Barneys Creative Ambassador Simon Doonan Becomes High School Principal

by Natasha Silva-Jelly
Simon posing with drawing of Simon poster

Simon Doonan Barney’s Creative ambassador at large. Photo by Justin Crawford.

Simon Doonan, Barneys’ creative ambassador, shot to fame with his dazzling window displays for the luxury retailer. Last week the fashion guru and author stepped out from behind the glass and into the role of “principal” at New York’s High School of Fashion Industries (HSFI), where he shared his pearls of wisdom with fashion’s future heavyweights…

Doonan on his gig as principal…
“Chatting to the HSFI kids takes me back to being 17 and full of fashion fabulosity. I showed them how to make an inexpensive window prop by stretching old pantyhose in different directions. They were very amused—mostly because being so young, they were totally unfamiliar with the whole notion of pantyhose. Hanging out with them for a day was a great reminder to stay loose, groovy, and authentic.”

Student Ry’Anne Reynoso on Doonan…
“The biggest thing I took away from ‘principal’ Doonan is that thinking outside the box is bland. He said criticism is an aspect of life you shouldn’t focus on and that you can do anything you put your mind to. He showed us you don’t need to be a designer or artist to fabricate something as little as a bottle cap into a masterpiece.”

Student Natalia Bielonko…
“I had the honor of working with Simon Doonan over the summer but it was even better to show off to my friends that he would be our principal for a day. His words that struck me most were, ‘my dream was unconscious; it happened gradually.'”

Student Diamond Baker…
“I asked ‘principal’ Doonan what he’d still like to accomplish career-wise and he admitted when he was younger his was focus was on getting a job that paid his bills. But he said today’s society is centered around ambition and he was lucky enough to work his way up to have a successful career that allowed him to do what he loved every day.”

Student Hezekiah Delarosa…
“From the moment I sat down next to ‘principal’ Doonan he expanded my creative mind. We talked about creativity at a young age and how we had the same artistic vision of taking everyday objects and turning them into something extravagant. I learned it’s not everyone that can visualize beauty within simplicity. “

 

Simon instructing visuals class on window display

“Principal” Doonan and HSFI students. Photo by Justin Crawford.

 Student Nicholas Liriano…
“As an aspiring photographer I had the great opportunity of shooting ‘principal’ Doonan as he worked. I also got to chat to him and felt very inspired to learn about his creative take on window design.”

Student Marrero Guillermo…
“As a young window dresser wanting to gain insight into visual merchandising, I quizzed ‘principal’ Doonan about his first job at Barneys and how he progressed his career. He explained, with his usual humor and wit, how he landed his job by being humble and starting with freelance work. He told me to always put my all into everything and that your career is built on important moments of your life.”

The lowdown on HSFI:  

The relationship between HSFI and Barneys dates back to the ’70s when Fred Pressman (who helmed the speciality retailer for two decades and made it the luxury designer melting pot it is today) instituted a summer internship program for students. Fashion 101 is the CFDA/Barneys event that provides a full day of fashion immersion to HSFI students. HSFI was founded in 1926 as Central Needle Trades High School in the garment district, and today it’s the only high school in the U.S. that combines fashion with traditional curriculum. In 2014, HSFI students representing New York joined First Lady Michelle Obama at the Fashion Education Workshop at the White House and at the Ribbon Cutting Ceremony for the Anna Wintour Costume Center at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

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