Created in the 1980s, Laurie Simmons’s “Fake Fashion” Series Is Utterly of This Moment – Vogue.com

Laurie Simmons, Rooftop, 1984.Photo: Laurie Simmons / Courtesy Salon 94

Implicit in the catchphrases of today such as “the new normal” is the assumption of a codified standard of existence; the idea of reality as a known value or truth. That idea is a fallacy, of course. Life, like art, is slippery, teasing us precariously forward. Few people are more aware of this than the artist Laurie Simmons. Since 1976, she has been keeping viewers on their toes with images that test the boundaries of surface and reality, truth and lies.

“Artifice, surrogates, stand-ins—fake has been the operative [motive in my work] because I was always alone in a studio wanting to create things in the world that I didn’t have the skill set, the economic power, [or] the access to,” she said on a recent call in advance of a virtual exhibition of her “Fake Fashion” series via the Frieze Art Fair.

The photographer’s “Fake Fashion” series dates to the mid-1980s and grew out of an assignment to produce a fashion shoot for BAM’s 1984 Next Wave Festival catalog. Simmons got so caught up in the project that she kept on with it, substituting high fashion with frilly finds from the discount stores of Broadway. The fake in the series title, she says, is absolutely not a commentary on the alleged superficiality of fashion.

“I’ve always had an unapologetic interest and fascination and obsession with fashion,” Simmons admits. Still, clothes ultimately play a minor role in the series. More so, the work is a delightful exercise in role play. “I think that those pictures were more about my longing to participate, to be a fashion photographer in a sense, which was something that wasn’t being offered to me,” says Simmons, who put on different borrowed “hats” behind the lens and in the developing room. “I could go as many as 50 backgrounds. It wasn’t like I decided this red dress would go with this Western scene,” she explains. “I would put the model in a look and shoot, [but] the magic happened completely in the editing. And that made me really feel like a fashion editor too. It was like, ‘Think pink!’”

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