PaperCity Magazine

PaperCity Dallas October 2022

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Page 41 of 103

I n April, Ken Downing was invited to speak in New York City at a fundraiser honoring late American designer Halston's 90th birthday. Downing, the longtime former fashion director of Neiman Marcus, took the stage to talk about a man he'd never met, but whose designs and career he'd followed since he was a child, his nose buried in his mother's Vogue and Harper's Bazaar magazines. The room at the National Arts Club was filled with people who were intimately familiar with Halston, including niece Lesley Frowick, keeper of the Halston archives and founder of With Love Halston, a student scholarship initiative — the beneficiary of the afternoon's auction. Fashion designers Ralph Rucci and Naeem Khan, who both worked for Halston, were there, along with model Pat Cleveland, a member of a troupe of models nicknamed the Halstonettes. Dressed in a dark turtleneck and trousers, his hair swept back and slightly graying at the temples, the 63-year-old Downing was Halston's near-double. "So many people came up to me to say my presence felt so much like him. Not just the way I look, but my mannerisms, the way I speak and relate to people," he says. "There was a kind of collective idea that I was what Halston embodied in the love of women and beautiful clothes and artisanry." In August, Downing's appointment as creative director of Halston was announced, a position many months — if not decades — in the making. After 28 years with Neiman Marcus, Downing left the company in 2019 to become chief creative officer of Triple Five Worldwide Group, owner of American Dream in New Jersey and Mall of America in Minneapolis. Earlier this year, Xcel CEO Robert D'Loren, which owns Halston along with other labels, contacted American Dream about possibly opening a store for one of Xcel's brands. "That's where the conversation began: What would Halston be doing if he were designing today," Downing says. By April, "the conversations got very serious — so here I am." Comparisons to Halston, who died in 1990 at age 57, have continued to stream in. Chris Royer, Halston's longtime fit model, reached Downing by phone and Ken Downing takes the reins at the storied FASHION HOUSE. Ken Downing And Then He Was By Rebecca Sherman. Portraits Enrique Figueroa Studio. Halston in his Olympic Tower office, 1970s COURTESY HALSTON ARCHIVES 36

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