpet pattern in a 1978 shot. And thenthere are the swan details in a baby-blue cocktail frock; they are pilfered from a bathroom scene in that same late Seventies series.
“I’ve still not acknowledged to him that I recognize the swans,” says Simmons, with a laugh. “I’m pretty taken with the whole thing. It’s going to be strange to see the real clothes in human scale.”
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