Simon Doonan is fashion’s irreverent son. In the world of high-end style, where predicting shoe trends can take on the importance of political strategy, Doonan likes to keep things light. Fun, even. The author, columnist and creative director of Barneys New York for more than 20 years lives by the fashion temple’s famous motto: “Taste. Luxury. Humor.” Taste—his own. Luxury—of course. Humor—always.
The original sin in Doonan’s book is trying to dress like everybody else, whether that means putting on micro-mini dresses or embellished T-shirts. Doonan admits that at Barneys “we tend to want people to want what we want them to want,” but he still preaches individual style and personal expression above all, especially when it comes to looking Vegas-style hot.
“I think the problem is that looking hot becomes so the driving force for a lot of people that the danger is that if you go for that look you end up looking like everybody else,” he says. “I’m not a puritan. If you want to dress super-trampy, I don’t care, but the real downside is that you can end up looking like everybody else.”
For Vegas ladies hitting the Strip, he suggests “evolving your own personal touches.”
“They can be small things or big things, but work on individuality, ’cause if everyone is doing hoochie and you’re doing hoochie, you’re just going to look like a bunch of hoochie-bots.”
Which isn’t to say that the man who thinks velvet jackets look smashing for daytime wants you to dress down. In fact, quite the opposite.
“There’s always been a theatricality about Vegas. You look at that movie Casino, and Sharon Stone looks really fabulous in that movie. If I was living in Vegas and needed some fashion stimulation, I might rent that movie, because she looks glamorous but not cheap.”
Not everyone can afford to buy Barneys’ brand of glamour, of course, but Doonan feels that especially in today’s tense economic climate it’s important to inject a little bit of luxury into everyday life.
“It’s good for morale to take some time and slap on a bit of lipstick. If you can’t buy a dress, buy a lipstick.”
Doonan’s dos and don’ts
We asked Barneys creative director and style savant Simon Doonan for his take on some celebrities who spend a lot of time strutting Las Vegas red carpets. Here’s what he had to say about their looks:
Carrot Top & Holly Madison: “They look so fantastic. Carrot Top has an iconic look, and I hope he’s wearing lots of sunblock. I like his look. It’s very sort of butch and rugged, which you don’t really need to wear if you’re a highly paid comedian. He’s dressing like a construction worker, which is very amusing because he’s not. She looks amazing. This dress looks like it’s corseted. … You’ve got to give it up to a girl who goes out in a corset. She’s going to sit in some event in that corset, so she’s working it. You’ve got to take your hat off to a sister who’s wearing a corset.”
Criss Angel: “I can’t wear this look. It’s, like, totally hard rock ’n’ roll, Tommy Lee. I could never pull that look off. Which is an example of why style is about self-expression. … It’s obviously who he is, and the handcuffs and everything … it’s hilarious.”
Paris Hilton: “She is so fantastic. She’s never not carrying on. If you did that, you’d say, ‘That’s some girl imitating Paris Hilton.’ It’s like she went out on Halloween as Paris Hilton. She’s like a parody of a parody of a parody of herself. You can’t ask for more than that. She’s wearing those Yves Saint Laurent shoes. We sell those, the cage bootie. My interest in her has been renewed because of the Conrad Hilton character on Mad Men.”
Matt Goss: “His look is very Rat Pack, very ’60s Vegas. I love it. I love Sammy Davis. I wish I’d come here then. I came in the ’70s. I’m old, but I’m not that old.”