Milly designer Michelle Smith is joining the fashion industry’s ongoing fight to protect Planned Parenthood in a new partnership with artist and filmmaker Laurie Simmons.
In honor of the 100th anniversary of Planned Parenthood, the duo debuted a T-shirt on Tuesday emblazoned with an image created by Simmons. The graphic was originally sold as a print for a fundraising gala for Planned Parenthood, and was so popular it sold out in 45 seconds and raised a total of $140,000, Simmons said at an event in New York celebrating the collaboration. Planned Parenthood will receive 100 percent of profits from the Milly shirts, which retail for $75 and are available online and in Milly stores.
While designing for the cause isn’t particularly novel — for example, designers like Rachel Antonoff and Gabriela Hearst have both designed sweaters featuring artistic renditions of ovaries that support Planned Parenthood — it demonstrates the fashion industry’s continued support for the group in the wake of consistent threats to women’s reproductive health under President Donald Trump. The launch of the shirts also happened to coincided with debate in Congress this week regarding the Graham-Cassidy bill, a proposed plan that would restrict funding for groups like Planned Parenthood. Though it was announced on Tuesday that the vote will be postponed indefinitely due to lack of support from Congressional Republicans, the implications still loom.
Smith — who is not shy to be evocative, as demonstrated in her debut digital campaign in August 2016, which incorporated risqué feminist imagery — said fashion is her primary vehicle of speaking out and making an impact.
“My designs are my loudest voice,” Smith said. “To be honest, I’m a really shitty public speaker; I can reach so many more people with my designs and through Milly than I can as an individual. To have a voice through my designs is such an opportunity to stand for something and to affect positive change through Milly.”
Milly shirts in support of Planned Parenthood
Such partnerships also point to momentum following the Council of Fashion Designer of America’s “Fashion Stands With Planned Parenthood” campaign, an effort to demonstrate support for the group during New York Fashion Week in February. The CFDA distributed pins to all showing designers, as well as modeling agencies, influencers and PR houses, and encouraged fashion week goers to wear them to the shows.
Simmons — the mother of Lena Dunham, who recently donated part of her closet to The RealReal, donating sales to Planned Parenthood — said the pervasive uncertainty of women’s healthcare will continue to foster collaborations between the art and fashion worlds to instigate change.
“There’s a synergy right now across platforms — people can almost smell when to collaborate and what they can do,” she said. “Everyone is really fierce and on fire right now about this. Women are under siege and we know it, and it’s really sad.”
While social media has been an important tool for the fashion industry to send a powerful message to consumers, Simmons said it’s important to identify ways to make tangible change that transcends merely posting for the sake of posting.
“We can make endless ‘Dump Trump’ Instagrams, and make fun and caricature all of this stuff, but in the end, we have to raise money,” she said. “We have to figure out who to call and figure out where to give. Just announcing your resistance felt like enough at the beginning, but now we have to do more.”