Simon Doonan on His New Book, Style Icons, and The Gayest Food

On Thursday, while most folks were on their way to work, we were treated to breakfast at Barneys with the witty Simon Doonan, the department store's ambassador-at-large, to promote his new book, Gay Men Don't Get Fat.

The book -- a humorous play on "French Women Don't Get Fat" -- is meant to serve as a kind of carry-it-around best friend for women to help them look and feel fabulous. While the content may be funny, Doonan asserts that the reasons for it are very much based in the real: "I do think that it's a very complex time to be a girl," Doonan says. "You have to look like Gisele, you have to be professionally successful -- you can't be a dumb blond anymore, you have a to have a lifestyle brand and, like, a jewelry company, so Gisele and Sumner Redstone wrapped in one ... You have to start popping out children, being a mom. I've watched the expectations pile up on women, and I think that if I was a chick, I would make sure that I had a velvet entourage, if you know what I'm saying, to help me navigate this world of ever-increasing expectations."

Enter, Gay Men Don't Get Fat, which seeks to help women navigate everything from the differences between "gay" food and "straight" food to aging gracefully. Beyond advice, however, anyone who's ever met Doonan will tell you that it's his wit that makes the book so fun to read. As such, here are some of the best Doonan-isms uttered over breakfast:

On the current fashion landscape:
"There's so many now, it's just incredible. When I first started going to shows in the early '80s there were, like, 20 shows. Now there's, what, 500? And that's just in New York, it's incredible ... I think when it was a smaller universe, it was easier to be really distinct. Like Thierry Mugler and Yohji, Versace -- they were all at the same time, but they were all so radically different. Now the fashion landscape is so vast, it's really incomprehensible in a way ... As much as fashion is about change and velocity and evolution, it's amazing the number of designers like Alaia, Manolo, Christian Louboutin -- nobody's bumped them off their pedastal yet. Some of these young people need to start nudging those old people out of the way."

On the difference between gay food and straight food:
"I can't believe that people thought that there were four food groups, when it's so obvious that there are only two: gay food and straight food. An oversize beef burrito, hello ... it's obviously so straight. I'm not advocating gay food, I'm advocating a balance of the two ... If you order the steak or meatloaf, then you need a little nelly salad to go with it. Now the gayest food ... I think it's gotta be macarons. A box of macarons in all pastel shades. And I think if you lived on macarons, you would just explode in a nuclear cloud of gayness."

On a word he's looking to bring to the States:
"Naff is a word that's been around for years in England, and it's the word that you use to describe somebody or something that is just really tragic and dreary and doesn't have any style. See, there is no American word for that." [Ed note: The book outlines how naff is actually a delightful acronym gay men used to use to identify a straight guy.]

Who he's looking forward to seeing on the red carpet season: 
"People always go back to Bjork and her swan dress simply because nobody's worn anything that interesting in the intervening years. That was how many years ago? Fifteen? We haven't had anything fun like that in ages. But Tilda Swinton, I'm always looking forward to seeing her ... Oh! And that chick from The Dragon Tattoo! The film was "meh" but she's pretty great. I hope that she's able to take some of that energy and insanity onto her red carpet appearances. It would be terrible if she showed up all groomed and appropriate."

On possible backlash from French people:
"I'm not walking past the French embassy anytime soon."

On straight male fashion:
"I have a chapter on men's style, and what I'm advocating is very wildly revolutionary: That gay men and straight men should dress the same, but they have to pick from three basic looks. Those looks are The Perverse Prep, which is like a Thom Browne / Band of Outsiders kind of parody of preppy-ness, or The Heritage Henry look, which is like Carhartt, Levi's, Woolrich -- all those heritage brands ...  and then, of course, there's The Douchebag Look, which, you know, works for gay men and straight men. We don't sell it at Barney's, I should emphasize."

On his love of all manner of style:
"I love all of it. I was once on that show 'Fashion Police,' and they never invited me back, and I know it's because I don't have the ability to say, 'Oh yes, she looks terrible in that look.' Because it's all subjective. She's happy and having a good time. I don't understand that need to kick people to the curbn because you're subjectively or objectively saying they don't look right. Like, 'Don't you hate Uggs?' Not really! I think they're funny. Uggs are very comfortable, and to go through the world like, 'Aren't Crocs just awful?' Really?"

On the importance of having your own look:
"It really is about self-expression. You've got to have your own look, your own thing going on. So I'd say [approving], 'Oh, she's got her own look!' even if it's objectively kind of demented. Marc Jacobs actually said that years ago. He said, 'Fashion isn't about trends anymore, it's about having your own look.'"

On the difference between fashion style icons and popular style icons:
"You have high-fashion icons like Daphne Guinness and Tilda Swinton ... then you have popular style icons, which are Paris Hilton ... look at all the girls who dye their hair blond and carry a purse and carry a drink and carry a chihuahua. She was a huge influence on the way girls looked ... She's in pop culture, not fashion."

Contact Us