An Evening with Ken Downing at The Bravern

Models in looks from Balenciaga to Zac Posen strutted down the runway to Glee’s Power of Madonna soundtrack at the Bravern Residences’ Terrace Garden. As the models wowed the crowd with their beautiful attire, Neiman Marcus’ Senior Vice President Fashion Director, Seattle-native Ken Downing, lighted up the room with his commentary on each look. This evening was all about Spring and upcoming Fall trends.

The first wave of models sported military-inspired looks that are meant for both Spring and Fall wear. Many of these military looks also had a tribal twist, also known as urban safari. Models wore varying shades of green: olive, fatigue, khaki, forest and sea foam, you name it! Body conscious cargo pants (by Stella McCartney) were paired with delicate tunics. Men’s military looks were done with camouflage inspired ties, super casual shorts paired with shucker boots.

As for spring accessories, more is better. Stacking bangles is a must. Bangles of varying sizes, colors, materials, can be mixed-and-matched to create a stunning dramatic look on any lovely wrist. The stacked cuffs that many of the models were sporting, as Downing informed the crowed, were created in Africa that are now sold exclusively at Neiman Marcus. Evening bags for daywear was another popular trend featured, as well as, feathered jewelry. However, the most popular trend for Spring and Fall are multitude of pearls. Pair faux pearls with real pearls and long strands with short. Pearls are not just for the mature  (ahem, Barbara Bush tends comes to mind) set but for all aged-women and for evening and daywear! Another popular trend for Spring and Fall are boots and there are boots for every mood you are in. Fashionistas can select either from wedged-heeled, over-the-knee, to the knee, or flat boots. Now there is no excuse for not sporting some killer boots!

Military-inspired looks later gave-way to sequined glamour. Most women shy away from donning sequins during the day fearing that they are simply meant for a night on the town. Ladies, no longer fret and bust out those sequins in the Seattle sun (err, rain). A leopard print cardigan with sequins was paired with cropped pants, wedge heels, and a trench. The touch of sequins definitely gave the look a sophisticated pop of swank.

Another popular trend for Spring and Fall that Downing touched upon was denim. A Georgio Armani jacket woven to look like denim was followed by another Armani demin-inspired pantsuit ensemble. Similar to the jacket, the pantsuit itself was made of linen that was woven to mimic denim. Models displayed shoes and handbags from Prada that from afar look like the denim but upon closer inspection were not made of cotton but simply made to look as though. Stella McCartney bell bottoms also gave a 1970s flair to the denim trend. A Balenciaga color block dress was one of my personal faves. The dress was topped with a shimmering trench that could take a gal from day to night.

As with the Armani linen pant suit, menswear-inspired clothing was seen this past February during the Fall/Winter 2010 runways. The sleek tailoring paired with feminine touches such as pearls and/or chiffon ruffled tops were seen throughout the evening. A beautiful example of this masculine and feminine ying and yang was seen with a tweed Chanel jacket that was paired with multiple strands of pearls. Once again demonstrating the contrast of tailored menswear and feminine flair was a black Chanel pantsuit paired with a cobweb-inspired pearl necklace by Vera Wang. Downing also explained how many designers found inspiration from past Yves Saint Laurent collections. Designers are now channeling the legendary and influential designer’s suits with more fitted waists and narrower pants.

A trend for both Spring and Fall that Downing emphasized was the nude/blush tones. A 50s-style full skirted blush-toned Prada dress and nudes pumps showed the audience different ways to play with the trend. Downing emphasized that nude platform shoes are a must in every girl’s closet. The shoe will add sophistication to any Spring or Fall outfit. Icy pastels, explained Downing, are quite a popular trend this Spring, as displayed with an icy pastel blue one-shouldered Micheal Kors dress.

After the runway portion had wrapped up, clothes were placed on racks so that all attendees could take a closer look at the finer details of each outfit. Downing made it a point to meet and say hello to all who wanted to meet with the gregarious fashion director. While speaking with him, he was quick to point that Seattle once had a vibrant fashion scene and that his hope is for Seattle to once again foster the growth of designers and brands alike. With fashionable Seattle natives like-Ken Downing, it seems like his hope might not be too far off

Heilyke by Heili Aun Nalla

What do you design?

I design women’s ready to wear and evening wear.

What is your design philosophy?

The longevity of design is my motto while creating garments for Heilyke. Heilyke brand stands for elegant, well-crafted garments that are targeted for the woman desiring a sophisticated and unique look.

When did you decide to become a designer?

I do not remember one definite moment; it has been more gradual progression from one decision to another. But I remember when I first interned and then worked for one of a top designer in Estonia, Kai Saar, I was inspired by her life story and her success, and I remember thinking I want to be like her, I want to create beautiful garments that people wear and feel beautiful in. It was so gratifying to see happy costumers coming in and out her studio every day.

What does fashion mean to you?

Fashion is an art form through which people express themselves and add interest to the visual world.

How has the Seattle Fashion landscape changed over the years?

I have only been here for 8 years, but I have noticed some improvement in people appreciating fashion, due to TV shows such as Project Runway, and large number of fashion events happening locally. Also, I have noticed people looking into personalizing their style to stand out from the crowd.

How would you describe your own personal style? Can you share a few address book recommendations to our readers (hairdressers, tailors, shops… anything you like really)?

My favorite hair stylist is Quint Eby of Quint Eby Salon in Belltown. My new favorite destination for jeans is Derek Andrew in Bellevue, and there is where I found my current favorite pairs of skinny jeans by Genetic Denim, the fabric they use is amazing, it is comfortable, and dries super fast. My current favorite earrings are by local designer Iris Guy Sofer I found at Re Soul in Ballard. My personal style is classic with touch of art, for example I like to dress up my outfits with high quality unique handmade jewelry. I do not follow seasonal trends religiously, I only buy what speaks to me, and that can stay in my wardrobe for a long time. I always prefer quality over quantity.

What item of clothing (if any) do you wish that more men/women wore?

I miss having men wearing beautifully tailored pants and suit jackets more often; I am tired of seeing men only walking around in jeans that are often too baggy and t-shirt or dress shirt only without vest or jacket. I wish they would pay more attention to the entire attire to be well fitted, and try to have more personality to their style. For women, I wish we would not be so into wearing pants, I want to see more dresses and skirts, including on myself.

If you could go back in time and experience any fashion moment, what would it be?

I like it now; I like the mixture of different eras all together so one can choose their style as of what the mood and their body type need, rather than trying to fit in the norm. I also am a big fan of the detailed and luxurious attire of 1600s to 1800s in Europe.

What are your inspirations?

I draw my inspiration from everything around me; nature is one of the main influences. I love how plants are so beautiful, complex, but seem so simple, and not touched by humans. I try to reflect that structure and beauty in my designs. I also am inspired by world cultures. For example my usage of color is inspired by colors of Indian culture, the spices, exotic plants and the colors of textiles.

Who are your influences?

People who have found their purpose in life and do all to pursue their dreams, and try to make a difference.

Do you have a typical type of person in mind when designing and if so does this evolve with each season?

I start with myself lots of times, me as a woman, what do I feel is missing in the world of fashion for women.

Which designers currently working do you admire most?

I really liked Fall 2010 collection by Narciso Rodriquez, and Fall 2010 collection by Nicholas Ghesquiere’s for Balenciaga.

Which fellow designers/brands do you admire (locally)?

Michael Cepress

What are your biggest personal/professional challenges that you face day to day?

Challenge to manage time and tasks at hand.

What has been your biggest professional achievement so far?

Taking steps to first start and to further develop my women’s wear brand Heilyke. The proudest moment as a fashion designer is the honor of winning the title “Best in Show” in the Seamless in Seattle 2010 competition organized by Seattle Magazine.

Do you have any advice for anyone entering your field?

To be a good fashion designer you have to think about who your client is, and how to complement and enhance their natural beauty. Also, you have to believe and stand behind your creations, and make sure you do your best and don’t cut corners in design nor execution.

What would you say are the benefits for Seattlelites of buying from local designers?

When buying directly from the designer then one gets more than just a garment, you get to learn more about the designer behind the clothes, and then your garments are more than just lifeless cover ups.

Who would you like to thank for your success?

That is a long list of people, so to keep it short I want to thank my families by birth and the ones I have created along the way, my teachers in Seattle, USA and in Estonia, my husband, and friends that have been an influence and support.

Follow-up For A Flawless Face: Choosing the right shade

If you have been on the search for your perfect foundation, you are maybe a little overwhelmed by the vast array of formulas and colors. I hope you have tried a few formulas I suggested (or more!) and have maybe found one you like. Now comes the color. I know, I know there are lots of shades. That’s a good thing! Today’s seclection is a far cry from the Max Factor years ago when there was basically 3 colors- pink, pinker and orange. Yuck! Here are some tips on choosing the right color:

1.) Determine your coloring. Ivory, Beige or Bronze (light, medium or dark). After you establish this, you should determine your undertone. Pink, yellow, neutral or golden. Determining undertones can be tricky so this is where help comes in from a beauty advisor at the make-up counter or me.

2.) After base color and undertone are determined, select three shades within your range. It is very important to stripe the foundation on your face, not the back of your hand. They are not the same color. I like to stripe all three colors in a vertical line from the cheek to the jawline- right next to eachother.

3.) Allow all three color to sit on your skin for about 10-15 seconds. The correct shade should virtually diappear into your skin.

It’s helpful to obtain a sample and take the foundation home to try it out for a few days. Most make-up counters will be perfectly happy to do this for you. It really helps to see what it looks like after some wear and in natural light. Don’t trust the lights in the make-up department.

As always, I hope this helps you on your quest for the perfect foundation. If you have tried and tried to no avail, please contact me. I can lead you in the right direction. And if that doesn’t work, I’ll come with ya!

My absolute favorite foundations are Mary Kay Medium and Full Coverage foundations. I have never met a woman that I have not been able to match perfectly. They have the best selection for Bronze skin as well. They go on smooth, wear beautifully (they actually don’t rub off) and look amazing! Some other lines that have outstanding foundations are: Lancome (Photogenic Lummesence, Teint Idole, Mineral ), Laura Mercier ( THE best tinted moisturizers) and Chanel Teint Innocence Line.

Caitlin Collins

What does fashion mean to you?

Fashion is the wonderful opportunity to wear art. It captures the consciousness of our time, helping to express what we feel and who we are in the here-and-now. When you look back on past styles, they are all connected to movements and attitudes of the time.

What excites you about the future of Seattle fashion?

If all the talent that resides here rises up together to make their Seattle statement, which I believe they soon will, it’s going to put our city on the map of fashion, and that would be very exciting!

How would you describe your own personal style? Can you share a few address book recommendations to our readers?

My own personal style is a mash-up of the 1960’s, classic femininity and 19th century sailing. Though I adore buying new clothes, nothing beats a unique piece of vintage clothing—my favorite vintage shop is definitely Lucky in the Udistrict, located on the Ave. I can always find something there, and the owner is really nice.


If you weren’t a model then you would be?

A sailor, traveling all around the world. And a novelist. So a sailor-novelist.

What is the one item you never leave the house without?

Pen and paper. I love to write and draw, and you never know when or where you will encounter inspiration!

Which designers currently working do you admire most?

I just found (and now adore) AF Vandevorst. I especially love his Spring 2010 collection.


Do you ever get nervous before a photoshoot or runway show? What do you do to give you that spark of confidence?

Yes, I do get nervous. My best way to beat the butterflies is to spend the couple of hours before I leave for my photoshoot listening to Ladytron’s Witching Hour.

What advice can you give to those who are looking to get into the modeling industry?

Whatever you do, do it completely with confidence. Chances are if you believe in what you do, so will everyone else.

Built for Man by Francisco Hernandez

When did you decide to become a designer?

I am a designer from birth, I have been doing ever since I can remember. Fashion has been good to me , and now is my turn to be good to it.

What does fashion mean to you?

21century , comfort , practical with a strong element of design.  Edgy enough to be innovative yet familiar still to the eye.

Who are your influences?

The people that make my clothes and the people that wear my clothes.

What is your design philosophy?

We build from the yarn up , by empowering rural communities to collaborate with us inspiring them to think alongside us while creating beautiful garments.  Comfort , style, and a strong element of design for the 21 century.

What has been your biggest professional achievement so far?

Establishing a good society and empowering 28 weavers to work alongside us in rural Peru.

How do you see the brand developing over the next couple of years?

We need to showcase our fashions outside our city, we need to get our message out , we are good, just look at the quality and the vision we have.  If we can do this we have full potential to grow. We are also planning to re shape  and rethink the way we see our designs and our direction for 2011 will be very futuristic, we need to make sure we are present and we are living in the 21century a dynamic moment in  time now

When you think of Seattle Fashion, what comes to mind?

How would you define Seattle’s fashion style? Seattle fashion needs to grow we need to see it from with-in not necessary look at it from a thrift/vintage perspective or from a high end , but from a ethical angle, imagine how it would be if everyone in the city dress to par with the rest of the stylish people of the world but had a social responsibility to those that made the clothing.

How would you describe your own personal style?

I like fashion that works I also like fashion that really is visionary, I like the idea that there is a thought process at work, when I dress I look to local designer to support for example I am wearing a pair of jeans I bought years ago at David Lawrence, Sling and Stone, organic denim, from Japan design by a local company.  Still wear them , for me is all about who makes the clothing and what is the process.

What exciting things are on the horizon?


We are currently working with an new community of artisans to develop a silver and leather collection of accessories and we are also capacitating a new community in rural Peru , we are building an industry with them.  Is an ancient community they have Alpacas and Viscunyas, we are trying to get them to safe some of the fleece , normally they would sell all the fleece to the mills for yarn, what we are trying to do is have them keep some in there communities , we would than have them grade the fleece, clean it, spin it , yarn it , than weave it.  By doing so we can capacitate them.   Thinking industrially and build and industry from the yarn up.

What item of clothing do you wish that more men/women wore?

I would love to see more men/ women wearing more Corvatts , I do think they offer a stylish approach to comfort.

If you could go back in time and experience any fashion moment, what would it be?

I want to be in the future not in the pass, maybe is my age, but I, like to think of 2098 when will have a different idea of how to dress, maybe guys can start owing up to new ways of dressing.

If you could collaborate with one big name international designer, who would it be and why?

Gucci, for the fabrics, it takes a lot of money to design your own textiles, Gucci is a master on how to , as are most of the Italians designers.

Who would you like to thank for your success?

My effort , waking up every day and taking the bull by the horns and making every day work. The driving force.

Ross James: Korea-Bound and Busier Than Ever

At the end of June, Ross James and his wife Melissa will be moving to Seoul, South Korea to further pursue fashion photography and projects. FNS is excited to support these Seattle natives as they work abroad, and will be providing updates from this adventurous couple throughout the year of their stay. Also stay tuned to the FNS Blog for Ross James’s Korean street fashion photos!

FNS touched base with the busy photographer at his 619 art studio downtown. He revealed upcoming projects (watch for his DList editorial currently in progress!), introduced his dog Diesel, and spoke hopefully of the trip to Korea.

Photographer Ross James

FabonFrenchmen: Why Korea?
Ross James: I’ve always been intrigued with Asia and have wanted to go there since I was young. I have made a lot of friends from South Korea and developed some photography and fashion contacts in Seoul, so it seemed like a good place to start.

FF: What do you hope to learn & accomplish there?
RJ: Over the last couple of years, I’ve had people tell me that my photography style might do well in an Asian market and with the fashion scene that’s going on there. So I’m hoping to expand my portfolio and hopefully work with some fashion publications based out of Seoul. I’m hoping to learn about their fashion scene and, you know, see if there’s any room in it for me, I guess.
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FF: How long are you planning to stay?
RJ: I’ll be there for at least a year for sure, and maybe another year…who knows?
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FF: Why is it important for you to get a change of scenery?
RJ: I’ve always enjoyed traveling and I basically consider Seattle my home because I’m from the Northwest, but I don’t really feel like I have an actual home. I like traveling around and discovering new adventures. So I want to broaden my experiences to include more extensive travel.
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FF: What do you think defines your style of photography?
RJ: I think most of my style comes from my taste in lighting. I am definitely drawn towards the shadows in lighting, specifically darker mood lighting with almost a film quality to it. I think my favorite part of photography is controlling the mood of the lighting. Also, my style has a lot to with how I almost always shoot on location. If I am stuck in the studio with a backdrop, I really have to try hard to keep interest in it. I really draw my inspiration from surroundings and background.

Who would you like to thank for your success?

I am very thankful for my wife, Melissa, who tries to understand me and encourages creativity.

Who are your influences?

When I first got into photography it was Robert Parke-Harisson. His work titled “Architect’s Brother” influenced me greatly. Now I have a list of influences too long to list!

What are you inspired by?

I am inspired a lot by my favorite music. It can take my mind to its own place where I can come up with new ideas. I also find inspiration in traveling and seeing new places.

When you think of Seattle Fashion, what comes to mind? How would you define Seattle’s fashion style?

From what I’ve seen of Seattle fashion, it seems it has always had an underlying vintage theme. To an extent, you could describe Seattle’s fashion as an “anti-fashion” fashion, which kind of makes sense… refusing to look to the future without first referencing the past.

What tips would you offer models to take a really good shot?

If you’re really thinking of the mood, if you get into it in your head, it’ll look more believable. It’s not just an external thing. People can see through that in the photos. If you’re able to get a good shot only when everyone is focused on you and giving you compliments, that is just the beginning of your journey towards being a professional model.  You need to be able to keep your focus and energy constant even though the shoot has ups and downs.

What is your dream photo assignment?

To shoot an editorial in space and on the moon.

Describe your brand in three words- and explain why/ how you embody these three words.

Shadows, Complex, Location inspired
I choose 3 words that describe my photography style, because to me that is my brand. First, when I photograph, lighting is very important to me. I tend to focus on the shadows. Second, I like concepts that are more complex. I like compositing images and sometimes I like busy scenery. Third, I like being in a unique location to photograph. It also keeps me inspired.

How do ethics play into your business? Do you have a general rule of thumb when dealing with clients and their possible opposing ideas to yours?
The client is your boss. When it comes to commercial jobs I try to measure the job before hand to make sure it is a good fit for me and that it’s an idea I can sign on to.

How much impact does networking have on your brand? In what ways do you network, and which receive the most feedback?
I can’t stress how important networking is. Every once in a while a good lead will come to me randomly on the internet, but mostly they come from the contacts you have made in person.

Where did you start out with your photography/film? As in, what were your beginning steps?

I lived on a small farm in central Washington and started taking pictures of the animals. At the time I was studying music at the university and decided to switch to photography. Quickly after that, shooting portraits and weddings became my beginning steps in my photography pursuit.

Why fashion? What does it mean to you and your work?

Fashion photography has an attitude. And when shooting fashion there is usually an energy between everyone who is working together and everyone wants to get the best results possible. There are other reasons why I shoot fashion but this one is all I really need to keep shooting fashion.

Have you ever started a shoot and felt stuck creatively? If so, what set you free from it and helped you to regain your flow?

You have to find something about the theme or about your subject that inspires you. Even if its small compared to what doesn’t inspire you, just find the inspiration and focus on that

Caitlin Hynes

Define the word beauty.
Beauty is what makes a person special.  Everyone has their own kind of beauty be it in their smile, voice, attitude, or what they do for the world.  The people that allow their own beauty to shine in the way they carry themselves make the world beautiful.  One of my favorite quotes by Nelson Mandela captures the idea perfectly: “And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

Who are your influences?
I do not really have any influences modeling or fashion wise.  I just go with what I feel works for me and hope for the best!

What are your biggest personal/professional challenges that you face day to day?
I wish there were more hours in a day.  I get worn out being a student, working, and finding time to play.  I am constantly baffled by how quickly time goes by.

What excites you about the future of Seattle fashion?
I am excited by the idea of unknown styles to be brought by designers that are yet unknown and in generations to come.  Fashion is ever-changing and I believe as our population continues to become more diverse, new thoughts and inspirations will make their way to the fashion scene.

How would you describe your own personal style?
My personal style is relaxed and comfortable.  Most days you can find me in my favorite pair of skinny jeans and Chuck Taylor tennis shoes.  I also love cute, fitted dresses and plaid especially.  I prefer to buy my clothes secondhand (go recycling and cheap prices!), so I shop at Crossroads and Buffalo Exchange on University Way a lot.  Often times you can find a brand new piece of clothing at a great price in these places.  They also sell brand new items from various boutiques at good prices.  I get my hair cut at Shear Madness on University Way as well.  I have had my hair cut by a different hairdresser every time, and all have done a great job!

If you weren’t a model then what would you be?
I am a model among many things: student, barista, and tutor.  Modeling is a release for me in the rest of my busy life.  I taking a day to put on some cute clothes, get my makeup done, and learn something new at a photo shoot.

What is the one item you never leave the house without?
I’m trying to get into the habit of never leaving the house without a water bottle- it’s important to stay hydrated!

What are you looking forward to in the future?
I am really just looking forward to seeing where my life takes me.  Slowly breaking into my adult life has show me that there are endless possibilities in my future.

What advice can you give to those who are looking to get into the modeling industry?
For anyone that wants to get into the modeling industry, I urge you not to hesitate.  There are so many outlets and ways to get involved in modeling that you can do on your own.  Start an MM page and see who you can meet!  Nobody will discover you if you don’t put yourself out there.