Book Review: The Asylum by Simon Doonan


“The Asylum”: A Collage of Couture Reminiscences..and Hysteria by Simon Doonan

Publisher: Blue Rider Press         Expected Publication date:September 3, 2013

** I received an ARC from Netgalley in exchange for a fair and honest review. Simon Doonan, the creative ambassador for Barneys New York, describes his comical adventures of his forty years in fashion. Over the years, Simon and “Lizzie”, his psychologist friend, have discussed the similarities between the worlds of psychiatry and fashion. The similarities between the two inspired him to name the title of his upcoming book, “The Asylum”.

“Comparing and contrasting the fashion world with the shenanigans of the folks at  Lizzie’s house of horrors proved both surreal and illuminating…In her profession, insistence upon the existence of patterns of any kind constitutes a red flag, a symptom of a fairly serious disorder. Eccentricity and extremism are common in Lizzie’s world…yet they’re also the foundation of great style”.

Doonan’s breezy conversational style of writing makes it a quick and fun read. With a  knack for witty storytelling, he gives us a sneak peek behind several famous fashion personalities. Here’s an example of his experiences working with the eccentric Diana Vreeland:

“I have many happy memories of working with Diana Vreeland. I remember DV engaged in a cold war with the conservation department. Obeying strict guidelines issued by the teams of lab-coat wearing, white-gloved conservation ladies was not in the Vreeland wheelhouse. Though much of the Met fashion archive was antique and disintegrating, Vreeland loved nothing more than to drag an 18th Century coat out of its tissue paper coffin and – quelle horreur! – try it on for size! As far as the conservation department ladies were concerned, this was the equivalent of throwing acid at the Mona Lisa.”

Jetting all over the world, surrounded with fashionistas and hustlers, his stories are fascinating. Between hanging out at a sleazy Times Square strip club with famous fashion designers, jet setting to South Beach with Donatella Versace, his unusual and quirky stories are told in incredible detail.

This memoir is a well written, comical and easy to read. I highly recommend reading this entertaining book.


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