Exclusive Interview: “All Things Patricia”

Patricia Field featured in FADDY MAGAZINE USA “THE WONDERLAND ISSUE

Exclusive Interview by Anneysa Gaille For FADDY USA

Anneysa Gaille: In the past, you’ve said that “if you recognize your essence and play it up, it works. You can’t go against your nature, that’s when you make mistakes.” How did your childhood in New York shape your essence? Are there any moments that were defining for you in regard to recognizing your own essence?

Patricia Field: My childhood in New York created my essence. It was my whole experience. I was born in Manhattan. My grandmother and family lived in Astoria. I used to go back and forth from our apartment in Manhattan to Astoria. I had three single, younger aunts who were very much in my life as a kid in addition to my mom. I grew up positively and normally. 

AG: Something that has always intrigued me about costume design is the integral role it plays in character development because, as you have said, “costume design… isn’t about selling clothes, it’s about telling a story.” How has your personal life story affected your understanding of such an endeavor?

PF: I found it very interesting when I entered the world of costume design at some point in the mid-eighties. It was an adjunct to my experience as a fashion shop owner. It was another step out there, another way of expression. I really did enjoy it because it was a new dimension for me.

As we’ve said, costume design is not about selling clothes. Costume design is about selling a character. The components of that are the actor who portrays the character and the script, which is foremost because we are all revolving around that script creatively. But it’s very important to get to know the actor. After all, the actor is who’s portraying the character in front of the camera.

STEVEN DAVIS velvet leopard print bodysuit RICHARD RADCLIFFE leather skirt ZOOM CHERRY leather jacket JOHN ASHFORD platform ankle booties PATRICIA FIELD X SEYMOURE red fingerless leather gloves PATRICIA FIELD VINTAGE ice cream necklace DOMINIQUE RENEE necklaces ERICKSON BEAMON choker SSIK earring  THE BLONDS lace jumpsuit JOHN ASHFORD gold ankle booties  ERICKSON BEAMON necklaces and brooch

AG: Has how you approach developing the style of a character changed—or perhaps not changed—over the years as you have grown personally and professionally?

PF: I learned that actors need to be comfortable. They need to feel positive about the way they look because that helps them to assume this fictitious character. So, getting to know the actor is an important step for developing the style of a character since it’s the actor who’s in front of the camera.

It’s not in any way a dictatorial job. Aside from being artistically creative, it’s a bit psychological as well because you have to develop a relationship with the actor so that they trust you. Once that trust is established, they have confidence in you and it’s basically smooth sailing.

AG: I love that you bring up this image of motion because it reminds me of how you are known for using costume design as a means by which one can be elevated. Could you elaborate on this stance?

PF: Yes—I’ve been told or read things written about how I elevate reality with costume design. However, in my mind, brain, and heart, I love to elevate regardless of whether it’s in costume design or in my shop. It’s an elevation and it gives another dimension to what is being experienced. The idea of elevation is second nature to me.

AG: I’m glad you brought up your shop because I’d like to talk about your eponymous boutique that opened in 1966 and became a fashion landmark. What made you want to open a boutique and how has working in retail influenced you creatively?

PF: For me, going into fashion retail was a natural progression when I graduated from NYU, where I had studied liberal arts. I definitely enjoyed it, but I didn’t see myself in some academic or corporate situation. I was always very creative, and fashion came easy to me.

I learned early on to do what’s easy for you. Don’t go against gravity—go with the flow, your natural flow. This took me into fashion retail. And as a kid, I was exposed to business experience with my mom, who was in the dry-cleaning business; even though I was a child, I played an active role in her business. Because of this early exposure, business was also something that came fairly naturally to me. So, it was about combining the two and creating a career out of these experiences.

AG: In another interview, you described your approach to your life and career path as being organic, like “sitting by the seashore” when “a wave comes in” with “a little pearl” that you then take. You also asserted that “this happens all of the time if you open your eyes.” Can you elaborate on the meaning of this?

 

PF: It’s an analogy of looking for the warmth and the shine of the sun, for being optimistic. People enjoy what I deliver in that sense. It’s not strict reality. It’s more of a blend. It becomes more interesting that way and much more enjoyable. I take it very personally. It’s definitely the way I interpret my work. It was the same in my shop. My shop was unique: people came from everywhere as it became well-known. It’s about the fantasy and fun of the fashion experience.

AG: In the past, you’ve said that “if you recognize your essence and play it up, it works. You can’t go against your nature, that’s when you make mistakes.” How did your childhood in New York shape your essence? Are there any moments that were defining for you in regard to recognizing your own essence?

 PF: My childhood in New York created my essence. It was my whole experience. I was born in Manhattan. My grandmother and family lived in Astoria. I used to go back and forth from our apartment in Manhattan to Astoria. I had three single, younger aunts who were very much in my life as a kid in addition to my mom. I grew up positively and normally.

Artist & Designer Scooter Laforge wearing Scooter Laforge & Patricia Field

Artist & Designer Scooter Laforge wearing Scooter Laforge & Patricia Field

AG: Something that has always intrigued me about costume design is the integral role it plays in character development because, as you have said, “costume design… isn’t about selling clothes, it’s about telling a story.” How has your personal life story affected your understanding of such an endeavor?

PF: I found it very interesting when I entered the world of costume design at some point in the mid-eighties. It was an adjunct to my experience as a fashion shop owner. It was another step out there, another way of expression. I really did enjoy it because it was a new dimension for me.

As we’ve said, costume design is not about selling clothes. Costume design is about selling a character. The components of that are the actor who portrays the character and the script, which is foremost because we are all revolving around that script creatively. But it’s very important to get to know the actor. After all, the actor is who’s portraying the character in front of the camera.

AG: Has how you approach developing the style of a character changed—or perhaps not changed—over the years as you have grown personally and professionally? 

PF: I learned that actors need to be comfortable. They need to feel positive about the way they look because that helps them to assume this fictitious character. So, getting to know the actor is an important step for developing the style of a character since it’s the actor who’s in front of the camera. 

It’s not in any way a dictatorial job. Aside from being artistically creative, it’s a bit psychological as well because you have to develop a relationship with the actor so that they trust you. Once that trust is established, they have confidence in you and it’s basically smooth sailing.

AG: I love that you bring up this image of motion because it reminds me of how you are known for using costume design as a means by which one can be elevated. Could you elaborate on this stance?

PF: Yes—I’ve been told or read things written about how I elevate reality with costume design. However, in my mind, brain, and heart, I love to elevate regardless of whether it’s in costume design or in my shop. It’s an elevation and it gives another dimension to what is being experienced. The idea of elevation is second nature to me.

AG: I’m glad you brought up your shop because I’d like to talk about your eponymous boutique that opened in 1966 and became a fashion landmark. What made you want to open a boutique and how has working in retail influenced you creatively?

PF: For me, going into fashion retail was a natural progression when I graduated from NYU, where I had studied liberal arts. I definitely enjoyed it, but I didn’t see myself in some academic or corporate situation. I was always very creative, and fashion came easy to me.

I learned early on to do what’s easy for you. Don’t go against gravity—go with the flow, your natural flow. This took me into fashion retail. And as a kid, I was exposed to business experience with my mom, who was in the dry-cleaning business; even though I was a child, I played an active role in her business. Because of this early exposure, business was also something that came fairly naturally to me. So, it was about combining the two and creating a career out of these experiences.

AG: In another interview, you described your approach to your life and career path as being organic, like “sitting by the seashore” when “a wave comes in” with “a little pearl” that you then take. You also asserted that “this happens all of the time if you open your eyes.” Can you elaborate on the meaning of this?

PF: It’s an analogy of looking for the warmth and the shine of the sun, for being optimistic. People enjoy what I deliver in that sense. It’s not strict reality. It’s more of a blend. It becomes more interesting that way and much more enjoyable. I take it very personally. It’s definitely the way I interpret my work. It was the same in my shop. My shop was unique: people came from everywhere as it became well-known. It’s about the fantasy and fun of the fashion experience.

AG: You once described your shop as a daytime club. How would you describe your personal and creative relationship with New York’s club scene? 

PF: It was like a salad: one enhanced the other, and one influenced the other as well.  

The club scene at the time was much more active and fashion oriented than today.

So, they went hand in hand, whether it was entertainers who frequented my shop, club goers, or just an assortment of other people. It definitely had that feeling of a club by day—especially since the people that I hired in my shop were creatives who were unique individuals. They provided inspiration to the people who came in because it was like no other typical boutique shop. It was, as people call it, an experience

AG: Talking about your store inevitably brings to mind House of Field. Can you describe what inspired House of Field?

PF: The House of Field had a fairly long history with me when I initially moved my first little shop from NYU’s campus to 8th Street. One of my clients was from Singapore; he was a trans dresser. He invited me to go to a ball up in Harlem and said, “come late, come very late”; I said, “fine, no problem.” I went there around two or three in the morning, but nothing really started until four or five

That was my first experience in the ball scene; this is what started my House of Field idea. Then, I employed a young woman by the name of Myra Lewis, who recently did a documentary film on the ball scene. It was screened at the SVA theater on 23rd Street. It was a full house, and I was really happy for Myra because she put a lot of work into this and she was great in my store as well

So, I knew about the ball scene and then Myra started working in the shop. Based on the people that we knew and some of the ball kids, we got into it and that’s when the House of Field was born

AG: That’s wonderful. Can you talk about its further development?

PF: We held a few balls; one was right near here on Grand Street at an event space that we rented. It was my idea to bring the fashion world into the ball scene. For example, I invited Marc Jacobs. Vogue was there. It was quite an event.  

THE BLONDS embellished bodysuit DAVID DALRYMPLE black tutu skirt JOHN ASHFORD leopard print over-the-knee boots SSIK purple clutch PATRICIA FIELD X SEYMOURE black fingerless leather gloves ERICKSON BEAMON earrings  AKNVAS dress DOPE TAVIO ruffle jacket DAVID DALRYMPLE sequin boy shorts  JOHN ASHFORD black over-the-knee boots  ERICKSON BEAMON earrings and ring

To me, though that was not our only ball, it was the epitome of the balls that we did under the name House of Field.

AG: I really admire how you have embodied the intersections of art, culture, and fashion throughout your career. Now, you’re working on Art Fashion. How was it generated

PF: Five or six years ago, I had a property and a store on the Bowery. I bought it when the Bowery was not so chic, but in the years that went on, it became a chic place. I was constantly being approached to sell it, but I never took any of those offers seriously.

Then one day I was in my office on the Bowery and I realized that I’d been doing a retail store for close to 50 years. And I said, “this is crazy. I’m going to sell it. I have a very good asset here. I’m going to do it. I’ve had a store for too long.” So, I sold it and had to ask myself about what I was going to do next.

Throughout the years, many artists had their work in my store—whether it was a painted canvas or a painted t-shirt—and there was always a core of artists who were in the store. Since I had sold my store but was not ready to do nothing, I thought about doing a little art gallery where I could bring those artists and designers. That was the idea, and I took three of my people from the store to work at this art gallery with me.

At this point, we’ve exhibited down in Miami for Art Basel and other places. However, my gallery is a permanent installation. It consists of artists that paint on clothing, which is something that I feel as though I originally started. It was original at the time.

So, it kept me in touch with what I wanted to be in touch with, but it was much less responsibility. A retail shop—especially mine, which was so diverse—is a lot of work: it’s staff; it’s shopping; it’s everything that goes into it.

Lately I’ve been going to the gallery on a daily basis because I decided that I needed a rest upon returning from Paris after the second season of Emily in Paris, which I did the costume for. So, I’ve been a part of it more than before when I was just going from one TV show after another. My gallery has been perfect for this: I just walk into my gallery right around the corner. Film and TV are demanding, as is having a full-on retail store. And it’s not that I didn’t enjoy every minute of it—I was just ready for something a little bit less extra.

AG: It sounds very intense. How have you been able to navigate those different worlds and find balance for so long?

PF: When I started with TV, it was in the mid-eighties; at that point, I had been doing my shop since the mid-sixties. So, when the opportunity came to me to do the costumes for a film on the recommendation of my very good friend Candy Pratts Price, it was something new.

She was involved in a film starring Diane Lane called Lady Beware, and the director asked her for a recommendation for someone to do the costumes. Then she called me and said, “I’m in Pittsburgh. You want to come here and do costumes?” I had never done it before. So, I said, “sure!”

I went to Pittsburgh and I knew nothing about the ins and outs of how it worked: even though I could handle the creative part, I had to learn the structural part. I enjoyed it; it was a great change for me after those years in retail. I enjoyed it because it was a change while still being something that I was familiar with and could handle

One thing led to another—another TV show, another movie. Then I was juggling two careers at once, but I managed to do so because I was into it. I wasn’t going to close my shop, but I wanted to do film. So, I did it. You can do it if you’ve got the interest and the energy for it, though the interest is the most important. You have to do it with your heart and excitement about what you’re doing.

AG: I like your use of the word excitement because you’ve said that “if you don’t have an exciting life in New York, it’s your fault.” How would you define an exciting life?

PF: For me, the definition of an exciting life is simple and at the same time complex. The simple side of an exciting life is to be emotionally and mentally happy with living and creating; the complex side of an exciting life is being able to achieve that by putting together all the pieces that fit as in a puzzle to make the picture.

AG: How do you feel the
different decades have perhaps influenced various levels of optimism or pessimism about putting together this puzzle?

PF: That’s a very nice question because I recently coined a philosophy about exactly your question. As you know, I love history and philosophy; at NYU, I studied history and philosophy. So, of course I’ve always had that inside of me.

My theory is that the culture of the time permeates everything, including fashion. It permeates the mood of the time and the mood of the people, what they’re going through and what their experiences are. This is displayed in many ways creatively, and fashion is a part of it. All of the creative arts are that way, but I don’t think fashion has ever been described that way; it dawned on me that I needed to describe it that way.

For example, I’ll jump to the sixties even though I could go back to the twenties. In the sixties, the war was over and the people were optimistic. We were going to the moon; we became conscious of other planets. People like Pierre Cardin and Rudi Gernreich got into this modernism, but that’s because the people were feeling it and we were responding to it.

The Great Depression was different. It was faded. It didn’t really have a cut—neither loose nor tight, just hanging from the shoulders. But in the sixties, everything was a happy dance and people were excited to put on white space boots and a shift dress with a shape while wearing a helmet for a hat. It was a very optimistic time and it reflected the excitement that people had.

AG: I’ve heard that you’re working on a book. Is this philosophy something you discuss in it?

PF: I don’t think I’ve included it just yet, but that doesn’t mean I won’t.

Though the book isn’t finished, I have named it Pat in the City. I went through a few different names and thought about calling it Pat and the City before coming up with Pat in the City. Then I called Darren Star because I didn’t want to infringe on any copyrights and said, “Darren, I’m going to write a book. Can I call it Pat in the City?” He said it was no problem.

I’m working with a writer on the book. The writer’s name is Rebecca Paley. We are on chapter seven at this point. It’s a memoir and a trip through Oz. It starts when I was a kid, exploring the influence of, for example, my mother. She was a businesswoman who was busy all day, but at night we would go to the Greek clubs with belly dancers where I would drink a highball.

Working on a book is a whole other world, but repetition does not excite me—challenge and newness does. Even though sometimes it’s scary, in the end if you adapt, you have a positive experience. You need to strike while the iron is hot and jump in and jump the hell out—after that it’s part of a trend. Trendy things catch on.

SCOOTER LAFORGE leather biker jacket ERICKSON BEAMON necklace
DOPE TAVIO ruffle jacket THE BLONDS lace jumpsuit JOHN ASHFORD gold ankle booties PATRICIA FIELD X SEYMOURE white fingerless leather gloves ERICKSON BEAMON necklaces and brooch  IRON FIST pants DOC MARTENS shoes ERICKSON BEAMON necklaces
IMITATION OF CHRIST blue dress PATRICIA FIELD X SEYMOURE blue fingerless leather gloves ERICKSON BEAMON necklaces and ear cuff MADLY MADE “choke” necklace  IMITATION OF CHRIST lace dress  PATRICIA FIELD VINTAGE ruffle top  ERICKSON BEAMON earrings and cuff  MADLY MADE chain ring
DAVID DALRYMPLE black tutu dress DAVID DALRYMPLE studded turban JOHN ASHFORD platform heels PATRICIA FIELD X SEYMOURE black fingerless leather gloves  ERICKSON BEAMON necklaces DOMINIQUE RENEE red heart purse  DAVID DALRYMPLE tutu dress JOHN ASHFORD peep toe ankle booties PATRICIA FIELD X SEYMOURE white fingerless leather gloves ERICKSON BEAMON tiara, necklaces, and earrings  DOMINIQUE RENEE red heart purse ERICKSON BEAMON necklaces

PUBLISHER / EDITOR IN CHIEF, CREATIVE DIRECTOR & PRODUCER FADDY USA
Candice Solomon 
IG: @CandiceSolomonStyle
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Nigel Barker
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Styling 
Stylist Newheart Z.Ohanian 
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1st Assistant Stylist 
Helen Wilkey
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2nd Assistant 
Charlie Kam
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Models & Muses 
James Hickok
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Jori
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Delilah Dougan
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Scooter LaForge
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Romero Jennings key makeup artist MAC Cosmetics
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Makeup
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Hair
Li Murillo
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Christian Ern
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Calvin Herbst
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Andrew Wonder
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