PaperCity Magazine

December 2019- Dallas

Issue link:

Contents of this Issue


Page 37 of 83

36 " I h a v e y e t t o f e e l overwhelmed," Ken Downing tells me over the phone as he hops into a car shuttling him back to New York City from New Jersey. Downing had spent the afternoon at American Dream fêting comedienne turned author and fashion designer Whoopi Goldberg as she launched her pop-up shop. "At every juncture of my career, I've thrown myself into the deep end. I like big challenges. I find them invigorating." If American Dream is the deep end, Downing is making quite the splash. The massive $5 billion, 3-million-square-foot property owned by Triple Five Group (Mall of America) opened its first phase at the end of October with the unveiling of the Nickelodeon Universe theme park, an indoor ski slope, water park, and NHL- size ice skating and hockey rink. In the coming months, American Dream will open more than 450 shops including a luxury wing housing Hermès, Tiffany & Co., and Louis Vuitton, plus a movie theater, food hall, six atriums, a garden, and an aquarium. As chief creative officer, Downing has touched every part of the project, from art to design to shopping. "There's Ken Downing everywhere," he teases. Retail runs deep in his blood, and his creative vision for American Dream is springing to life with everything wild and wonderful we've come to expect from him. For this new chapter, he's also taken up residence in NYC in an Art Deco-style apartment (he and partner Sam Saladino keep homes in Dallas and Detroit, as well). For a few quiet minutes in the swirl of a whirlwind schedule, Downing reveals a peek into his new norm. The allure of American Dream. It's an undertaking I found wildly challenging — the idea of reinventing brick-and-mortar retail. As chief creative officer, I've been able to take my knowledge of advertising, marketing, public relations, media, interior design, architecture, and events, and bring them together into one mega position. Redefining retail. Shopping centers in the late '50s and early '60s were grand, cinematic spaces. Gathering hubs. I believe when you build community, commerce will follow. A community has to have a heart and a soul; it has to have a reason for being; it has to feel inclusive from the moment you walk in the door. Retail today lacks creativity. People are afraid of bold, new thinking. Even the fashion is mega. I have a two-story 8,000-square-foot Hermès store, Saint Laurent, Gucci, and everything in between. I'm doing fashion shows with models skiing down the ski slope. I'm building runways in the middle of my wave pool. I'm going to be doing fashion shows on the rollercoasters and Ferris wheels because anything at American Dream can be a fashion scene. The unexpected is what people are looking for. They want a little shock, a little surprise. Exclusive design. I brought on Jonathan Adler to design some of the sitting salons in the luxury wing. There's a lovely femininity to the furniture, probably a nod to my time at Neiman Marcus with all of the women who influenced me. Favorite hotel in the world. Hôtel Lancaster in Paris, 7 rue de Berri. It's where I've always stayed. The staff is outstanding. Go-to restaurant in Dallas. Boulevardier. Day uniform. There's less of a need for a suit and tie. I am in very low-slung, extremely skinny pants or jeans with a turtleneck and a leather jacket or blazer and sturdy boots because I'm generally tromping around in construction sites. I'm wearing a lot of camel so you can't see the drywall dust. Currently reading. I'm rereading the book about Sister Parish, whom I consider to be one of the most important American interior decorators. I think I've read it about 18 times, but I always find a nugget of something I missed. WHEN KEN DOWNING LEFT HIS POST AS SENIOR VICE PRESIDENT AND FASHION DIRECTOR AT NEIMAN MARCUS IN MARCH AFTER NEARLY 30 YEARS, DALLAS' WELL-HEELED SHED A COLLECTIVE TEAR. IT WAS THE END OF AN ERA, BUT FOR DOWNING, IT WAS ALSO THE BEGINNING OF A COLOSSAL NEW CHAPTER. IN HIS NEW ROLE AS CHIEF CREATIVE OFFICER FOR RECENTLY OPENED AMERICAN DREAM — THE SPRAWLING SHOPPING, DINING, AND ENTERTAINMENT COMPLEX IN EAST RUTHERFORD, NEW JERSEY — DOWNING IS REINVENTING NOT ONLY HIMSELF, BUT THE VERY DEFINITION OF RETAIL. BY LINDEN WILSON JOBE KEN DOWNING'S AMERICAN DREAM Ken Downing COURTESY AMERICAN DREAM

Articles in this issue

Archives of this issue

view archives of PaperCity Magazine - December 2019- Dallas