Ken Downing: Neiman Marcus. Senior Vice President / Fashion Director, Global Fashion Ambassador, Citizen of the World.
Spring Fashion Show at Nieman Marcus in Boston
“Eccentric, Eclectic, Romantic Spirit that says Spring”
Walking into a fashion show curated by Ken Downing is like walking into the party scene of Moulin Rouge: the champagne was flowing, the music was pumping, the women were beautiful. I kept thinking Nicole Kidman might float down from the ceiling on a swing wearing a corset and a top hat. (Anyone who knows me knows this is one of my fantasies but I would be on the swing instead of Nicole Kidman, probably looking more like the swinging bear in the Country Bear Jamboree than Nicole, but still… I dream…)
Now I have been to a few fashion shows in Boston and I have to say, they didn’t exactly rock my world with their neutral colors and mundane cuts. So I wasn’t racing out the door for this one. I had received an invitation, but I thought it would be more of the same—snoozville. I was heading into Boston for something else and decided on a whim to check it out.
And boy am I glad I did.
Curated and narrated by the witty bon vivant and sartorial maverick, Ken Downing, this show made me gasp in delight more than once. (Gasping in delight is my gauge on whether a fashion show is worth the effort of even attending.) He styled the models in a way that is best described by him: “Eccentric, eclectic, romantic spirit that says Spring.” His biggest inspiration for rich fresh colors and styles of Spring: Alessandro Michele of Gucci.
If this show is any indication of what I’m going to see on the streets in Spring 2016, I can’t wait to get outside. Of course it will have to get above 45 and stop pelting rain to really have some fashion fun, but then again, a positive point of the rain is getting to wear amazing trench coats. Mr. Downing dressed one of the models in a burgundy lace Burberry trenchcoat—buttoned up and belted—and it was stunning, and unusual for Spring with its burgundy color usually reserved for Fall. That’s why I loved it though—it broke the rules and made Boston’s unpredictable weather a bit more tolerable. If I have to live here, I may as well have an assortment of gorgeous trenches.
Here’s what I saw set to fabulous music (and check out my photos—some are a bit blurry as they were taken from my phone and I was hopping up and down in my seat with excitement, but you can still get the idea). Look for:
Golden Shoes and Glitter Shoes for daytime! YES! (I just wore a pair of golden glitter shoes yesterday!)
Sparkling chokers for day and night and lot’s of long necklaces, both fine and costume jewelry mixed together
Wild sunglasses like the Prada Baroque in gold (I have them in black and I LOVE them)
And for the hair–huge flowers—the bigger and more colorful—the better. Think Frida Kahlo meets Bianca Jagger.
Witty handbags –Check them out in the photos—feathers, beads, fringe, eye-popoing colors—fun!
And the chokers… Ken dressed some of the models with big flowers for the neck, pointing out that if you are wearing one large flower choker, add another. As they say, “More is more.”
Metallic clothing with sheen that catches the light
Crisp white turtlenecks under bohemian wear ala Mary Tyler Moore Chic meets Coachella
1970’s Style Wide Legged pants ala Bianca Jagger Chic
White Shoes: Mr. Downing says girls in white shoes used to be form the wrong side of the tracks but now, they’re gorgeous. (For me, white shoes conjured up a memory of a girl I met in New Orleans who was dancing at Bob’s Bar under a freeway overpass. Her shoes were dirty white satin and she asked me to pick her dance song for her from the jukebox. I chose Tom Waits, and she ended up stumbling around the stage in a drunken stupor.)
For Spring 2016, the theme everywhere was “off-kilter funky cool”
This is exactly what I want to see out on the streets—people having fun and expressing their creativity through dress.
Not only was the fashion eye-popping–I gasped in delight several times—but Ken’s storytelling is incomparable. I adored how he spoke of his inspirations, which seemed to be a lot about his mother and his Aunt Eunice, who didn’t even like fashion but loved politics. (Rest her soul she must be turning in her grave with this election year’s antics!) Mr. Downing hung his long Chanel pearl strands on his models in honor of Aunt Eunice’s long pearls that held her reading glasses.
I love hearing about what inspires artists, and I found it particularly interesting when Ken pointed out how affected fashion designers are by current events, music, and art. For example, after our beloved David Bowie died, 70’s Glam/Ziggy Stardust pieces started appearing on the runway, and now we can expect to start seeing fashion lens change to Prince: ruffled shirts and purple brocade. Count me in for purple velvet jackets!
Ken’s Sartorial Advice:
- Don’t worry about labels—just put together things that bring you joy. It’s awesome to mix a great pair of Alice and Olivia jeans with a Chloe peasant top.
- Biggest Fashion Faux Pas: Evening Wraps because women have to wrestle with them all night. Ken recommends all women own a tuxedo jacket to be worn with jeans or over gowns instead.
- Style Tip: If you leave your house and everything matches, return and mix it up a little! Think eclectic, off-kilter, eccentric, cool… (Unless you’re Doris Day, she’s allowed to match her shoes, handbag, and coat lining, and her hat too.)
- Style Tip: The cool way to carry your handbag this Spring is over the elbow, ala Grace Kelly and her Kelly Bag. Mr. Downing says this frees up both your hands so you can deal with your husband with one hand and hold champagne in the other.
Fun GlamourGirl Facts about Ken Downing:
Top 3 Fashion Movies: Auntie Mame, Imitation of Life, Pillow Talk
Old Movie Star with Best Personal Style: Rosalind Russell, who was actually given an award by Nieman Marcus for Outstanding Style (Mr. Downing found this in the old archives—I can just see him perusing the old archives in a smoking jacket with a pipe and a bassett hound at his feet)
Fashion Icons: Mary Tyler Moore, Cher, Women all over the world and the way they put together their outfits.
Most Inspirational Cities for Fashion: London, Paris, Sydney
Favorite Shops for Style: He doesn’t shop for clothes because he goes to so many shows, but he loves curio shops and looking for treasures t shops like Collette in Paris, Dover Street Market in London, and Corso Como in Milan