Simon Doonan has been the designer of the Barneys New York windows for twenty five years, His column “Simon Says” is a staple of The New York Observer and he is the author of books Wacky Chicks: Life Lessons from Fearlessly Inappropriate and Fabulously Eccentric Women and Gay Men Don’t Get Fat.
What is it you love about being a window dresser?
Because I worked at Barneys I got to collaborate with the best designers on Earth: Alaia, Rei Kawakubo, Thierry Mugler, Lacroix, Romeo Gigli, Nicholas Ghesquierre, Olivier Theyskens…sorry to name drop! Plus I am very infantile, so I always loved the romper-room anything-is-possible aspect to window dressing. Over the years I have played so many roles and done so much freaky stuff, but dressing windows has brought me the most creative satisfaction. I love my glue-gun, and my staple-gun too.
Do you feel like you can write a screenplay about window dressing? Or is there already a movie in the works?
Stay tuned. Confessions of a Window Dresser has been doing the rounds since it came out in 1998. Hopefully it will happen before my teeth are sitting in a mug next to my bed.
Who would play Simon Doonan?
Linda Hunt! Just kidding. What about Hugh Dancy? Tres jolie, non?
Having worked at Barneys New York for 25 years, which windows have been your favorites?
I love my Tammy Faye Baker window from the late 80’s. When I met David Bowie he told me that was his fave. Can you imagine? I plotzed!
What are some of your most memorable career moments?
I went to Diana Vreeland’s memorial and sat next to Jackie Kennedy. I am so old that even I met people like Shelley Winters and Natalie Wood. I even met Erte. I remember Winston Churchill’s funeral. But you asked about career moments — let me get back to you.
Where do you like to shop besides, obviously, Barneys New York and Jonathan Adler?
I love the vintage stores in Palm Beach: Bruce Erehardt and Tony Dolce and Objects in the Loft. Love!
Your books speak to women. Where do you find your insights into their lives and challenges?
I am not sure I have any insights. I am very bossy and have a tendency to make sweeping generalizations. That seems to hit the spot.
How did you get into window dressing in the first place?
I got my first shot at windows through a bloke I was dating called Brian Bale. He used to let me help him with his freelance gigs, one of which was an Irish souvenir shop. Hello! The first time I was allowed to do wacky and creative displays was at a trendy tailor shop on Saville Row called Tommy Nutter. When Mick got married to Bianca he wore one of Tommy’s suits. That’s where I met Tommy Perse of Maxfield who brought me to live in LA when I was 25 and young and pretty, back in the 1970s.
Since your dog’s name is Liberace, I assume you’re a big fan of his?
Huge! I hate the notion of “good taste.” Liberace’s commitment to sequins has always inspired me.
You have been a window dresser, author, model, TV personality and more. What would you like to do next?
I love The Moth. Telling stories is a blast. If I could get paid to tell stories I would happily do that. Or maybe a fluffer in a strip club?