a new, online chapter for fashion legend patricia field
Her outlandish Bowery shop may be closed, but the 74-year-old New York costuming and retail legend is starting a new online venture at the nexus of art and fashion.
With black sunglasses perched in front of her eyes and her signature scarlet hair floating in the summer breeze, Patricia Field smokes a cigarette on the balcony of her Lower East Side apartment. Her assistant Theresa welcomes me as the iconic stylist and retailer purrs on the phone in her throaty voice. Two very small, white poodles emit shrill, loud barks with each step I take into the apartment. They are fluffy watchdogs protecting the House of Field, with its black and gold decor, leopard-printed desk, slim black chaise lounge, and petite, printed ottomans. Steps away, behind a sleek, black counter is a mural of four women painted in a crayon box of glittering colors by artist Richard Alvarez, a friend of Field's.
Field has spent much of her life surrounded by literal and figurative glitter, first opening the mod store Pants Pub in 1960s New York then graduating to her now legendary, eponymous venue a few years later. The Patricia Field store opened in 1972 on 8th Street and then moved to the Bowery before closing earlier this year. Field became known for her sparkly, punk-accented downtown New York glamour. Since 1981, Field has also taken this glamour to the world of costume design. She is perhaps most famous for her work on Sex and the City, for which she won an Emmy Award, though she was also nominated for an Oscar after her work on film The Devil Wears Prada. Currently she is a consultant on Darren Star's breakaway TV Land hit Younger. All the while she was also running her store which, until it closed, was a nexus for a crowd of artists, fashion kids and nightclubbers who found there what they could not find anywhere else: individualism.
"I found whatever was unique to my store was what people responded to ," Field says to me as she enters her apartment from the balcony, cigarette still dangling from her fingers. She raises her sunglasses, revealing eyes dotted with dark green shadow, a faint hint of glitter at their creases. Her makeup matches a billowy green sleeveless top dotted with grey and a pair of green cropped pants striped with black. There are gold Havaiana flip-flops on her feet.
My own memories of her store on the Bowery are hued in hot pink, sprinkled with rhinestones, leopard print and rainbows of wigs and sequins. It was a sort of sparkly wonderland of originality, bursting with cat-eye sunglasses, ankle socks printed with words like MILF, red patent leather thigh-high go-go boots, hats emblazoned with red rhinestone lips smoking an enameled cigarette, and so much more. There were also one-of-a-kind items from painted corsets to lace bodysuits to vests made entirely of fabric knots.
Despite the store's closing, Field still delivers these one-of-a-kind pieces to the one-of-a-kind consumer with her art/fashion gallery art/fashion gallery online. Some of these artists started in brick-and-mortar store and did well, so Field decided to continue selling their work on her site. The gallery specializes in wearable art by newer artists like Scooter LaForge and Iris Bonner of These Pink Lips, and artists she's known for years like Jody Morlock and Suzan Pitt. Some use existing garments as a canvas, some design original pieces by hand. All of it is a rebellion against the age of mass-produced "fast fashion." LaForge's dark and ironic paintings of everything from smoking skulls to alien-like clowns are emblazoned on ready-to-wear, while Bonner's painting of a nude Marge Simpson holds court on a vintage white leather jacket next to the words "Girl Fucking Power." "People are responding positively and I believe it's because there's a need for and a desire for individualism which this art/fashion online gallery represents," says Field.
The concept is not entirely new to Field. "I've always been attached to artists," she says. "Back in the late seventies, early eighties, kids like Keith Haring and Jean-Michel Basquiat, they were in my store. Jean-Michel used to paint sweatshirts and these jumpsuits and I've always had an element of not only those two but other artists that may be not as well known."
Field has been housing the current art/fashion gallery work in a small studio on the Lower East Side, and she is taking her time to expand. "I want to try to do it carefully and not let it explode because then you lose," she says. "You can't take on too much at once. You want to be careful to grow with integrity and with quality." Field is also working toward exhibiting the work at Art Basel.
In the meantime, while both Beyoncé and Missy Elliott have been photographed wearing works by different artists in Field's stable, money and fame have never been her motivations. "I go after what makes me happy, what opens my eyes," says the 74-year-old Field. "You have to make it happen within the dollars that you deal with and make it balance as you grow it."
Field's cigarette burns out. She mashes it into an ashtray, and brushes her hair away from her face. "I run after things that excite me," she says. "I think it's a better way because we only have one life. We have to make our lives rewarding to ourselves."
Text and photography Elyssa Goodman