Patricia Field interviewPosted by Vivian McInerny, The Oregonian January 30, 2009 15:34PMCategories: Living Top Stories, Patricia FieldEvan Agostini, Associated PressPatricia Field at the opening of the movie "Sex and the City" with the author of the series.
Her hair is cherry pop red. Her bone structure is classical, even elegant, though her thigh-high spiky boots or glittery mini dresses or hats worn at jaunty angles distract from that. Patricia Field is best known as the stylist who put the sex in "Sex and the City" television series and movie with her over-the-top fashions. Field, 66, was nominated for an Oscar for "The Devil Wears Prada." Her costumes for "Confessions of a Shopaholic", which opens February 13, are bound to shine almost as brightly as the stars.
The phone interview was edited for clarity, brevity and to make me sound smarter or, at least, coherent.
People may be surprised to learn you've been in the fashion business a long time, opening a boutique in New York in 1966. Did you just jump from shop owner to movie stylist?
Yes. It's not that different. Selling is styling. When people come into your shop, you style them. That's why I say the kids who work in my store are stylists not sales people.
I was so wide-eyed (working on movie sets.) I had to dress a few people and they were paying me what I considered to be a lot of money. I didn't have to open my store every day (or deal with stock, bills, invoices etc.) and I thought, 'Oh my god, this is fantastic.' I really enjoyed it and excited about it. The company liked my work and . . one thing led to the other.
Years ago, few people knew what stylists did and now it seems everyone wants to be one.
The first year in college, (she studied liberal arts at New York University) I got a job as an assistant, I guess like a bookkeeper, at a photo studio but all of a sudden I was invoicing models and for the first time in my life I learned about stylists.
My family, they are older people, they still don't understand what I do. It's a new profession, relatively new.
Your Patricia Field line is available in stores all over the world, but in the U.S., only at your boutique in New York City. Why?
I don't want to be manufacturing and production. For HSN (Home Shopping Network) and Marks & Spencers, I didn't produce it. I designed it and PR-ed it, but I didn't produce it. I'm not an administrator of a big business.
At one time I did have other stores ( boutiques in New York and Pennsylvania and New Jersey) and I was going up and down the highway and I wasn't enjoying it.
TV and film work taps the creative part.
When you design for TV & movies are you designing to bring out character?.
It all has my style too, my signature too. I don't know how to sign my name in any other way.
How do you bring out character with costume?
In "Shopaholic" we have a character who is a manic shopper. She can't walk by a store without thinking the manikins are talking to her. You know, she's nutty. The script tells you that. Then you meet the actress, and they come in with their ideas about the character and their body. You have the script, and both you and the actor are creating this fictional character. We work in tandem. What they wear. Why they wear and why they wear it.
She's a nut! I mean, the manikins are talking to her. She's a shopaholic. Right away you assume she has tons of clothes and accessories. She must live in a room that's a big closet. Because she has so many different clothes, she knows how to put herself together because she's got all the tools.
She has pink boots with fur trim and gold chains!
You seem like you might have pink fur boots with gold chains.
I might have it because it's my profession. She might have it because she's manic.
My own shopaholicness - I've turned it into a career.
You jumped up from the audience to dance with Betsey Johnson on the runway at the end of her fashion show in New York a few seasons ago. A great moment. Are you old friends?
We are contemporaries. She started her boutique the same time I had mine. We were doing similar things. We became friends. She's such a great person, so positive!
You seem like similar types, perpetually youthful. You never felt, 'now that I'm over 40, I better dress my age?
I never thought of myself as over 40 or any age. I never think in those terms. Most the people I hang out with are much younger but I feel like I fit in.
When I'm with people my age - most of them - I find I don't have that much in common. The things they talk about I don't think about. I don't talk about health and those things.
What's your own style?
I have a big range. I can do "done up" pretty well. But my every day is jeans, flip flops and t-shirts.
How did your education fit with what you do now?
They related. You learn how to think logically. You know about the world. You get a broad picture.
I don't believe in that studying fashion. I think of fashion as a trade and you can learn it in the industry. College, to me, is a classical education.
I don't know how to drape or any of that. I'm more conceptual. If you have a broader education I think you have a broader approach.
I got into fashion because it was easy and I knew I could make a success of it without knocking myself out. I went with something I knew I could do and be independent in the business. I liked that there was no ceiling. The sky was the limit. I could have been a teacher. I think I would have been a great teacher. But I couldn't do it. I didn't want to know in 50 years exactly how much money I was not making.
You never married or had kids. Are you still with your long term partner?
No I've been single for about 8 years. It's a new phase for me. And I'm finding, after a quick adjustment, that I like it.
I was with someone for 35 years, three (relationships) over 35 years. This is new for me.
What's your impression of Oregon style?
I don't know. I imagine it is more practical and utilitarian, very American. America has a fashion signature - the French have a signature, the Italians do - and the America fashion signature is copied all around the world. It's practical. Who made t-shirts fashion? They were underwear until Marlon Brando. Sneakers were for sports. Americans made them shoes. Jeans were cowboy clothes. We're just plain people. We're not fancy people. We don't have a fancy history.
I guess that puts Oregon - with Nike, Adidas America, Columbia Sportswear, Pendleton, Jatnzen and other sportswear companies - in the middle of American fashion.
It does, in a way, it does.
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