From Coffee to Cocktails–Ken Downing takes you there.

Ken Downing takes your style from coffee to cocktails.

For a man that travels five out of six days a week, and averages 15-18 appearances per season nationally, Ken Downing flies pretty much under the radar personally—no Twitter and very little Facebook.

Downing has been with Neiman-Marcus for 20years, in various roles, from store design, to public relations, to his present and most prestigious, as fashion director.

He’s just completed episodes on the Rachel Zoe and Joe Zee shows, and out of necessity to his grand role as style dictator, he sees over 500 runway shows a season worldwide.

I caught up with Downing at Neiman-Marcus Fashion Valley to ask him a few questions.


RS-How do you predict trends?
KD-I listen to three messages from the designer.  The obvious, meaning what the clothes look like at face value.  The secondary, meaning what the designer did last season. And the obscure, meaning watching for that particular moment in the show the designer tries something new—be it color, cut, or concept—cutting edgy newness.  With all of my travel though, the most important thing I do is pay attention to the customer.  What is she ready for?  I keep my ear to the ground. Some things a designer may try, may take a season or two to catch up with a consumer.


RS- With all the travel you do, how do you recommend people pack for a trip?

KD- I take two small duffle bags everywhere I go, no matter how long I’m staying.  If something doesn’t hang out in the shower, I don’t take it.  I know women are different, but I like one brown boot/shoe and one black.


RS-What are your predictions for fall 2011?

KD- It’s all about wine and roses.  Corals and magentas.  Every designer saw the Yves Saint Lauren retrospective at the Petite Palais in Paris last year, and many of them followed the leads of his late 50’s and 60’s designs.


RS- What are the essential items women should buy for fall?
KD-Leather separates, a great leather dress, sexy pointy-toed pumps, dyed fur, real or faux, and pencil skirt.  Ensemble dressing is back.  All the looks are very ladylike, almost haute couture.  Look at Marc Jacobs spring line, and you’ll be fine for fall.