by Samantha Lim on
If you’re fashion savvy on any level, you know who Simon Doonan is. The visual charisma he brings to the windows at Barney’s resonates for every style maven from the posh women uptown to the wild experimentalists downtown. Like many icons and influencers tend to do, he started sharing his views with the world through books. His sixth literary installment Gay Men Don’t Get Fat launched this past weekend, and Simon held several speaking engagements (including a very chic breakfast with moi) where he divulged the secret world of the stereotypically stylish gays to audiences young and old. The book’s 60,000 perfect words diffuse and dive into achetypes of all sorts – from the gays to the straight men to the French women – and leave you laughing out loud…in my case embarrassingly so whilst alone in the Grey Dog Café. Here are some insights he shared, preparing us for what was to come in the book.
On stereotypes: I love stereotypes, sweeping generalizations and everything that is un-PC. Stereotypes are fun to goof around with and, in a way, you sort of diffuse them if you throw them around.
On gay food versus straight food: People have the silly notion that there are four food groups. There is really only gay food and straight food. I’m advocating a balance of the two. An oversized beef burrito is basically a phallic symbol, it’s obviously so straight. The gayest food has got to be macaroons, in all pastels and shades. If you lived on them you would explode into a nuclear cloud of gayness. Sushi is also a gay food. You’re taking a big sloppy fish and making it into little bon bons. That seems really gay to me.
On bringing the word “naff” to America: The word naff is a very useful term, you use it to describe something that is just really tragic and dreary and doesn’t have any style, a lack of panache. There is no American word for that.
On female inspiration: Suzanne Bartsch was a woman I found to be really inspirational and funny.
On his message to the masses: I want everyone to be less self-critical and feel less self-conscious, that’s my mission in life.
On his favorite designers: Alexander Wang – he’s incredible, has such energy, he’s really groovy. Azzedine Alaia – it’s fun to go into his boutique and turn the dresses inside out, the construction and level of design is amazing. Paul Poiret – who did all the exotic stuff at the early turn of the 20th century. Also Christian Lacroix, Rei Kawakubo, Yohji Yamamoto.
On International Gays: The gays in London tend to be very mod, they wear their Fred Perry’s. In Japan its crazy, the level of flamboyance, style, and experimentation is incredible. In Paris people are so dressed up its great. There are lots of cocktail hats, lots of transgendered things but not in a drag way, more like a tweed cape and Birkin bag, but in a man way.
On Straight Man Fashion: If you’re in America and you put a lot of attention on how you look and dress, in US context you’re going to be perceived as gay. If you do that elsewhere it may not. I have a chapter on men’s style and what I’m advocating is that gay men and straight men should dress the same but they have to pick from three looks: the perverse prep (Thom Browne, Band of Outsiders, comes from workwear) or the heritage henry (Carhartt, Levis, heritage brands) or the douchebag look (Jersey Shore, Ed Hardy, Abercrombie) it works. It’s all about juxtapositions in the world of fashion, it’s a jigsaw puzzle. It doesn’t work individually, it works as a whole.
On Fads: There’s absolutely nothing in the fashion scene I would like to see go. I love all of it. I don’t have the ability to say “oh yes she looks terrible” because it’s all subjective — as long as she’s happy and having a good time I don’t have that need to kick her to the curb. Probably because I’ve been so involved in fashion history I see it as a landscape. It is not about you, it is about fitting into the social landscape.
On Having Your Own Look:
You’ve got to have your own look, it’s all about self expression. Even if that is objectively kind of demented. Marc Jacobs once said fashion isn’t about trends any more, but it is about having your own look. Self expression is the key to everything. Even if you have a mullet at least you look like yourself. Good. Go buy two mullets.