Why shop retail? Well, sometimes its the best way to fully experience the craftsmanship and creativity required to design a fabulous dress. We were invited to the very first “Neiman Marcus Live” presentation at the brand’s dazzling new store at Hudson Yards in New York City. Fashion Director Ken Downing interviewed designer Zac Posen while the designer simultaneously demonstrated the fine art of draping. The result? Seeing luxury fashion come to life at the New York City Neiman Marcus. So. Much. Fun.
a space for live events
We’ve shared our first impressions of the new Hudson Yards. Only six days in, we returned to the new Neiman Marcus store for the first in a series of “Neiman Marcus Live” events that will be held at the store’s 7th-floor auditorium. (That would be the same place that Liza Minnelli sang from at the grand opening party a week ago).
This time, the crowd was smaller and the happy noise level much lower. But there was still champagne and rose on offer. And that “new store smell” was still very much in evidence. Along with the electric excitement of being part of something new.
fashion comes to life at the new neiman marcus
The topic of the day was draping, the crowd was chic, and fashion came to vibrant life in a delightful noontime event. Here’s what we saw and what we learned.
Ken Downing takes the stage
Neiman Marcus Senior Vice President and Fashion Director Ken Downing is the mastermind behind the dazzling new store – the first Neiman Marcus in New York City. After a brief introduction, Downing took the stage, accompanied by his longtime friend designer Zac Posen.
Downing’s pleasure in hosting Posen at the new store was evident. The two have been friends for years, and now Posen has an extensive array of gorgeous gowns for sale at the new store.
zac posen, red carpet go-to designer
As Downing noted, Posen has earned his place as one of the go-to designers for the red carpet. At the 2019 Oscars, he dressed the much-photographed Ashley Graham in a flawlessly tailored, body-hugging black gown.
Zac Posen and his gowns are always a fixture at the Met Gala, and among the celebrities he’s dressed for the iconic event are Kate Upton, Brooke Shields, Iman Hammam, Claire Danes, Katie Holmes, and Amy Schumer.
The designer does more than just grand ball gowns destined for the red carpet, but that spirit permeates his collections. His aesthetic is feminine, respectful of women’s real bodies, and unapologetically lovely. What more could one want?
the fine art of draping
After a brief introductory chat, Posen got to work, with Downing serving as his able pin-cushion-bearing assistant.
Like a magician, Posen began unpacking various boxes and wardrobes, revealing a rainbow of tulle swatches.
As he worked, he and Downing chatted casually about what they’re looking forward to (the Met Gala!)
Posen explained that his strapless gowns start with a core foundation: a corset fitted to the wearer’s body that is both strong and comfortable.
From there, he listens to music and free-associates as he blends colors and twists swatches to create his desired effect. For this event, he was feeling a rainbow. It was fascinating to see how he made what could have been too twee and precious into something sophisticated and chic.
in the neighborhood
Posen noted that one of the advantages of being so close to this Neiman Marcus location is that he and his staff can visit frequently, ensuring that they are in tune with the needs of the customers.
It also means that a couture bespoke gown made by the designer and his team are within even easier reach for those who can afford it. Posen will work with individual clients to create the dress of their dreams; his atelier is only a few blocks away from the store.
q & a
Taking questions from the audience, first the two discussed the hardest part of being in the business of fashion. “Lack of time,” they both agreed, was the biggest challenge.
We sneaked in a question of our own: what does luxury mean to each them? For Posen, “its something that has been touched by a human hand. Something with a soul.” For Downing? “Personal connection, warmth, and giving something back. A lot of designers want to be famous, but the great ones are the ones who are focused on giving something to the world, not receiving.”
A gentleman asked if Posen would ever enter the menswear market, and the designer modestly demurred. “Tailoring is a whole ‘nother thing, and menswear requires tailoring. But I do make my own clothes,” he added. “So you never know.”
a new dress comes into focus
Downing gamely helped out as the dress slowly began to come to life.
All too soon, the event drew to a close, with Downing and Posen demonstrating what the final gown might look like.
We loved the play of color, and how introducing navy and black into the design immediately gave it edge and gravitas. “The waist would be in a dark color, because that’s more flattering,” Posen noted.
We can only imagine how much fun it must be to work with him directly on something incredible for a big event.
There will be many more events of this type at the store in the coming weeks. In meantime, we were off to lunch at the new restaurant Zodiac on the top floor of the store (more on that in a future post).
Well played, Neiman Marcus. It’s good to be reminded that sometimes there’s no substitute for an authentic experience. If you love fashion, you’re going to love this store.
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