Simon Doonan Second-guesses Fashion’s Charity Obsession

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Simon toasts your health. Photo: Patrick McMullen

If you've noticed that as of late every other fashion event, line, or product seems to have a charitable tie-in, you're not alone. The beautiful Simon Doonan — the Liberty-print clad, puckish face of Barneys — spent a good thousand words sizing up and dressing down the "new hair-shirt consciousness" of fashion in his regular Observer column. About the charitable partnerships, which have become as standard as booze at a store opening (see left), Simon says, "Whatever the reason, the fashion world is clearly in some kind of guilt-riddled meltdown about its basic raison d’être and is scrambling to find meaning in chiffon pleats and sequined gussets."

Well, sure: Watching banks, car manufacturers, and the Dow sink below the waves certainly contributes some to the not-so-sudden existential malaise and yen for giving among the Prada-and-Champagne set. Also, there's the constant aspirational aspect of the fashion world — always melding with or trying to match the sway of the society-benefit crowd. But ol' Si is right to question the depth of this current generosity. "Blimey, mate! I just thought I was buying a new crepe de Chine brunch blouse. I had no idea I was saving the world as well!" Even as he champions his own favorite cause, Keep a Child Alive, Doonan reminds us that the "thirst for transformative gorgeousness" is at the core of fashion. Expecting it to take the place of true philanthropy (a noble pursuit that needs no window dressing) is perhaps too much. Well played, sir.

The Cause That Distresses [NYO]