Fashionistas in San Francisco love them some Ken Downing!
The New York based fashion director of Neiman Marcus was recently in town for several days, and wherever we saw him (at the store, at the Mid Winter Gala, at the Fairmont Hotel), he was trailed by a chic gaggle of fans taking his pieces of advice like edicts from a snappy fashion Pope.
"Don't dangle your bag on your arm, hold it at your hip. All the girls are clasping their bag at the hip."
"Don't even bother with one necklace -- wear five!"
"When you do your nail polish, plan what bag you'll carry so your nails match!"
"Remember when you were taught never wear white shoes, because only girls from the wrong side of the tracks wore white shoes? I love those girls!"
Ken's Week in SF: Downing with Suzy Kellems Dominik, Sonya Molodetskaya, Christine Suppes, Lora Du Bain (clockwise)
But it was at the 34th Annual Ballet Auxiliary fashion show luncheon, held at the Fairmont Hotel for a crowd of 425, that Downing really wowed and delighted with his presentation of Neiman Marcus's spring 2015 collections.
He styled the looks in four themes: New Bohemian (very Stevie Nicks), Shades of White, Mix Don’t Match, and Studio 54 (disco chic!).
"What I love about fashion is that we invent the rules, and we break the rules," he said, as he presented unexpected looks such as a white leather motorocycle jacket for evening, a brown animal print scarf with a green evening gown, or (for guys) bleach-splattered denim with a luxurious velvet jacket.
If Downing has a special relationship to San Francisco it may be because he started his career here designing the windows for the legendary I. Magnin in the '80s (now the location of Louis Vuitton and Macy's) when the unveiling of its windows each season was a major fashion moment in town.
From Window Dresser to Window Star: Ken in front of Neiman Marcus.
Expect to see more of Downing when he returns in May for the San Francisco launch of "Electric Fashion," a new art book by Christine Suppes and Frederic Aranda, for which he wrote the foreword. With over 200 images showcasing Suppes collection of pieces from the world's greatest designers, the book gives an overview of how clothing has pushed the limits of creativity over the decades.
"At the end of the day, you have two arms, two legs, a torso, and a neck, and there's only so much you can do," he said over lunch at the Fairmont. "Drop the waist. Raise the waist. Put the waist around the neck. I have seen it all."
Despite having seen it all, he still makes fashion fresh and exciting, and we're loving every moment.
Photos: Drew Altizer; Instagram