Yesterday, before the packed Phillip Lim show at the Tents, we caught up with Ken Downing, dapper man-about-town and senior VP and women’s fashion director at Neiman Marcus, to discuss the neon-hued ’80s nostalgia which has seized designers like Alexander Wang, Michael Kors, Rodarte and Marc Jacobs this fashion week.
“You know, London always has punk, New York always has the ’80s,” Mr. Downing said. “And there’s always a little bit of the ’80s in New York, but it’s really super-strong now. … Returning to a shoulder-pad or a structured shoulder looks really good, and it takes you to that sort of ’80s place … and a little bit of ’40s! I actually think you have to remember that as well as the ’80s being a big shoulder moment, the ’40s were!”
Mr. Downing had been partial to Mr. Jacobs’ interpretation of the decade. “I loved Marc Jacobs. I loved that he started two minutes early. I loved all the bold fantastic color. And you know, Marc has always loved an ’80s moment … but more than it having that ’80s theme and the crazy hair and over-the-top makeup, it was one terrific Marc Jacobs piece after another. There was a fantastic neon hot pink dress towards the end.”
Mr. Downing admitted he loved the ’80s himself, the first time around: “My dear, I had purple hair, I had orange hair, and I had a lot of shoulder pads and a lot of pants that had either a diaper crotch or really super skinny pants tucked into little suede elfin boots, and I had them in every color. They were a wardrobe mainstay for me when I was going to school up here.” ("Up here" was at the Fashion Institute of Technology).
Nowadays he prefers head-to-toe black, with slicked-back hair: “All of the black and gray is very chic,” he said. “But at the end of the day, the customer responds to color. … We also have to remember, all the women in Los Angeles, in San Diego, and Arizona and Texas and Georgia and Miami, they live in the sun and they love pretty color. … This is not a time for things that are offbeat or crazy unusual; it’s a time for clothes to be really beautiful, because in these times women just want to be pretty. And there’s Absolutely. Nothing. Wrong. With. That.”