Good thing, as Panichgul had kept his entire collection a secret from Simmons; all she knew was that loads of blooms were involved. This past summer Panichgul sent the artist a batch of roses from his favorite Manhattan florist, Miho Kosuda Ltd. They were deliberately wilted, two days past their prime. “What I love about roses is the process of blooming and wilting,” says Panichgul, “and Miho’s roses die so beautifully.” The resulting hue was a deeply saturated “bloodlike red,” notes Simmons. “It was so intense, when I closed my eyes that night I could still see this blood color.” Soon after, Simmons began pairing those flowers with dolls’ legs that had been handpicked by Panichgul from the artist’s shelf full of such extremities. She photographed numerous poses: knees knocking, legs open or tilted to the side and some lying down, “as if a ballerina collapsed on the floor,” he says. Six of the photos were adapted into fabrics including cotton, silk chiffon and radzimir for Panichgul’s collection.
Throughout her career, Simmons has attached legs to pretty much everything—a camera, a house, petits fours, a toilet—but this was her first time incorporating flora. “In terms of being an artist,” she says, “flowers are something I would probably stay away from, like kittens or babies.... But it seems appropriate now and, in its own way, tough too—this really bloodred rose on legs.”
For Panichgul, however, florals aren’t such a leap. His spring 2007 collection was inspired by the numerous congratulatory bouquets he received after being nominated for the 2006 CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund. Then there were his arty cabbage roses for resort, which got a major publicity boost when Michelle Obama wore a black, red and purple version to the Democratic National Convention the night her husband accepted the party nomination. As for the prints that ended up in Thakoon’s spring 2009 collection, their inspiration came courtesy of Simmons’s images of legged cakes, which happened to be topped with sugared roses. “I thought, Wouldn’t it be cool to do legs on those [garnishes]?” says Panichgul. “They’re very fantasy for me.” In fact, when the designer first visited Simmons’s studio, her pastry photos attracted him most, but he ended up purchasing the image of a pistol with legs because it was “more butch.” Lying Gun (Color), 1990, now hangs on his living room wall.Inspired by commercials of dancing cigarette packs from her childhood, Simmons came up with the concept of human-object hybrids in 1987. “Plus, I used to see all the Rockettes, and Mr. Peanut walking around the boardwalk in Atlantic City,” she says. “As a kid, that was something so profound for me, this crazy spectacle of legs everywhere...merging the animate and the inanimate.” It’s fitting then that her series “Walking & Lying Objects” aimed to showcase women “meshing with their environment,” she explains. “There’s a kind of passivity that women can have, this ability to merge with what you’re identified with, whether [it’s] your home, car, purse or perfume.”