December weather may be inconsistent in New York, but holiday mainstays like the Rockettes, gridlock traffic and the Salvation Army’s sidewalk bell ringers remain.
Now another pre-Christmas force, Simon Doonan, is using his window-dressing skills for Lincoln Continental, designing installations for tonight’s launch of Coach Door edition in Brooklyn. To celebrate Continental’s 80th anniversary, the company will sell 80 vehicles with the center-opening doors. Doonan said of his involvement, “I put down the staple gun and the glue gun five years ago at Barneys, so it’s fun for me to pick it up again and create installations like this especially for such glamorous, objets d’art.”
His Lincoln Continental installation was inspired by the canvas backdrop that fashion photographer Irving Penn used for many of his shoots. (The lensman’s version was made from an old theater curtain found in Paris that he painted faintly with gray clouds.) “I thought it would be great to take that approach with a car. Here is this exquisite object that is almost like a Constantin Brâncusi sculpture in front of this sort of battered, fabulous canvas backdrop,” Doonan said
The design team was inspired by the great passion of the Sixties, more specifically the fashion of Audrey Hepburn and Jackie O, according to Kemal Curic, Lincoln chief exterior designer. “We always look at the historical, cultural overlaps — the pop culture, JFK, the Space Race. The pencil skirt was popular at that time. It was very elegant — the same as the vehicle,” adding that moving the door handles was in line with the Sixties’ clean aesthetic,” he said.
Through the years the car company collaborated with Hubert de Givenchy, Cartier, Bill Blass, Pucci and other fashion firms. In 1986, Givenchy’s sleek beige-and-brown Lincoln Continental interiors were celebrated with a capacity-crowd party at the Plaza hotel in New York and a second bash in Los Angeles. The roots of Lincoln Continental, meanwhile, sprang from a luxury vehicle that was customized for Edsel Ford in 1939. The Continental first introduced the center-opening doors in 1961. The new wheels won’t be racing on the open road until next summer, but drivers can pre-order the Coach Door model at the carmaker’s select Black Label dealerships for north of $100,000.
Shifting gears, Doonan is working on a book about the history of drag that will be out next fall. This spring he will be L.A.-bound to shoot the second season of NBC’s crafts-oriented show “Making It” with Amy Poehler, Nick Offerman and Dayna Isom Johnson. That’s also where he learned to drive in the Seventies in a Continental with an instructor he found in the Yellow Pages. “This incredible woman arrived in a Lincoln and took me on the freeway. I can still remember the blaring of horns as I was zooming along the Hollywood freeway because I was so incompetent.”