Ask Me Another
11:02 pm
Thu May 10, 2012

Simon Doonan: Who Are You Wearing?

Originally published on Tue May 7, 2013 7:36 pm

Simon Doonan, style guru and Creative Ambassador at Large for Barneys New York, believes he can sometimes dish out style tips that verge on appalling. "I'm not that helpful gay," he tells Ask Me Another host Ophira Eisenberg, "I give very anarchic, demented advice." But with a little prodding, Doonan turns his fashionably critical eye toward some regrettable, yet hilarious style choices of the Ask Me Another staff. Turns out, a pair of wacky purple glasses is best for developing one's "signature flourish." Similarly tongue-in-cheek advice is found in Doonan's latest book, Gay Men Don't Get Fat, which is part memoir and part self-help guide for straight people.

We put Doonan's couture know-how to the test in an Ask Me Another Challenge about iconic fashion moments, called "Who Are You Wearing?" Plus, this week's lucky winner receives an enviable gift of lunch at Barneys and a personal closet consultation from Doonan himself. J'adore!

About Simon Doonan

Writer, bon-vivant, window dresser and fashion commentator Simon Doonan has more than three decades of experience in the fashion industry.

Doonan has written five books: Confessions of a Window Dresser, Wacky Chicks, a memoir entitled Beautiful People and Eccentric Glamour. His latest book is Gay Men Don't Get Fat. He has written regularly for The New York Observer, The Daily Beast, and currently writes the Slate column, Notes from the Fashion Apocalypse.

A TV comedy series based on Beautiful People aired in the UK, the US and Australia. Simon has been a regular guest on America's Next Top Model, VH1, Full Frontal Fashion and The Joy Behar Show.

Doonan has won many awards for his window designs, including the Council of Fashion Designers of America Award. In 2009 he was invited by President and Mrs. Obama to decorate the White House for the Holidays. In 2010 Simon was commissioned by Target to design the season's Halloween costumes.

Simon Doonan lives in New York City with his partner, the ceramicist and designer Jonathan Adler, and their Norwich terrier Liberace.

In the video below, Simon Doonan gives a tour of the Barney's New York display studio for his tongue-in-cheek style guide, Eccentric Glamour.

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE)

OPHIRA EISENBERG, HOST:

Welcome back to ASK ME ANOTHER, NPR's show for those of you who eat Trivial Pursuit for breakfast. I'm your host, Ophira Eisenberg and joining me is this week's mystery guest, style, fashion, culture icon, Mr Simon Doonan everybody.

(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE)

EISENBERG: Welcome to ASK ME ANOTHER.

SIMON DOONAN: Thank you for having me.

EISENBERG: My pleasure. Now for our listeners, Simon is wearing one of his iconic floral shirts.

(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE)

EISENBERG: It's a beautiful blue and white. Yeah give him a hand, it looks fantastic.

(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE)

EISENBERG: Now did you put on that shirt because you were like, I need to dress for radio?

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

DOONAN: Yes, and that's the same reason that I put on matching panties.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

EISENBERG: Oh, he's showing them to our studio audience.

DOONAN: Hello.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

EISENBERG: No, wouldn't it be hilarious to have a joke like that? But that is your thing, you always wear a floral shirt, would you always? Maybe not always, maybe when you're hanging around the house?

DOONAN: Well people... people always ask me for style advice.

EISENBERG: Yes.

DOONAN: And the only thing - I'm not a helpful person by the way, I always - I give very bad advice like run home and throw out all your work clothes or plunge your breasts into ice cold water.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

DOONAN: Like I give terrible advice to people.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

EISENBERG: Can I... can I ask you one question very quickly?

DOONAN: What?

EISENBERG: What circumstance should we be plunging our breast into ice cold water?

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

DOONAN: Well, that's what I mean; I'm not that helpful gay, you know like...

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

DOONAN: I give very anarchic, demented advice. But the one useful thing that I do tell people is that, you should develop a signature flourish, OK? So it could be oversized eyewear, it could be a little scarf tied thusly, or it...

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

EISENBERG: To the side?

DOONAN: To the side. Or it could be a flowery shirt. So you need a signature flourish because people will remember you. Oh there's that little dude with the floral shirt, you know.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

DOONAN: I often hear that when I'm walking down the street.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

EISENBERG: OK, so you are the - I believe the title is Creative Ambassador-at-Large for Barneys, which makes me think you're flying around the globe to different Barneys embassies. Is that how it works?

DOONAN: It does involve that and it does involve wearing a sash.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

DOONAN: And, often when I'm in restaurants, somebody rushes up with a big Bakelite phone and says, this phone call is for you, Ambassador Doonan.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

EISENBERG: Ambassador Doonan.

DOONAN: That's what it involves, it's very complex.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

EISENBERG: It is.

DOONAN: And I think the At Large is a sort of oblique reference to my lack of height.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

EISENBERG: OK, obviously you're stylish, fabulous, knowledgeable at all things when it comes to styles and trends, so I actually asked our staff here about some of their more questionable fashion choices that they've made, either presently or in the past and I have them here, that I'd like you to judge. Now we've removed their names to protect them, so feel free to mock away and judge however you see fit.

OK, this is a little quiz we're calling Queer Eye for The Puzzle Guy.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

EISENBERG: How do you feel about wearing pajamas in public?

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

DOONAN: Well, I love any kind of eccentricity and I think that, my thing is like, if you want to grow a mullet, just grow a really lustrous long mullet. If you want to wear pajamas in public, wear pajamas all the time.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

DOONAN: Be the person that wears pajamas. So it's about confidence and conviction.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER AND APPLAUSE)

EISENBERG: Right, there's nothing like wearing pajamas and then there's belting pajamas, which means you're making a choice.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

EISENBERG: That's what I would say. How do you feel - did you see Jonathan Coulton's glasses? Our musician?

DOONAN: Yes.

EISENBERG: Now for everybody else, he sort of wear - it's sort of '70s folk band-inspired frames with purple tints to the lenses and they are prescription.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

EISENBERG: Simon, go ahead.

DOONAN: I actually noted his glasses and I thought, those glasses are great. He needs to wear them because, otherwise he looks a bit too folksy, so he - no offense. He needs the glasses because, as a musician, you must always appear a little bit louche.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

EISENBERG: Louche?

DOONAN: And those - you must - You know, to be a musician, a performer, your life should have some component of hedonism.

EISENBERG: Oh that's louche, louche is hedonism?

DOONAN: Yeah.

EISENBERG: Louche, I love louche, I didn't know that before.

DOONAN: And when you - when someone takes your picture, louche is a great word to say, louche.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

DOONAN: Instead of - instead of cheese, like louche. It's much better. There's a tip. See, I am helpful.

EISENBERG: That is so helpful.

(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE)

EISENBERG: How about the airbrushed happy face T-shirt that Art was wearing from a bar mitzvah he obtained, you know, perhaps a decade or two ago?

DOONAN: Well I thought it was great. I would like to see it with some kind of happy face - you know those wrestler pants that are really wide and...

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

DOONAN: OK. Again, a slight lack of conviction. Like, all bets are off, eccentricity is great, you've got to like really go over the top. Turn up the volume, more happy faces.

EISENBERG: More commitment.

DOONAN: Commitment, darling, hello.

EISENBERG: Commitment. OK and lastly, a suede fringed cowboy jacket worn by a six-foot-seven-inches giant of a man, who may also share the stage with us?

DOONAN: I'm assuming he's wearing it with nothing else, right?

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

EISENBERG: You're right, that would be the only acceptable way to wear it.

DOONAN: Yeah, absolutely, with really long fringe.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

EISENBERG: Simon, I really feel you've given us a great deal of advice. You were unbelievably helpful. I want to say louche all night long, frankly. OK, that was not the actual quiz, we actually have an ASK ME ANOTHER challenge for you. Are you ready to take our challenge?

DOONAN: Yes.

EISENBERG: OK.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

EISENBERG: Give him a hand and we'll walk you over to your podium.

(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE)

EISENBERG: So Simon, we have a bit of a fashion quiz for you and we have you playing for a member in our audience. As people were being checked in, this person was identified as being dressed fantastic. So you will be playing for Rebecca Serba(ph), Rebecca, do you want to stand up?

(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE)

EISENBERG: Where are you?

So depending how this goes, she may or may not win a prize.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

EISENBERG: Simon? This game is about the perennial question, Who Are You Wearing?

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

EISENBERG: For example, Jonathan, who are you wearing?

JONATHAN COULTON: I am wearing pants by Dickies.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

EISENBERG: That is very louche.

COULTON: And the shirt is by accident, so.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

EISENBERG: Brave, you're very brave, my friend. OK.

COULTON: Thank you, thank you.

EISENBERG: So we want to know how well you know iconic fashions and the people brave enough to rock them. You get five questions right and win. We will begin. Perhaps the most famous little black dress of all time was worn by Audrey Hepburn in the opening scene of the film "Breakfast at Tiffany's." Who was she wearing?

DOONAN: Hubert de Givenchy.

(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE)

EISENBERG: You can use it if you want, you can ding in, why not?

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

EISENBERG: At the 1999 Oscars, Celine Dion was wildly criticized for wearing a Galliano for Dior white suit and fedora. Why did the fashion police blow the whistle on her?

DOONAN: The jacket was reversed.

EISENBERG: I know, what was she thinking?

DOONAN: Oh, it looked great. I thought it was fabulous, you didn't like it?

EISENBERG: Mmmm... oh, maybe it was her music.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

EISENBERG: But you are correct, you are correct. For her husband's inauguration in 2009, Michelle Obama wore a yellow gold sheath dress with a matching coat, designed by Isabel Toledo. Ms Obama added her own accessories in the form of green gloves. Who designed the gloves?

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

DOONAN: Mmmm. I actually have no idea.

EISENBERG: Mm.

DOONAN: Quel horreur!

EISENBERG: Interesting, oh people in the audience. Quel horreur! All right, audience, go ahead.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: J. Crew.

EISENBERG: J. Crew.

(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE)

EISENBERG: Gasp. Gasp. I know. At the 1994 premiere of "Four Weddings and a Funeral," what actress upstaged her date by wearing a black Versace gown with a plunging neckline held together by gold safety pins?

DOONAN: Elizabeth Hurley.

EISENBERG: Elizabeth Hurley.

(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE)

EISENBERG: For an event celebrating JFK's 45th birthday, Marilyn Monroe wore a flesh-colored gown with 2500 rhinestones that was so tight, she had to be sewn into it. Hm-mm. Who was she wearing?

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

EISENBERG: Simon Doonan.

DOONAN: Well, Jean Louis.

EISENBERG: C'est correct, yes.

(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE)

DOONAN: Or Jean Louis.

EISENBERG: Jean Louis. Jean Louis. OK, at the 2010 MTV Video Music Awards, Lady Gaga made her usual very subtle entrance wearing a meat dress designed by Franc Ferdinand. What cut of meat was it? [POST-BROADCAST CORRECTION: The designer's name is Franc Fernandez.]

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

EISENBERG: Yes.

DOONAN: Skirt steak.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER AND APPLAUSE)

EISENBERG: You're right. 40 pounds of it, 40 pounds. Skirt - which is - that's what - of course, what other kind of steak would you use for a dress? Skirt steak.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

EISENBERG: Makes perfect sense. Your final question. At the 2012 Grammys, Nicki Minaj wore a blood-red Versace cape and brought with her a living accessory. What was it?

DOONAN: A rabid aardvark.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

EISENBERG: That would be one way to put it, yeah. That is not correct but I enjoy that image a lot. Does anyone in the audience want to weigh in?

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: Oh, the Pope.

EISENBERG: She brought a elderly man dressed as the Pope. That is correct, that was her...

(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE)

EISENBERG: But you did it. You scored way enough points to award Rebecca with her prize. Rebecca...

(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE)

EISENBERG: ...congratulations, you get a copy - a signed copy of Simon Doonan's book, "Gay Men Don't Get Fat."

(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE)

DOONAN: Am I done?

EISENBERG: You are done, Simon.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

EISENBERG: Thank you so much, you were fantastic. (Unintelligible) You're done.

(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE)

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG "MR FANCY PANTS")

COULTON: (Singing) Chances are your pants are not as fancy as the pair of very fancy pants a Mr. Fancy Pants would wear. When everybody's marching in the fancy pants parade, he's going to pass the test, he's going to be the best, the best in terms of pants. You look in every catalogue and shop and every store, 'cause even though you have 100 pants you want some more. Suddenly see the greatest pants you've ever seen.

(Singing) Even though you know it's going to cost a lot of dough, you have to have the world's best pants. Say a little prayer for Mr. Fancy Pants. The whole world knows it's only clothes and deep inside he's sad. Make the big announcement and the trophy goes to you, you thought you had some fancy pants and now you know it's true. You look at Mr. Fancy Pants and hold the trilby high! Everybody cheers while he's blinking back the tears.

(Singing) He doesn't even have the best pants. Say a little prayer for Mr. Fancy Pants, it's all he had but don't feel bad. He'd do the same to you.

(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE)

EISENBERG: Fancy Pants himself, Jonathan Coulton. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.