The challenge of how best to show their clothes is inspiring more and more designers to spectacularly creative flights of fancy. Peter Jensen's collaboration with the American artist Laurie Simmons produced one of the most enjoyably bizarre—and bizarrely complex—presentations to date. Jensen's Spring collection was inspired by a monograph of the artist's work. He made scaled-down versions of his designs and sent them to Simmons, who photographed them in the surreal dollhouse environments she's known for. These images were then blown back up to life size, and the whole shebang was installed, appropriately enough, at the Institute of Contemporary Arts, where live models walked in the clothes in front of Simmons' pictures.
The event had a through-the-looking-glass quality that perfectly suited Jensen's sartorial surreality. There were elements directly borrowed from Simmons—prints that came from a wallpaper or a carpet in one of her "houses"—as well as classic American fabrics and shapes. "I like the cleanness of American sportswear from the fifties," Jensen said. So he showed cotton canvas dungarees over a linen camisole, and layered dresses of gingham taffeta and cotton madras one on top of the other. A full-skirted cotton dress was covered with little yellow flower embroidery.
It evoked Doris Day, but whether or not a modern woman wants to look like her is debatable. And removed from the ICA context, the human-scaled clothes will still seem challengingly doll-like, with their aprons and petticoats and naïve graph-ism. A hard sell, in other words, though it might be a different story if Jensen were able to meet with all his potential customers. With his charming, good-humored manner, he'd certainly do his best to explain away the Day.