“I could be on social media all day, but I don’t know how to deal with it half the time,” admits Patricia Field, who, a half-century after opening her first shop, has moved her legendary rhinestone bustiers, hand-painted leather jackets, and custom Carrie Bradshaw necklaces online.
With a gravelly laugh, the 74-year-old Sex and the City costume designer says she ultimately decided to close her store on the Bowery because it was cramping her lifestyle. “I didn’t want to deal with inventory anymore. I’d reached a point where there wasn’t enough time in the day for anything else. I was becoming a working stiff!”
Starting March 27, disappointed fans who mourned the store’s closing earlier this year will be able to purchase one-of-a-kind pieces, most of which are hand-embellished by artists like Scooter LaForge and Suzanne Pitt, through her new e-commerce site, patriciafield.com.
“People want something unique. They want individualism,” explains Field, wearing a custom TomTom Fashions denim jacket (available on her website for $400) over a gray cashmere jumpsuit with a studded black belt slung around her hips. “Women are having a conscious realization of this constant, force-fed uniformity in fashion. What’s in trend at the moment is volumes of sameness. Being in a herd. And that is what I’m against. I’m the opposite; I want everybody to express who they are. That’s what life is!”
The designer, who opened her first Greenwich Village boutique in 1966 selling mod styles like white go-go boots, says her biggest pet peeve is having people ask what five things every woman should have in her closet. “There are no five things for every woman, because every woman is different. I can never answer that question intelligently with integrity. Those kinds of questions are so lame!”
As a statement of individualism, Field began dyeing her naturally black hair a bright red in the early Nineties (she tried many colors, she says, eventually settling on red because it best complements her olive complexion). She likens this ability to present yourself with originality and independence to a form of art — one that takes both interest and introspection. “You have to know what you want to present yourself as to develop your own individuality. If you conform — whether it be to a commercial power that wants to sell you sweatshirts or to the dictates of different fashion magazines and trend-oriented companies — you’re cheating yourself of the ability to express and be an individual.”
Lighting a cigarette, Field walks around her now empty store at 306 Bowery, surveying yet-to-be-packed pieces from Basquiat and Keith Haring, and offers some final advice: “When you conform, you become a victim. So stop shopping at Walmart, because there are so many small, made-in-America brands that now have direct contact with their customers, giving everyone a lot more opportunity to express themselves. It’s so enjoyable to discover yourself and create your own style and be an individual. That’s what I’ve always felt, anyway.”
[This is part of the spring 2016 edition of Sheer, a quarterly style supplement by the Village Voice devoted to exploring and sharing the most dynamic elements of New York City’s fashion and design worlds, from the iconic to the as yet undiscovered. Check out the rest of Sheer’s featured stories here.]