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Lifestyle Header image inside the mind of style genius ken downing fustany fashion interviews main image

| by The Fustany Team

Inside the Mind of Style Genius Ken Downing

Working in fashion for more than 30 years, it is not an understatement to call him a fashion Guru. Ken Downing, Fashion Director and Senior Vice President of Neiman Marcus, is the go to person when it comes to predicting trends, finding out the hottest items, and having a better understanding of the ever changing fashion scene. We had the pleasure to peak inside the mind of the style genius, Ken Downing, so read along to find out all about it...

1. As the Fashion Director of Neiman Marcus, you surely have a clear vision of what would be a hit for upcoming seasons. How do you predict what the most coveted pieces would be?

As the Fashion Director for Neiman Marcus, I am always thinking about the women who are my customers, the women I meet all over the world, their wants, their desires, and their lifestyle.  I see the world through two lenses, the dream of the runway and the reality of a woman's wardrobe. Finding the perfect balance between the fantasy and romanticized ideas of fashion designers and the relevancy of how a woman lives her life guides me each season. I am always thinking about my women!  They inspire my quest for beautiful things. I am always looking for what they want and what they don't realize that they are going to want next.


2. Now that the fashion week season is over, share with us three trends you loved and three you disliked...

There are so many ideas that filled the Fall 2014 runways. I am absolutely obsessed with the melting pot of multi cultural ideas that gave a wonderful Global Wanderer sensibility to many of the collections. Guatemala, The American South West, Africa, China, India, Japan, all influences that brought ornamentation, embroidery, texture, romance and statement making accessories to the runways. It's a major trend that every women needs to incorporate into her fall wardrobe. The gorgeous gray that were from the prettiest of pearl, delicate dove to chic charcoal that will be the foundation of the many saturated shades that define the season.  The many greens being one of my favorite color stories that were paired with gray. I am obsessed with the comfy, cozy knit dressing that filled every runway. I love the relaxed attitude of the many head to toe knit ensembles that allow a woman an easy  wardrobe, while still looking polished and put together.

I was less interested in many bonded and boiled fabrics that many designers prefer. I look for fabrics that a woman will embrace. The feeling of fine fabrics should be the ultimate personal luxury in a wardrobe, fabric should work with you, not against you!  Enormous, oversize silhouettes that do not celebrate femininity and don't flatter a woman's figure are less of an interest to me. I enjoy the idea of volume in fashion, I enjoy it more, as does my women when it's balanced with a controlled shape.  Dirty messy looking hair that many of the models sported on the catwalk; there is nothing chic about looking unkempt.


3. Name an upcoming fashion label you have your eyes on...

I am crazy about Juan Carlos Obando! He is a designer from Los Angeles that I met through my work with the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund. Juan Carlos creates the most sumptuous and sensual eveningwear with color combinations that take me back to the late, great Yves Saint Laurent. I adore what Juan Carlos creates. 


4. You've mentioned before that you see fashion editors as the real influencers and trend setters, how do you see them affecting the runways not just the street style?

I always have my radar on the streets and the front row. Fashion Editors are a great barometer of what's next. They have a keen eye for the new and noteworthy, designers and trends, and often adopt new ideas into their personal wardrobes as the collections are unfolding. I like to believe that I have the eye of an editor and the mind of a retailer. My eyes are always open to the next big thing, my mind is always thinking about how well it will translate into a woman's wardrobe which translates to sales for my company.

5. How does a woman balance between following the latest trends and being practical?

Everything in life is balance, fashion is no exception. I create a trend list each season with what I believe are the essentials that a woman needs to consider as she builds her upcoming wardrobe. Not necessarily every trend is right for every woman, but nine times out of 10 they are. I consider it a road map for women to consider. Ultimately, you have to feel great in your clothes, a wardrobe should be a good friend when you open your closet. Clothes should create confidence, it's the greatest gage of what's right for you. 


6. By the age of 30 what are the pieces every woman should have in her wardrobe? 

I don't believe age should define a woman or her wardrobe. Everyone is 25 today, it doesn't matter if you are 17 or 77, or 107 for that matter. A Chanel handbag is always a milestone purchase for many women, or a great pair of diamond stud earrings that you will wear forever doesn't hurt either!

7. What are the 5 must-have pieces for this summer?

Summer's Must Have include:
-  Pink! It is the color of the season, from the palest of blush to the most shocking of pink. Wear pale pinks with bright pinks, it is the look I loved most on the runways. 

- A great White Shirt, it is spring's fashion equalizer and plays perfect with colors and the many artistic inspired prints of the season. 

-  The Summer Bootie. Cut outs, straps, on a heel or flats, the summer booties look great with everything from the current season and adds new life to pieces in your closet from the past.

-  BACKPACKS are BACK! It is "the" handbag.

-  Total Denim, I am obsessed with an entire denim look. Jeans, denim shirt, denim jacket and a denim backpack, the more the merrier when it comes to denim for summer . Mix denim washes for a look I love!

8. Give us your no. 1 tip for women before shopping for their summer wardrobe.

Approach your summer shopping how I approach every new runway season. Eyes wide open with enthusiasm and excitement to new ideas, it makes shopping all the more fun.

9. What's your perception of a woman dressing stylishly?

I enjoy seeing women who love to look good. How we dress says so much about ourselves and our personalities. Celebrate yourself! Personal style is a wonderful cover to the story of the person you are.

10. We've been hearing lots of fashion insiders talking about how there aren't any rules in fashion anymore. Do you think that's true?

I find the more I hear there are no rules, the more women I know want more direction. Rules are guidelines and roadmaps that many women enjoy, so they are confident they are making the right fashion decision. Fashion makes the rules and breaks the rules, it's what makes fashion new!


11. How do social media portals such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter influence fashion?

Social Media portals don't necessarily influence the direction of fashion, but they certainly keep the fashion conversation going. Today, fashion is far more interactive. Social Media keeps influencers and enthusiasts connected, informed and curious.  Fashion is a bigger conversation than it was five or 10 years ago.
Fashion is now at everyone's fingertips within a nano second a piece of style news is being made.

12. As someone who has a passion for interior design, how does that reflect on your fashion choices?

Todays modern world of design is very democratic in its ability to influence one another at every and any level, unlike past decades. The influences of the street, movies, music, the food we eat and certainly they way we decorate our homes is all intertwined, and is a creative reaction that crosses all levels of style.  As a passionate collector of art and Mid-Century furniture, I find that the artisanal color palettes of many painters, the sculptural quality of furniture created by designers and architects are influenced by ideas of proportion, and challenges traditional ideas of color. Clothing is covering for the body, Interior Design is the cocoon that shelters us and is as much a reflection of our taste and personal style as our wardrobes. I find it impossible that anyone of style that loves fashion doesn't live in an equally exciting environment.  Style permeates everything in our lives, Interior Designers are inspired by the runway, and the runways are inspired by magical interiors.  Beauty has always been attracted to beauty since the beginning of time.


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Tags: Interviews  Ken downing  Neiman marcus  Latest fashion trends  Summer 2014  Summer fashion  Summer fashion 2014  Fashion essentials  Wardrobe essentials