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The Triangle - The Independent Student Newspaper at Drexel University

Style Advice From Ken Downing

Ken Downing, fashion director and executive vice president of Neiman Marcus, came to Drexel April 11 to talk to design students about fall trends. Aside from his witty remarks concerning upcoming trends and color stories, the fashion director gave some sound bites that cannot go undocumented. Read on to hear what Downing said and how you can interpret his suggestions.

Downing: “The ivory tower is not where you want to live. You want to live on the street with your customers.”

Instead of focusing on the element of fantasy in design, it’s pertinent for anyone working in the fashion industry to also understand the customer. Will that shirt sell? How much can it be sold for? It’s still important to design in a hyper-reality sometimes, but it’s also important to understand that fashion is a business, and in order for a business to succeed, people must buy your products or services.

Downing: “Complication is the curse of fashion. It’s also the curse of style.”

Downing commented how he was once shown a collection where sweaters had one sleeve. Most people will not want to wear clothes that are hard to put on, are uncomfortable or only keep one arm warm. Keep it sophisticated! Guys can try the “air tie,” when your collared shirt is buttoned the whole way up and worn sans tie. This style dates to rebellious London schoolboys and is super sleek.

Downing: “Don’t give me an evening wrap because it never works. But you can give me an evening cape and I’ll be very excited.”

Capes are dramatic. Evening wraps fall on the floor and get caught on chairs. Ew! No need to buy evening wraps, or design them at that! 

Downing: “Keep your eye on the culottes. I haven’t see culottes since I dated girls in high school.”

This is pretty self-explanatory: guys should consider wearing drop-crotch styles. Low-hanging pants and shorts were in last year and aren’t going anywhere. Pair the relaxed look with a simple t-shirt and arm jewelry.

Downing: “We are a store for the woman that has Leo in her blood. She’s like, ‘I have arrived!’”

Neiman Marcus focuses on serving women and men who are confident, ambitious, loyal and generous. Buyers know who is shopping at Neiman Marcus and market the store accordingly. In whatever career path you take, pay attention to your customers and their corresponding needs and wants. Personality characteristics will play a role in how businesses should interact with customers.