When Ken Downing speaks, Neiman Marcus – and, by extension, its customers – listens. That’s in part because he occupies a very important place in the luxe Dallas-based retail family as fashion director. But also because he sets and annunciates trends in such a stylish, charming manner.
So it was no wonder that Julie Gaynor — vice president and general manager of Neiman Marcus Westchester — says she was looking forward to his recent appearance at the White Plains store, along with some 75 patrons who came to hear, and see, what he had to say.
And Downing didn’t disappoint with one of the best fashion shows this side of Mary Jane Denzer’s Oscar de la Renta show for the 2013 White Plains Hospital gala.
Pencil-slim with a shock of blond hair — think a kinder, warmer Andy Warhol — Downing honed his fashion instincts at the knee of his mother, whose style was part Cher, part Mary Tyler Moore, he says. And it’s safe to assume that Cher, Mary and mom would’ve been at home at his “Trend Report” show where the runway featured many ’70s looks. The Me Decade of Watergate, disco, bellbottoms, “Rocky,” three Triple Crown winners and magical New York Yankee teams continues to have a moment with clothes that exemplify “an amazing folkloric spirit” — the show opened and closed with the same flowing print skirt, repurposed — as well as wide-legged pants.
“You need to embrace the wide pant,” Downing tells his audience.
Another sign of the ’70s — the layered look. “I love being in the Northeast,” he says, “because you can layer and wear coats with abandon. But for Downing, layering also means mixing patterns, textures and accessories — lace and suede, crystals and pearls (“the unsung hero of the runway”), fringed scarves and teal velvet flower chokers.
“So pretty on you, my love,” he tells the female models.
But the layered effect isn’t limited to the ladies. The guys can step out in style by mixing it up with a tux jacket, turtleneck and distressed denim pants.
The blazer — once a staple of women’s wardrobes as it is always of men’s — is making a comeback, particularly for the resort season, for which sherbet colors rule. Pair the classic jacket, Downing says, with a handbag you can carry in the crook of your arm, which enables you to show off a ring on every finger. As for makeup, the palette is softer with a petal pink lip and a strong brow. But if you do go red — hey, you’re allowed — make it a matte lip in Bobbi Brown’s Red Carpet. (Brown did the makeup for the show.)
If there was one takeaway, it was don’t be afraid to dazzle — whether you’re swathed in winter white and its “best friend,” black, or dripping in crystals and pearls.
Even when it comes to daywear, fashion this season belongs to the night.