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THE ASYLUM by Simon Doonan

THE ASYLUM

A Collage of Couture Reminiscences

By Simon Doonan

Pub Date: Sept. 3rd, 2013
ISBN: 978-0-399-16189-6
Publisher: Blue Rider Press

High-fashion hijinks from the outspoken “Creative Ambassador” for Barneys New York.

After spending much of his life working with reed-thin models and quick-tempered designers, raconteur Doonan’s (Gay Men Don’t Get Fat, 2012) skewering of the couture world comes from a place both of witnessing the industry’s stylistic evolution and playing a key part within it. If readers are to believe the author’s melodramatic musings, fashion designers date hustlers and porn stars, and models are “legendarily cheap,” yet each plays an integral part of the fabulous “flock.” Spliced between cleverly narrated bits about his window dressing days, “fashion superdeity” Anna Wintour, urine drinking, and his best friend, a psychologist (whose work “in a nuthouse” resembles life in the fashion industry), are colorfully realized profiles of iconic designers like visionary couture doyenne Diana Vreeland, Coco Chanel, Tom Ford and Doonan’s Fire Island “beach neighbor” Michael Kors. Some of his earlier recollections nod fondly at Manhattan’s pre–Rudy Giuliani halcyon days in the 1980s when he rubbed elbows with “illustrious fashionrati” like Madonna, Calvin Klein and Marc Jacobs at the Gaiety, a Times Square gay male burlesque theater. Collectively, Doonan’s writing here is less biting than previous forays and, to his credit, more concerned with sharing an engaging memory than being snarky. The author often pauses midstream in a digressive retreat from critical (but no less hilarious) commentary on particular people (style show host Elsa Klensch) or places (Japan) to remark on a genuine fondness for them. Though he quips, “you have to admit, my sweeping generalizations are always so much more exciting than facts,” these snappy essays find Doonan surprisingly more sincere and charming than ever.

A gossipy, voyeuristic and reliably campy romp down the catwalks of the fashion asylum.