PHILADELPHIA — The recently launched URBN Center Annex on the Drexel University campus was packed with students and fashion executives Wednesday night as Ken Downing, senior vice president and fashion director of Neiman Marcus, received the second annual Westphal Award.
The award honors a leader in the fields of design, media or the arts, and is one of Drexel University’s Antoinette Westphal College of Media Arts & Design’s highest honors. Downing was tapped for the award not only for his leadership as the luxury department store’s tastemaker but also for his work in the fashion community helping to develop young designers.
Downing started his day at a Neiman Marcus Champagne reception in his honor in nearby King of Prussia, followed by a luncheon and a spring fashion presentation, where 100 percent of the proceeds from sales went to a Westphal scholarship program. Missy Dietz, vice president and general manager of Neiman Marcus King of Prussia, said that the symbiosis between Downing and Drexel is clear. “The great fit between Drexel and Ken is that they both appreciate the past, but through their belief in luxury fabrics and workmanship, they’re both always looking toward the future in fashion,” she said.
When his time at the retailer wound down, Downing then popped into a Drexel classroom to give off-the-cuff critiques of five senior collections. Telling the students that the most crucial thing about designing luxury apparel is that it must fit well and be impeccably made, he spent time giving feedback on their designs. But he soon bid the burgeoning designers adieu as he headed over to the URBN Center to accept the Westphal Award.
He was introduced as a “style czar, tastemaker and visionary” by Allen Sabinson, dean of the Westphal College of Media Arts & Design. “I have to meet this Ken Downing. He sounds amazing,” Downing said as he took the stage after receiving a standing ovation.
Dressed in a black leather jacket, skinny black tie and second-skin tuxedo pants, Downing used runway shots of his fall must-have trends as a backdrop as he regaled the audience with his insights into the industry. After dispelling the myth that it’s all glamour, all the time (“People think we just drink Champagne and drive around in a Winnebago”), he charged the students to work hard and develop their own voices. “What white space do you fill? What are you going to do that’s going to make my eyes open wider and say, ‘No one else is doing that now?’”
Downing also gave the students a realistic view on what being a successful designer is really about. “You must balance fashion with commerce,” he said emphatically. “You can have an amazing idea, but if it’s not relevant to the woman you dress, you won’t be a success.”
But most importantly, he implored the students to find their passion. “My passion is that I want women to have confidence. When they look beautiful, they feel beautiful. That’s what drives me,” he said. “Now listen to your gut, listen to your heart…find out what drives you.”
Breaking News: @louisvuitton's men's artistic director @mrkimjones is leaving the French fashion house after nearly 7 years. Jones joined Louis Vuitton in 2011, following a three year tenure as creative director of British luxury goods brand Alfred Dunhill. Jones is to exit Louis Vuitton after showing his fall 2018 collection for the brand in Paris on Thursday. Read the full exclusive story on WWD.com. Link in bio. #wwdnews #wwdfashion
For men’s fall 2018, @giuseppezanotti drew on elements from streetwear, sport, biker, combat and rock ‘n’ roll. Pictured here are a pair of shoes from the collection, featuring zippers, rhinestones, and silver hardware. Head to WWD.com to see a roundup of the accessories from Milan’s men’s fall 2018 shows. #wwdfashion (📷: Andrea Delb)
To celebrate the 25th anniversary of @ralphlauren’s snowboarding collection, the brand is mining its archives. The iconic brand is reintroducing vintage styles and dropping new designs for a color capsule that will be available in Ralph Lauren stores and @openingceremony on January 25. The capsule will consist of 10 pieces, including the Snow Beach Pullover, pictured here, which is a collector’s item that rapper Raekwon wore in Wu-Tang Clan’s “Can It Be All So Simple” video. #wwdfashion (📷: Tom Gould)
For @rochasofficial’s pre-fall 2018 collection, creative director Alessandro Dell’Acqua channeled the sophisticated and intriguing Catherine Denevue in the film “Belle de Jour.” Polished collarless coats, midi skirts, suits and ’60s graphic motifs were all featured in the collection, adding a sense of discreet luxury. See the rest of the photos on WWD.com #wwdfashion
“We tried to produce clothing of that couture quality, but the most daunting part was that we only had a matter of days [to do it],” said costume designer Lou Eyrich, who recreated Gianni Versace’s iconic looks for @americancrimestoryfx. Eyrich searched online retailers and vintage shops for original pieces from the design house and for @penelopecruzoficial, who plays Donatella Versace. Head to WWD.com to read how she created the Versace world. #wwdfashion
Only three months after her stellar debut catwalk season, @kaiagerber has inked her first big design collaboration –– with @karllagerfeld. The collection blends Lagerfeld’s Parisian chic aesthetic and the model’s signature West Coast casual style via RTW, accessories, footwear and more. The #KarlLagerfeldxKaia collection will launch in September with a series of events. Get all the details on WWD.com. #wwdnews #wwdfashion
Harrods plans to remove the famous statue of Princess Diana and Dodi Al Fayed from the bottom of the Egyptian escalators and hand it back to Mohamed Al-Fayed. “We are very proud to have played our role in celebrating the lives of Diana, Princess of Wales and Dodi Al Fayed at Harrods and to have welcomed people from around the world to visit the memorial for the past 20 years,” said Michael Ward, Harrods managing director. “With the announcement of the new official memorial statue to Diana, Princess of Wales at Kensington Palace, we feel that the time is right to return this memorial to Mr. Al Fayed and for the public to be invited to pay their respects at the palace.” More on the news, with reporting by @loreleimarfil, at WWD.com. #wwdnews