Simon Doonan

For more than twenty years, Simon Doonan has been charming the fashion world with his inimitable style, talent and quick wit. The best-selling author and current Creative Ambassador at Large for Barneys New York recently released his fifth book, The Asylum, which pays homage to his many years in the industry and the offbeat characters he has met along the way. In his latest tome, Mr. Doonan discusses how the fashion world is a place of refuge for misfits, like himself, and the growing influence of the digital age on this once exclusive club, all the while entertaining us with his personal anecdotes of fashion moments past and the larger-than-life personalities that populate this industry. We asked the fashion authority to tell us about the job that gave him his footing—window dressing—and share a few thoughts on his latest book as well as the fashion world at large.

You worked for many years creating captivating—and sometimes shocking—window displays for Barneys New York. What drew you to a career as a window dresser?

In the early ‘70s I was working in a London department store in the clocks and watches department. I got bored flicking a feather duster and decided the window display people were having more fun. I begged my way into an entry-level job at Aquascutum on Regent Street. The display team was wild. We even had a gorgeous Portuguese transsexual.

What is your favorite window display that you’ve ever created?

I did lots of Madonna windows back in the day. She is still the biggest style icon. I worship that gorgeous bitch!

What are the key elements of a good window display?

I like windows that resonate with something that is going on in popular culture. If the Superbowl is happening, then do a football window. If there is a royal wedding, then fill the window with queens and crowns. I like corny windows that communicate to people in a direct way. I think windows are like street theater…or a Coney Island sideshow.

If you were asked to design a window display for a high-end hair salon for the holiday season, what would you do?

I would make an entire holiday tree out of wigs and falls and hair paraphernalia. Even the dangling balls could have little beehive wigs on top. On the top of the tree, I would place a little Oribe doll.

What inspired the collection of stories you wrote for "The Asylum"?

I have been in fashion for almost four decades. I thought I’d better scribble down my favorite memories before I start forgetting everything.

How has the fashion industry changed since you’ve been apart of it?

When I started in fashion, the industry was tiny; now it has become a huge global spectator sport. Everyone on Earth is obsessed with fashion.

What is your most insane fashion moment?

In the book I tell how, back in the late ‘80s, the ceiling fell in at a Michael Kors show. When the dust cleared, I saw Anna Wintour picking lumps of plaster out of Suzy Menkes’ hairdo. J'adore! I also talk about how Tom Ford gave me a wedgie.

Why do you think the fashion world appears absurd or nutty to those who are not in it?

Fashion is a parallel universe of creative eccentrics. When outsiders get a peak inside, they are always amazed…or maybe they run screaming in the opposite direction.

What do you hope someone who is not a follower of fashion takes away from your book?

I made a huge effort to avoid esoteric stuff. I only included stories that would be fun for both outsiders and insiders. I want people to laugh.
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