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Before the Neiman Marcus trend presentation on May 14, we slipped backstage to preview the looks with fashion director Ken Downing.
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Prints continue to be a big story, and for Downing, they're best when assembled to evoke an artful and eclectic mix that he calls "global chic." He's partial to pulling in a vaguely Western mood from the American Southwest, never-not-stylish tribal influences, and a sort of extravagantly bohemian Indian bazaar vibe.
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In a similar vein, fringe is everywhere, and Downing wouldn't have it any other way.
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This looks a whole lot more serious than it was, but before the show Downing and I took a break to talk about why this kind of trend presentation is so important to him, and to Neiman Marcus. "Everyone's an editor now. Everyone's a blogger. There's so much coverage, and so many voices and that can be daunting. Magazine covers tell you there are 176 trends you need now. There aren't even enough days in the season for 176 trends. What I do is give our customer confidence that her decisions are right. I show her things that are of-the-moment, but will also stick around. We're building her wardrobe." When Downing says "her" he means a global her. He was recently in Sydney and Beijing—where they don't even have a brick-and-mortar Neiman Marcus to shop in, but still they come to him in droves via the Internet and when he rolls through to meet them in person.
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What's different about a Downing runway is that you get Downing on the runway. Narration of fashion show looks is pretty outmoded in most of the style world, but he gets away with it because he's animated and interactive and funny and down to earth. And helpful. But pretty insistent. In this case, on bulky sweaters with feminine skirts.
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And less bulky, sleek cashmere with evening gowns. It's one of his favorite things, and it could and should play very well in Seattle.
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Downing's also into pants under skirts and dresses, and I am, too. It's a '90s throwback, sure, but you can do it without looking like Winona Ryder.
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See those earrings? Tassles are fringe's best friends.
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And on the subject of earrings, accessories should go "chin to chest" according to Downing. Layer it on, ladies. Please also note the jean jacket over the formal wear. That high/low formal/not-so-formal mix is one we love, too.
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Other key hits: black and white combo dressing and knit dressing, but not just for dresses but for tops, bottoms, and in-betweens. Oh and pink: in Downing's world, it's the color of the season.
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