Downing and Lam Dish on Summer Fashion

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Charming. Witty. Debonair. Long and lanky, he could be the separated-at-birth twin of the late great rock icon David Bowie, by coincidence a key image for the look for spring and summer.

It is no secret: For years, I have been in love with a man who is not my husband — and hundreds of women across the country are in love with him, too.
He is Ken Downing, senior vice president and fashion director for Neiman Marcus.
One of the most influential people in the business — setting and defining trends internationally — Downing’s name is synonymous with fashion. If you have a Neiman charge card, you know it from his chatty emails. I was privileged to meet him recently after his annual fashion show in King of Prussia, which featured special guest designer Derek Lam.
Based in Dallas, Downing loves to crisscross the country, meeting, greeting and listening to his legions of fans. Like many of the biggest names I have had the pleasure to interview — Oscar de la Renta, Carolina Herrera, Zac Posen, David Yurman — the bigger they are, the nicer they are.
That’s true of Downing as well.
Charming. Witty. Debonair. Long and lanky, he could be the separated-at-birth twin of the late great rock icon David Bowie, by coincidence a key image for the look for spring and summer.
Downing’s got an amazing eye and razor-sharp repartee to match. I am always enchanted. This is the man who ignites fashion desire, even when we need nothing. This is one man who knows what women want.
His job is not only to see firsthand what waltzes down the runways of Paris, Milan, New York and shows around the globe, but to interpret the latest trends for his customers across the country.
“My job is to find clothes that make women look good,” he said. “That seems so simplistic, but it’s completely true.”
As an added treat, this year’s show featured the collection of the renowned Lam — a fashion superstar who, like Downing, is both as warm as can be and loves to make women look good.
As the show began, we quickly saw this was true.
The collection included beautiful, wearable clothes. One look was more stunning than the next. The 1970s still reign. Bohemian luxe mixes magnificently with Studio 54. Cher meets Bianca Jagger. There were lots of wide-leg pants, as well as long and languid skirts, tunics, peasant blouses, patchwork and ponchos. Capes and crystal jewelry. Something with fringe.
Lam’s inspiration comes from women he meets across the country.
“How does a woman move through her life?” he asked. “She goes from business or philanthropic meetings to community events to her home and family to evenings out.”
“I love when a woman mixes and matches, wears something not exactly as I’ve designed it. I love a woman with style of her own,” he added.
Such a Downing thing to say.
Following that theme, Downing’s mantra is eternally effortless chic. Cut that out and put it under your pillow — available at every price point, it’s exactly how you want to look for summer and into next fall.
Bold color looks clean and fresh, flattering to all, especially with a touch of a tan. Wear it with white, cream, camel and, of course, sand. Metallics continue to be huge, again worn with white. Again, so ’70s/Studio 54. Picture the sun rising over the sparkly beach. That’s your palette.
It’s all about individuality, discovering your own independent spirit and feeling great. Details make it special. You’ll find lots of beading, embroidery and, for the first time in a while, sequins. Not gaudy, but gleaming. Not shiny, but shimmering.
If you treat yourself to just one new item: something bohemian. Something with movement. Wide-leg statement pants and longer, languid skirts are bigger than ever.
Layer ropes of beads and chains, necklaces and bracelets; more is better.
Downing is the king of chitchat, always my favorite part of an interview.
What is he obsessed with right now?
“David Bowie. That look, his aura of individuality, has become totally of-the-moment. Anything Studio 54ish, anything disco, anything ’70s, anything personal,” he responded.
I, too, love this look and am thrilled it’s finally warm enough to wear all my favorite pieces.
And lastly, Downing and I both simply love fashion. Love clothes. Love helping women feel good about themselves.
“Fashion is art, culture, an escape, a lift,” he said. “Obviously, we’re not solving the problems of the world, but fashion unites women around the globe in a way nothing else really does.”
As I walked to my car, smiling and humming Bowie’s chorus of “Ch-ch-ch-ch-Changes,” my mind replayed my time with Downing and Lam again and again.
As the days have passed, I hear both their advice and quick repartee in my head every time I get dressed. Summer fashion. Modern and “mod.” Floaty. Fluid.
Very quirky and individual. And extremely chic. I love getting dressed every day.
Enjoy every gorgeous moment.