But then Doonan, who is in his mid-50s, has long led a fabulous life. As a Reading boy turned window-dresser turned creative director of Barneys and celebrated newspaper columnist, he has documented many of his adventures in two memoirs, the second of which, Beautiful People, is the inspiration for a new television series. The book recounts Doonan's escape from Reading, accompanied by his best friend Biddie, in pursuit of the elusive beautiful people of London - and beyond. He says that the series has done "a magnificent job. They preserved a lot of essential elements, and the message of looking for the beautiful people, but here they are all along."
Doonan got his first sniff of the high life in John Lewis in Reading. This was a summer job taken after leaving the local cork factory, which, he says, "was hideous, because these insects used to crawl out of the cork, and I thought working in a shop would be better - you could get all dressed up and not get covered in insects". After university he returned to the store and contemplated his next move. "Biddie was in soft furnishings and I was in clocks and watches and we thought, we have to get the fuck out of Dodge."
Still, John Lewis had taught him a great deal and introduced him to the world of window-dressing. "I especially loved the dress fabric windows," he recalls with glee. "That's something you don't see much any more because people don't make their own clothes now, but back then they would have a birch log and a piece of fabric over it like that," he wafts his hands in the air, "and they would pull up each fabric like that, and nylon it so it was invisibly suspended. And then you'd throw a pair of pinking shears on the floor, and a little fan of patterns just to remind people what the hell it is they're supposed to be looking at. I wish we sold dress fabrics at Barneys so I could do that!"