Strange Bedfellows: A-List Designers Slum it for Kohl's, Target, H&M, and Payless

Patricia Field's really big shoe propels me to Brooklyn. I even go to New Jersey.

You might argue that Kate Moss is, strictly speaking, not a designer, but because her personal style is so famous and because she has lent her name to a line issued by London's Top Shop composed of clothes theoretically copied from Kate's own closet—couture mixed with thrift-shop finds—I decide to go up to Barneys and take a look.

A funny thing happens when you're in Barneys: So casually are four-figure price tags attached to T-shirts and ballet flats that after a half hour anything less than $1,000 seems cheap. Just as $128 feels pricey at Kohl's, where under-$50 is the law of the land, the $380 Moss–Top Shop motorcycle jacket seems like a throwaway. The Moss items have an undeniable cool quotient—apparently Moss's problems with narcotics only served to enhance her allure—even if she does ask $102 for a short-sleeved cardigan whose only arresting feature is its multicolored heart-shaped buttons.

Thankfully, no such daunting tags affix themselves to the Patricia Field for Payless shoes. At the launch party, held in Pat's Bowery boutique, the usual suspects have been rounded up: guys in dresses, high-hatted dandies, sloe-eyed mini-skirted damsels swinging faux chain-handled Chanel bags. All of them are shoving their feet into the Payless shoes—even the men, one of whom, a big guy, claims that women's size 11 fits him with room to spare. The style getting the most attention is a $55 platform boot, which features a high stacked heel covered in faux metallic snakeskin; they're way too high for me, but I'm vaguely tempted by the matching $25 clutch purse lined in ersatz leopard.

I find Field chatting in a corner, beaming. She tells me that actually she's been styling Payless's advertising campaigns for years—who knew?—and that they're such nice people, "they're like from Kansas or something."

So are these styles just for the Bowery, or will her platforms platform at the Payless in Wichita? She looks uncertain. "I guess so. Why not?"

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