Fashion expert Ken Downing of Neiman Marcus finds empowerment in this season's punk rock trends.
As senior vice president and fashion director for Neiman Marcus, Ken Downing is a widely trusted style authority. For fall, he tells us, “Rebel voices are taking fashion by storm,” with heavy punk rock and ’80s influences resulting from the current state of politics. It’s an exciting time for empowerment in fashion, which is manifesting itself in wearable trends for everyday.
Why punk? “With many designers moving out of the sedentary ’70s, the ’80s seemed like the next frontier to mine for ideas. Punk rock in the ’80s was much more about fashion and music instead of political commentary, but with so much unrest in our own country, designers really took to this rebel voice and used the runway as a stage to voice opinions.”
What does the trend look like? “We’re seeing the return of the power suit for women via modern tailoring with an exaggerated shoulder. The biker jacket has come back in a very strong way, replacing the bomber. Designers are announcing their points of view on message T-shirts, which harken back to Katharine Hamnett. Reds, from deep cranberry to bright lipstick, are many times accented with pale pink to shocking pink. Boots run up the leg, creating this cover and armor. The leather legging has returned, and it’s an interesting dichotomy, where a trouser now is superwide with absolute menswear referencing.”
How does DC wear this style? “As soon as you say ‘punk,’ it sounds like you’re talking about a T-shirt with profanity on it. That’s not the case. It comes through in the embellishment that appears on shoes and the details on a handbag. The biker jacket is a pivotal piece in every woman’s wardrobe, adding edge to elegance.”
Will Congress take note? Attire rules— including a ban on sleeveless looks—are being enforced. “I can’t affect what’s happening in Congress and how they will dress. That is so the opposite of where fashion is. But Raf Simons for Calvin Klein showed a biker jacket with silver roses that are very Americana, and a wrap skirt made out of fabrics that resemble the American flag. Calvin Klein and Proenza Schouler both presented modified cowboy boots, really showing the American spirit and inclusiveness of the fashion industry.
What woman is this for? We saw every race, creed, color, body type, and age walking the runways. Through adversity, good things happen. Designers realize the importance in these times of truly empowering women. I thought that was a positive stride forward in our industry, because that is who the customer is.”
It’s a beautiful, moving time, isn’t it? “It takes a lot to move me—not that I am jaded, but I have been doing this a long time. There is nothing I enjoy more than being delightfully surprised and taken off guard at a fashion show. It just felt right.” Neiman Marcus is located in Mazza Gallerie, 202-966-9700, and Tysons Galleria, 703-761-1600; neimanmarcus.com