Ken Downing: Neiman Marcus Style Czar

When Ken Downing speaks, the fashion industry listens. As senior vice president and fashion director of Neiman Marcus, Downing is the definitive arbiter of fashion for all 42 stores worldwide, and

One of the wittiest and most effusive style gurus around, the globe-trotting Downing is a fixture at New York, London, Milan and Paris fashion weeks, and his TV appearances include the Oprah Winfrey Show, E! Entertainment, The Rachel Zoe Project, and Project Runway All Stars. Once the dapper Downing announces the Neiman Marcus Trend List for each season, his buyers use it as their roadmap. He also is a connoisseur of 20th century contemporary furniture and art, which he admits has become a bit of an obsession.

We snagged an interview with the man himself on a cozy couch at the Short Hills store.

After 30-plus years in the fashion industry, what still makes you weak in the knees?

The excitement of something new! I go to every show to see each collection with fresh eyes. I like meeting customers, finding new talent and talking with established designers. There’s nothing like that personal connection with a celebrity designer or notable.

How do you identify seasonal trends?

I think like a fashion designer, so I consider what was shown one year ago and six months ago, and I know if we’ve seen it before. The Neiman Marcus seasonal Trend List evolves from a keen sense of what’s new in showrooms, runways and the world of design beyond fashion—interior design, music and food.

How important are color trends?

Color always leads our fashion message because it gives immediate trend credibility to a wardrobe. Ultimately, every woman has two arms and two legs—but it’s the modernity of textiles, the spirit of styling and new color combinations that move fashion forward.

What are your fashion peeves?

I tell women not to wear just one bracelet or one cuff. Layer at least three for impact. And I love white jeans 365 days of the year. As we say, white jeans always. If you don’t understand the concept of white jeans all year ‘round, stay at home with your one bracelet. [He ends with a wicked laugh.]

So what’s in­ your own closet?

It’s very curated and controlled with navy and charcoal color stories, but not much black. I have the ongoing “Ken Downing Retrospective Collection” of Gucci from the Tom Ford years, with a pair of crazy kimono pants. I wouldn’t wear them now, but they are nevertheless part of the retrospective—along with a rhinestone cowboy shirt.

Do you have any shopaholic tendencies?

I especially love groovy furniture from the ’60s and ’70s. My mother says I walk a fine line between collector and hoarder. In fact, my garage auditioned for an episode of Hoarders. Seriously, I’m a shopper, but I do try to maintain balance.—Susan Brierly

Click here to leave a comment
Read more Style & Shopping articles.

By submitting comments you grant permission for all or part of those comments to appear in the print edition of New Jersey Monthly.

Required not shown
Required not shown