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Funny Face

As world events go, there are probably more important ones than Donatella Versace's appearance in the windows at Barneys New York.

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NEW YORK — As world events go, there are probably more important ones than Donatella Versace's appearance in the windows at Barneys New York. But here are the photographers, at least 20 of them, lined up along the sidewalk for a shot of one of fashion's most over-the-top designers, standing in a window doing absolutely nothing. It's just too campy, a tongue-in-cheek play off her Janice-from-the-Muppet-show persona.

"I told her it would be like an aquarium," says Simon Doonan, the creative director of Barneys, before stepping into the frame to primp and pose with her. "It's good protection for a girl in 10-inch-high heels."

So for 10 minutes he and Versace smile and wave as a crowd of design majors from Iowa State University look on. The students may have come to see her, but they all know who her 5-foot, 4-inch, floral-shirt-wearing companion is. Says one: "I've seen him on E." Says another: "TMZ."

"I love Simon," Versace says a few minutes later, as the strap from her cocktail dress slides off her shoulder. "He loves to dare. He is never afraid, he doesn't think about commercial opinions."

The more accurate way to put it is that Doonan, 55, has very shrewdly and very calculatingly built a business off of his eccentricities. In the last decade, he's become an in-demand fashion commentator, a columnist for the New York Observer, a frequent contributor to Elle and a fairly well-received author. His memoir, "Nasty," is being developed as a TV show for the BBC. And this week, Doonan's new book, "Eccentric Glamour," hits shelves. It's a self-help guide about developing your own style, written by a man who seems way too ironic to ever find himself in that section of the bookstore. But desperate times call for desperate measures, and the sea of stylists in Hollywood has had a pernicious effect on fashion, according to Doonan.

"I want people to go back to the period where there are surprises and diversity," he says over lunch a few days later. "This deranged idea that everything should conform to some glamorous archetype is sucking the life out of fashion. It's a bad trend."
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