As the old saying goes, there’s a fine line between genius and insanity—and there’s perhaps no place where that fine line gets blurred like the world of fashion. Barneys’ very own fashion legend, Simon Doonan, has seen it all, and lucky for us he’s sharing his most hilarious, most insane stories in his new book. Trust us: The Asylum: A Collage of Couture Reminiscences…And Hysteria needs a spot at the top of your reading list—just don’t read it anywhere where uncontrollable (even hysterical) laughter wouldn’t be appreciated. You’ve been warned.
Ambassador Doonan himself gave The Window a sneak peek at what to expect from his new tome. From caving-in ceilings to sex change operations, read on…and then order that book for even more dish.
Why did you call the book The Asylum?
The title is a play on the double meaning of the word ‘asylum.’ The book is about the fashion world, and I see fashion as being both a refuge—it’s a great place for outliers and eccentrics—and also a nut-house, as in insane asylum. Think Ab Fab! Keep in mind it’s a humor book.
What makes fashion an industry so conducive to eccentricity?
Creativity is the gasoline which fuels the fashion industry, and eccentric people are more creative and have unconventional ways of looking at the world. If you are a creative misfit, there will always be a place for you in the arms of mother fashion… hopefully.
Who are your favorite fashion eccentrics of the past, present and future?
There are so many! Madeleine Vionnet, Alaïa, Thom Browne, Jean Paul Gaultier, Gareth Pugh, Stephen Sprouse… I could never limit it to three.
How do you try and stay sane amongst it all?
I have always worked in retail, and retail keeps you grounded. Dealing with the general public gives you a daily reality check.
Any personal moments of hysteria you’d like to share?
Years ago I worked in a store in London. The display studio was really fun and full of kooks and funsters. One of my colleagues announced that he was going to become a she. Over the next few months we watched in amazement as this one bloke became a (surprisingly) beautiful woman. It was fascinating and impressive. I wish I had documented the change.
What’s your favorite wild memory in Asylum?
I love the chapter about Suzy Menkes, and the ceiling falling in at Michael Kors. The next day the headlines read, “Are You Prepared to Die for Fashion?” This happened decades ago, and right after it happened the CFDA decided to find an official safe show space. VOILA! The birth of fashion week as we know it today.
Anything too insane to include?
This book is a love letter to the fashion industry. I left out stuff which might have made people look bad. I am so lucky to have clawed my way into this great industry and to have held on for so long. The only person I make fun of is MOI.