This is the season for Fashion Weeks. So what better time than now to consider the world of style with Simon Doonan, “creative ambassador” for Barneys New York, and author of many autobiographical books, starting with “Confessions of a Window Dresser”.

asylum_cover_webSimon has just published his latest book, The Asylum, which takes a hilarious look back at some of the high and low points of his four decades in clothing and along the way, gives us a potted history of the recent history of fashion, from a zenith of high creativity in the 1980s, when high fashion was idiosyncratic and exclusive, to today’s “exciting” but, in Simon’s view, less creative period where the “entire world” is fascinated by fashion and has access to runway shows as well as mountains of product via the internet.

In the interview Simon talks about the connection between madness and fashion, and why rich people don’t make great fashion designers — the most creative, zany designers, in Simon’s experience, come from what he describes as “craptowns,” horrible places and poor families that create a conflict that propels individuals to create their way out.

Simon Doonan Susanne BartschHe also shares what The Devil Wears Prada got wrong (it didn’t show the lovable eccentricity of fashionistas, like Suzanne Bartsch, shown right with a younger Simon Doonan), as well as the notion of the “unkindness of chic,” and why Queen Elizabeth and Princess Kate Middleton must never, ever be “chic”, or even appear overly interested in fashion.

Read The Asylum and hear more from Simon Doonan on KCRW’s Guest DJ project, with Eric J. Lawrence, below.

In the interview Simon Doonan cites Jean Paul Gaultier as one of the many highly inspired designers in the 1980′s. He believes the Gaultier is emblematic of an era when designers had very distinctive and expressive voices. Brooklyn Museum is opening a show on Jean Paul Gaultier in October.

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