Simon Doonan, before he was a reality TV star (i.e. a few weeks ago, as of the beginning of Fall), made Barneys Department stores, and himself, internationally famous by creating window displays that were fantastical and cinematic, and which transformed the brand into a destination just to see them, regardless of the need or desire to shop. Barneys was the world’s first really cool department store, where the building was a premium fashion statement. It is not an exaggeration to say an empire was built on Doonan’s unique, flamboyant, artistic aesthetic.
He also recently authored Soccer Style, a brilliant book about the not-first-thing-you’d-think-of connection between soccer and style, (but you’d be wrong — from the sixties on, certain soccer stars have been as consistently cutting-edge stylish as rock stars). His previous books include his autobiography The Asylum, and Gay Men Don’t Get Fat.
What is the difference between style and fashion?
I have absolutely no idea. I know there is supposed to be a big difference. I know that there are some stylish people who are not necessarily fashionable. Lots of dictators were very stylish, but not really fashionable per se.
What does your show aim to achieve?
Making It is a feel-good fabulous competition NBC show about crafting. Amy Poehler and Nick Offerman are the hosts and me and Dayna Isom Johnson are the expert judges. Our goal is to get people in touch with their crafty creative selves, and to have a really, really, really, really good time. Fire up your glue gun!
What is the most annoying trend in women’s fashion right now?
I try not to get annoyed by anything. I am too old. I don’t want to have a heart attack. I just want people to experiment and have fun and not be self-critical.
What’s the one fashion essential every woman must have in her wardrobe?
Every woman should have an electric blue disco wig in her closet. It’s a reminder to go a little nuts every now and then and to not care what other people think. Self-expression is where it’s at.
What is the most stylish country in the world?
Japan! From the Shibuya girls to the Kabuki Onnagata to the avant-garde clothes at Comme Des Garcons, mesmerizing creativity is everywhere. And they have smaller sizes which is great for moi.
What place or places have most taken your breath away?
I grew up in England after the War when it was grim and grey. We did not travel much except to visit my relatives in Belfast. So now I am discovering England and dying over the beauty of the countryside and the architecture.
How important is style in the hotel experience? Who does it right?
I like a hotel to be comfy and unpretentious. Futuristic edgy architecture is great for airports, but hotels should be warm and welcoming. Soho House does it right.
What are your three favorite hotels in the world, and what is your favorite restaurant?
I love the Ace Hotel in Shoreditch because it is jammed with young people all having a blast. The Scalinatella in Capri is comfy and unpretentious. Am also loving the Dean Street Townhouse in Soho in London. Favorite restaurant? I love Musso and Frank on Hollywood Boulevard. It reminds me of living in LA in my wild and reckless 20s.
What is your idea of the perfect vacation, and where?
Last summer I stayed at Babington House buried in the English countryside, near Bath. Heaven.
Are straight American men a lost fashion cause?
Why the hate? Straight American men have the best iconic style: biker style, cowboy style, football and baseball style, preppy style, heavy-metal style, lumberjack style. Without straight American men (and gays) there would be no Ralph Lauren. There would be no men’s fashion without jocks and nerds.
Simon is the Creative Ambassador for Barneys New York, the author of Soccer Style and a judge on NBC’s Making It.