Fashion Director Ken Downing says it’s always exciting to see what designers will send down a runway.
Ken Downing started his career at venerated retailer Neiman Marcus 23 years ago working on the display windows at the Beverly Hills location. But his gimlet eye for spotting trends soon rocketed him through the ranks to fashion director, the title he retains today. Now, as the international face of the brand, Downing travels throughout the world spreading the gospel of high fashion. Capitol File sat down with him to chat about the rock ’n’ roll aesthetic, statement coats, and the dapper DC man.
What do you think of Washington’s fashion sense? KEN DOWNING: When you think about what makes DC turn and churn, it’s a highly charged political city. With all of the politics that happen there, we see a lot of great suits, and I love that idea of a dressed-up gentleman. I’m always excited to be in this city, where men make an effort.
Which suiting trends have you seen lately? KD: On the runways there is this whole idea of deep, saturated jewel tones: a lot of plaids, a lot of checks, and interesting colorizations—it’s not just grays and navies.
Besides traditional suiting, what should every DC man own? KD: The must-have item is a biker jacket. It replaces a blazer many times in a gentleman’s wardrobe, especially if you want to create that rock ’n’ roll attitude. And in the Northeast, like DC, guys can wear a great leather blazer or even a leather trouser for fall. I’m loving the Saint Laurent, Tom Ford, and BrunelloCucinelli biker jackets, specifically. I [also] really encourage more men to try a narrower-cut pant or even a narrower-cut jean. I always find that when you see a gentleman in a narrower pant or a narrower jean, it takes years off of them.
What else is a must-have when the weather gets colder? KD: The statement coat. In DC, people need a great-looking piece of outerwear. For a gentleman, that coat can be in a plaid, a beautiful tweed, even camel hair, or a double-faced cashmere. A gorgeous coat makes a suit and tie, turtleneck, and trouser look all the more fashionable. They can certainly go out in the day and can top a tuxedo at night as well. For women, it’s a very boy-inspired, oversize coat with plaids, checks, or prints.
So after you have the basics, what’s the key to looking good? KD: Confidence. I think that clothes can certainly draw attention to you, but I think it’s how you wear your clothes. I always feel the greatest asset and greatest accessory is confidence, because when you wear clothes you feel great in, it comes through.