How a former fashion scribe has become the quirky TV spokesperson of the moment

By Degen Pener
Updated June 05, 1998 at 04:00 AM EDT
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Old Navy recruits Carrie Donovan for their newest ads

WHO Carrie Donovan, the kooky fashion lady with huge black glasses in the addictively wacky Old Navy TV ads.

REAL CLAIM TO FAME Former fashion doyenne of The New York Times Magazine, but probably unknown to anyone who lives west of the Hudson River.

HOW SHE JOINED THE NAVY After retiring in 1994, Donovan, 70, was hired by the then-fledgling Old Navy chain to write an ad — in the form of a fashion memo — to appear weekly in the Times. ”They had Hirschfeld draw me. It was on the tops of [New York] taxicabs. It was a hoot,” she says. Soon after, the Gap Inc. offshoot began its TV campaign starring Morgan Fairchild. ”I jokingly said, ‘Oh, I’d be awfully good on TV. If something happens with Morgan, let me know.”’ Although Fairchild stayed, Donovan was added to the ads’ cast of characters.

HER FAVORITE AD ”Destination Old Navy: Value,” the Airport-esque spoof in which she and her canine costar, Magic, wind up flying the plane.

THE SCOOP ON MAGIC ”It’s a she, you know. We all act like she’s a he. I don’t know why. Magic lives on the coast, as any star should. We film the ads at Silvercup Studios in Long Island City [N.Y.], and Magic flies in on the red-eye with her stand-in, Pebbles.”

HER AD WARDROBE All black. ”I wear my own clothes, a black cashmere sweater, my pearls, and my Chanel cuffs,” she says. ”The only thing they had me do was have a pair of glasses made with nonreflective lenses.”

ON HER LAST OLD NAVY SHOPPING SPREE SHE BOUGHT ”Some clogs; they have a platform sole, and they’re maybe the most comfortable thing I’ve worn in my life. The cardigan sweaters have very high armholes — I like that. And the palazzo pants; they’re these drawstring pajama pants. God knows what this fabric is, but it feels like wool jersey, and they are fabulous! I’ve bought three pairs. [Designer] Arnold Scaasi said he liked them and I told him, ‘Run into the store because everything goes and it doesn’t come back.”’

HER DISCOUNT Zippo. ”But nothing costs anything. You don’t need one, really.”

WHAT’S NEXT ”Someone said to me, ‘Well, you could have your own sitcom,”’ she says. ”But I don’t want to work any more than this.” Even so, casting agents should take note: Two weeks ago, Donovan got her SAG card. ”I have to think of reasons to flash that around,” she says, adding ”Sidney Lumet tells me they have a fabulous health plan.”

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