Simon Doonan, Creative Ambassador-at-Large of Barneys New York, is known for his quick wit and sharp tongue. So it wasn’t altogether surprising when he made headlines earlier this year for saying that Michelle Obama was not chic. But now it seems he’s reversed course—in a New Republic interview, he states, “The reality is, Mrs. Obama is quite chic, but not sort of in a vain, self-involved way.”
Naturally, the interviewer prodded Doonan about his change of heart, which he explained: “I guess I was getting sick of people talking about her appearance all the time, and I thought it was very unfair to her and borderline insulting.” He went on to say, “Public servants aren’t supposed to be wasting time indulging their vanity and their sense of fashion.”
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Doonan’s remarks are puzzling coming from someone as ensconced as he in the fashion world. Surely he realizes that a public interest in the First Lady’s style doesn’t necessarily detract from any other aspects of her character. Moreover, she has frequently used that interest as a platform to promote American designers and the domestic garment industry.
Mrs. Obama was in the news again this week, drawing sartorial praise for the Tracy Reese frock she wore to the 50th anniversary celebration of Martin Luther King Jr.’s March on Washington. Reese later stated in a press release, “We are honored that the First Lady would choose to wear one of our designs during the celebration of such a deeply significant historical moment.” Mrs. Obama looked radiant and entirely appropriate in the graphic floral print dress. The choice seems like a win-win for all involved.
“I think if somebody can joyfully flaunt themselves in a tutu, then bravo. We don’t have enough people doing that,” Doonan also said in his interview. So why exactly then does he think public figures should remain austere and unstylish? His latest tome, The Asylum: A Collage of Couture Reminiscences and Hysteria, will be released on September 3rd. Perhaps this is an example of the lunacy he highlights in the book.
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