By and  on January 27, 2009

Simon Doonan has a thing for unconventional women. The Barneys New York creative director has published two books on the subject, and now Doonan has given Barneys’ spring catalogue his seal of approval.

“Dare to be Different” features the frothy top layer of women’s assortments; the retailer believes an economic downturn is no time to retreat from fashion with a capital F and prices with a capital P. Hence Balenciaga’s crocodile laser clutch for $13,500 and Nina Ricci’s $7,500 floral gown. “This is not a season when you’re going to get women to replenish their basics,” Doonan said. ‘“Dare to be Different’ is dedicated to women who reject conformity and embrace eccentricity.”

Doonan cast models as famous oddballs from history such as Isadora Duncan, Virginia Wolfe, Diana Vreeland, Siouxsie Sioux, Millicent Rogers, Edith Sitwell, Marchesa Casarti and Tina Chow. “The references aren’t explicit,” he said. “When people pick through [the pages] they’ll recognize them. They’re show-offs. They’re the women other women want to look like.” A model posed as the madcap jewelry-designing heiress Rogers is wearing a Moncler Gamme Rouge embroidered jacket ($5,000); Duncan is represented by a model wearing Derek Lam’s satin faille one-shouldered jumpsuit ($3,400), and a model inspired by Sioux is dressed in a black Fendi dress ($4,880).

Doonan said he rebelled against the “standard type you see on ‘The Hills,’ the blonde with the fake tan. This is the antithesis of that. It’s a call to arms to remember that the fashion icons of the past were women who dared to be different.”

Doonan and vice president of advertising Lina Kutsovskaya also took a different approach to Barneys’ three spring mailings for men, turning to up-and-coming performers rather than traditional models. “Lina wanted to get away from models,” said Doonan, noting the store opted for “super-groovy, emerging” talent instead. For its men’s designer mailer, Barneys used The Virgins, a New York-based rock band photographed by Alasdair McLellen. The men’s classic catalogue features actors including Luke Grimes, Lukas Haas, Peter Scanavino, Brady Corbet, Rafi Gavron and Vincent Kartheiser, shot by Mark Segal. “Bad Girls and the Boys who Love Them,” the co-ed Co-op mailer focuses on indie film actors Gabe Nevins and Nathaniel Brown, shot by Nick Haymes. “Using some chiseled Adonis isn’t relevant in our culture anymore,” Doonan said. “People today are now more interested in the back story.”

Barneys’ catalogues will be mailed in February.

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