Home Beauty News 10 Questions with Ken Downing

Neiman Marcus fashion director Ken Downing is, no doubt, an oracle of wisdom on style. Just days before the April 2 San Francisco Ballet Spring fashion show, Downing gave us an insightful glimpse into his approach to fashion, beauty and a day in his galavanting life.

Headshot image via drexel.edu, runway photos by Drew Altizer Photography

Ken Downing at the San Francisco Ballet Fashion Show 2015, Photo by Drew Altizer Photography

Ken Downing at the San Francisco Ballet Fashion Show 2015, Photo by Drew Altizer Photography

When Ken Downing offers advice, we listen. “Le Métier de Beaute firming neck cream is a miracle potion and it’s always in my bag,” says the Fashion Director and Senior Vice President of Neiman Marcus Stores. By any and all accounts, Downing is a fashion guru; he directs, he styles, he writes and he travels the world in the name of fashion. But little did we know, he is as much of an aficionado on beauty as he is on clothes. The beauty tastemaker is currently working with Le Métier de Beaute on city-inspired color palettes for Neiman Marcus stores this fall. He also has some good dish on the must-have products of the season, so listen up!

1.  What fashion message will you be sending at the Neiman Marcus Spring fashion show in San Francisco?

My message for Spring is a celebration of the ’70s, from the romantic spirit of the New Bohemians to the sexy super charged Studio 54. Change us in the air with designers proposing midi and maxi lengths, flared pants and artisanal details that speak to the 70’s with a modern spirit of today.

A runway model shows off the boho-chic look a the SF Ballet Fashion Show 2015. Photo by Drew Altizer Photography

A runway model shows off the boho-chic look a the SF Ballet Fashion Show 2015. Photo by Drew Altizer Photography

2.  Do fashion and beauty bloggers influence you in any way?

I find inspiration everywhere, including the runways of the world, art, music, interior design and certainly the streets.  Social media is less of an inspiration than a conduit to inspire others.  Inspiration is everywhere and I approach each day with eyes wide open. 

3.  You attend an inordinate amount of shows during fashion week, but does “street” fashion ever cross your “to do” list?

The street has long been a source of inspiration for me and for designers who have been looking for the next moment long before I became part of this industry. Fashion that does not connect to the street often becomes costume. We all live the fantasy and dream of the runway, but it has to be relevant to the here and now to feel modern and if our time.

4.  In your opinion, what role does beauty play in the fashion world?

Fashion and beauty go hand in hand; one compliments the other. Fashions reinvention each season, and the ability to project an image that completes a total story relies on new ideas of hair and makeup.  New directions in beauty are as important to fashion as a new handbag or shoe. Nothing dates a look or the wearer quicker than hair and makeup from another time.

5.  Are there any beauty or skincare brands that you are absolutely loving right now?

There are many brands I love – too many to list. I’m passionate about the collaboration I do with Le Métier de Beaute. My London and Paris inspired palette will be in stores soon! Le Métier skin care and Sisley skin care go with me everywhere! I can’t live without Sisley! Tom Ford fragrances are to die for;  Black Orchid and Vanille Tabac are my personal favorites. Tom’s color collection is addictive!

Le Metier de Beaute

Le Metier de Beaute

6.  You’re always in motion and we can imagine it’s difficult to stay healthy; what are those key products that you keep on-hand to stay healthy and keep your skin looking young and healthy?

I often think I’m a machine, so I have no time to get sick! I eat pretty healthy for someone on the go. I can’t start a morning without a Starbucks Grande Latte. It’s been my morning beverage for decades and I’m a Seattle native, so I am very loyal.  I also love Chipotle! It’s fashion biggest secret; everyone in the know goes there because it’s healthy and delicious! Also, I always use Sisely eye cream every morning and every night.  Le Métier Beaute firming neck cream is a miracle potion and it’s always in my bag!



7.  We’d love to know what day in your life looks like!

I’d love to live a typical day on occasion! I have come to realize there is little typical in my life. I live on an airplane traveling around the country and found the world attending fashion shows and markets covering collections and tracking trends for Neiman Marcus for our Men’s and Women’s departments and for our online business. I’m creating fashion shows and events in our stores across the U.S. and internationally in exotic locales from Sydney to Shanghai, meeting with fashion designers, fashion editors, artists and celebrities. Working with my talented team of buyers keeps me busy twenty four-seven and 365 days a year. When I’m not on the run from one appointment or destination to another, I’m writing trend reports, blogs, style dictates for Neiman Marcus “The Book” and keeping up with my Instagram @kendowningnm, and responding to constant press inquiries. And that’s just Tuesday!

8.  San Francisco is known for its perpetually cool (and foggy) weather; what’s the one staple piece from Neimans that the Bay Area woman should have in her closet?

I love a chic Trench! Timeless, and has transcended trend.  For the moment, I also love a poncho or cape; it’s super 70’s and gives immediate cool to everything you wear.

9. What are the timeless pieces one should carry in their wardrobe for all seasons?

Timeless treasures are easy!
The perfect White Shirt!
A Pencil Skirt, to the knee or just below. 
A leather Biker Jacket
A Chanel Handbag 
Diamond Studs
Tons of Turquoise 
White Jeans

10.   If you could choose a celebrity to style right now, who would it be and why?

If I could choose a celebrity, I’d choose them all! I find I am rarely in awe of the red carpet recently.  Red Carpet dressing has become corporate casualty.  It’s far less about style and all about labels. Hair and makeup often feels out of sync with the fashion.  There are moments of magic, but they feel more and more rare. Lack of risk taking has made for too many homogenous ideas.  I like individuality! I want to see a celebrities personal style shine through.