A Q&A With the Hysterical Barneys New York Creative Ambassador, Simon Doonan

Simon Doonan (one-time Obama White House holiday decorator and husband to designer Jonathan Adler) shattered more than one perception of couture culture during his recent appearance at Spoken Interludes reading series in Hastings-on-Hudson. Promoting his sixth book, The Asylum—a choke-on-your-cappuccino collection of his most outlandish experiences over the past 20-something years in the fashion industry—the  New Yorker by way of Great Britain said of fictionalized tell-all The Devil Wears Prada: “I didn’t recognize those people clawing past each other to get on top. Fashion is a refuge for kooky people, like me, that don’t feel at home elsewhere.” 

Q: Where do you think high fashion fits in in the suburbs?
A: My association with Westchester is that it’s very stylish and glamorous. Gene Pressman, who was my boss for so many years at Barneys, had a house in Westchester. It only took me 10 minutes to get here—we’re not talking about Scranton, darling. 

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Q: But it is thought of as a bit WASP-y and buttoned-up. 
A: I think those old preconceived ideas about, you know, people are only groovy in New York—it doesn’t apply anymore. I go all over the country and there’s no lag time anymore because of the Internet. Fashion has become this sort of global spectator sport. Everyone knows who Martin Margiela is.

Q: What’s your advice for ‘women of a certain age’? 
A: I don’t believe in age-appropriate dressing. I just wrote a column about it for Slate, because I think that’s sort of very un-American, the whole idea of inhibiting people because they’re getting older. If anything, you’ve earned your stripes, you can be more flamboyant. 

We asked Doonan to label a few of our most in-fashion neighbors. (As for the “devil,” herself? He calls Anna Wintour “pragmatic and an exemplary mother.”) 

Martha Stewart: Creative genius.

André Leon Tally: Sheer inspiration. He has this magical gift for getting people excited about the idea of fashion, the history of fashion.

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Blake Lively: She’s even more staggeringly good-looking in person, and very charming. You want one word though, right? I’d say, intriguingly blonde.

Hillary Clinton: A force of nature. Major. It’s been so amazing to watch her become this powerful figure. I admire her tremendously.

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