Simon Doonan, now soixante, (after 60 he went French), sat with industry leader Fern Mallis at 92Y to dish about his new book entitled, The Asylum: A collage of Couture Reminiscences…And Hysteria (Blue Rider Press). Doonan revealed to audience his humble upbringing, some not so j’adoring jobs held in the early stages of his career, and his encounter with Gene Pressman, which led him to Barneys window displays and now his role as Ambassador- at -Large. “Gene wanted people to talk about Barneys windows”, enlightened Doonan when discussing some of Barneys famous holiday window magic displays including Nancy Regan, Margaret Thatcher, and Madonna.
Now, with his latest tome readers will enjoy Simon Doonan’s consistent wit and humor that appeared in Confessions of a Window Dresser and Gay Men Don’t Get Fat. The Asylum is his love letter to the fashion industry, Doonan explained. “The Asylum is a welcome place for eccentric, creative people who wouldn’t have a job anywhere else”. In the first chapter, he comments on his close friend “Lizzie”, who worked at a psychiatric facility where they often found similarities between to the two worlds. Who would have thought?! As the book notes, no one is more suited to the asylum than the truly die-hard fashionista—after all, eccentricity and extremism are the foundations of great style. Mallis and Doonan also discussed New York fashion week, which had just ended. “Fashion week is a mad, mardi gras Coney island side show”, stated Doonan. He mentioned designer Thom Browne that has a chapter in his book, as having over the top avant-garde shows. For Spring 2014, Thom Browne’s showing was an asylum, models with smudged lipstick, and intensely complex outfits, slashed with latex and ruffles and nurses approaching attendees with white M&M’s to pass for pills. Proenza Schouler, additionally a highlight for Simon Doonan, brought back memories of Barneys purchasing the duo’s 1st collection that was their senior thesis. Later, a book signing was held, giving audience members an opportunity to meet Doonan before he travels to Seattle, Chicago and Boston for his book tour. Fashion Icons with Fern Mallis continues with André Leon Talley (10/8), Bruce Weber (11/13) and Kenneth Cole (12/11).