In a waft of paisley print, and bubblier than a bottle of Moët, Simon Doonan took his place at Barneys this past weekend to share his latest side-splitting book,
Asylum: A Collage of Couture Reminiscences...and Hysteria.
Sitting down with the man who has made the department store the haven for the fashion-forward, we got the inside scoop on Anna Wintour's soft side, Tom Ford being a prankster extraordinaire, and more. Is it possible that Doonan is the last "bossy bitch" to roam the earth? We strongly suggest you read on to find out.
What's your favorite story from your new book?
"I love the story of me auditioning for The Devil Wears Prada. I still get a chuckle out of that if I re-read it. I think my encounter with Tom Ford and my toe fungus, and him giving me a wedgie, is one of my favorites."
Is that Tom's thing, giving wedgies?
"Based on the wedgie he gave me I would say, yes, he's good. He gives good wedgie."
We read in your book about Anna Wintour being very maternal by picking pieces of debris out of Suzy Menkes' hair, and we also just saw a photo of her smiling very sweetly at Harper Beckham front row at Fashion Week. Does she have a soft side that we don't know about?
"Anna Wintour is nothing like the editor in The Devil Wears Prada. She's a fantastic mother, they are exemplary kids. She's really an impressive person. She's taken a leadership role in the global fashion landscape, you know that's so amazing for fashion and for America and for Vogue. She's one of the top fashion icons in the world, has the most recognizable vigor, and has been an incredible benefit to the landscape."
What do you want to see for the future of Vogue and fashion publications in general?
"Well, I'm sort of old-fashioned, I'm still very much a magazine reader. When I get my Vogue, I tear it out of the wrapper and I inhale it page by page, similarly W Magazine and Glamour. I love to look at a magazine. I do read books as well, but I love a magazine, and Vogue is great. It's very dense, there is always so many gorgeous articles in there. Hamish Bowles is my neighbor, we are very good friends. Phyllis Posnick, Grace, all those people. Anna has a coterie of incredible people. She does an incredible job of nurturing this Bauhaus of creative people and it shows in the magazine."
You have a chapter titled "When Bossy Bitches Roamed the Earth." What's that about?
"It's about when fashion editors were more dictatorial. When trends and ideas came from this small group of people who told the rest of the population what to do. We don't live in an era like that anymore. The consumer is really much more in charge of what they wear and who they are and how thy represent themselves."
So, who was the queen bossy bitch?
"Diana Vreeland was fabulously dictatorial: 'Never do this, always do that, drag your rug to a waterfall and have a picnic now!' There is a whole chapter in there about working for Diana Vreeland and she would say these incredible things, like 'Pink is the navy blue of India.' Now, we live in an era of self-expression, and it comes from the consumer. Diana Vreeland, and her generation, they envisioned a world where women were very expressive. We have people like Gaga, Ke$ha, and Miley, and women can do whatever they want with their style. So, the future that she envisioned is here. If she was still alive, she would say, 'Great, I can retire, because look it happened.'"
You created so much of the great ambiance of Barneys. How does that feel?
"At this point at my time at Barneys, I am delighted, amused, and a completely entertained spectator, where I see this company that I've been with for 27 years going through this entirely new reinvention. So, it's a very exciting time for me, and I always think of what Sarah Jessica Parker said: 'If you're a nice person and you work hard, you get to go shopping at Barneys.' It's the decadent reward."
What do you do on the weekends to de-stress?
"Tap dancing, making waffles...no, actually, I am very sporty and very outdoorsy. We go to Shelter Island most weekends, so paddle boarding, kayaking, hiking, and jogging is what I do. It's like I am sporty spice."
What do you wear when you work out?
"I love to wear sort of outré things. Lots of bright colors — a lot of orange. I have a bunch of Ed Hardy T-shirts I love to work out in, because I think working out is when you should look really insane."
Who gets the craziest at Fashion Week after-parties?
"Probably Mr. Mickey, but I wouldn't know because I just keel over at about 10:30 p.m. The two best fashion parties ever have been at Barneys: The Carine Roitfeld karaoke party where Valentino did 'My Way' — it was unbelievable, and the recent party where Lou Doillon performed. Barneys gives good Fashion Week parties."