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Qui Êtes-Vous, Simon Doonan?


Tonight, Barneys New York creative ambassador at large Simon Doonan kicks off his weekend Fashion in Film festival with a fête at the Museum of Arts and Design (MAD), where Qui Êtes-Vous, Polly Maggoo? will be screening. Before the festival, hosted by the Film Society of Lincoln Center and MAD, Doonan took a few minutes to talk with about the “twisted and kinky” film preferences of fashion insiders and muse over Liberace, the movie.

How did the idea for this film festival come about?
The folks at Vanity Fair called me and said they wanted to do a fashion film festival and I jumped right in. The most interesting thing about film and fashion people is that fashion people take their inspiration from film all the time, but from very unexpected places.

How so, exactly?
It’s not from Funny Face or Breakfast at Tiffany’s like one might expect, but more obscure, twisted, kinky, and strange movies. Fashion people are a little more perverse and they are always looking for something haunting that comes from a Rothmeyer or a movie like Qui Êtes-Vous, Polly Maggoo? or something like that.

How did you pick Maggoo and the other films like X, Y, and Zee and Hearts and Craft?
I came up with a huge list and then we worked our way through it. We included new things, like the Hermès and the Rick Owens documentary, but also some classics. I think today, with the whole red-carpet scene, people forget real fashion is strange and unusual and intriguing. This movie [Maggoo] captures that notion of the strange world of fashion. It’s often counterintuitive. I always say, “Don’t look to fashion for normalcy and healthy role models.” William Klein did a great job of capturing that masochistic and mysterious side of fashion. The opening scene, girls are wearing these aluminum outfits and the girls are saying, “It cuts, ouch!” That movie, to me, shows the strangeness and the beauty of fashion. At the end of the day, everything else is just clothes. Which is fine, but that’s not my idea of fashion.

What’s your favorite fashion film of all time?
Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill! It’s funny but fantastically stylish. When you see it you will see how many Italian Vogue shoots and Guess ads and editorials over the years have been influenced by this movie. It’s lots of bad girls and girls with too much eyeliner. Also, a film like Grey Gardens had so much influence.

Any upcoming fashion films on your radar right now you are excited about?
I heard they are making a movie of the life of Liberace. I think that could result in a whole new wave of bedazzling—definitely. When Faye Dunaway wore that whole look in Bonnie and Clyde, that look was just cusping and then women saw her look so amazing in it and then everyone started wearing it. There’s been a lot of austerity with a military influence in fashion these days. I could see the bravado of Liberace having a huge impact. Chinchilla capes for men, hello!

Fashion week is in full force. What are you most excited for?
Very excited about our Carine Roitfeld party. I get to do karaoke and I’m such a show-off, so I can’t wait! But seriously, don’t miss X, Y, and Zee with Liz Taylor. It’s extremely hilarious from a style point of view. It’s like Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf but with crazy caftans, it’s just hilarious.

For more information on the festival, click here.

Photos: David X Prutting /; William Klein / Courtesy of Vanity Fair