Patricia Field has always done things her way.
With a career spanning 45 years and counting, the designer, stylist and boutique owner built her reputation by creating her own blueprint. “If you asked me who I looked up to from the beginning of my career, I would say no one,” Field said. “I didn’t see fashion that way. I felt fashion.”
On the other hand, Field has clearly inspired others in the industry. “As a designer, everyone loves her because she does what designers dream of doing: putting together eccentric pieces,” said designer Christian Siriano. “Any designer would love to have Patricia pull for one of their projects because that means she thinks it’s interesting, creative, new and special.”
George Malkemus, president of Manolo Blahnik USA, said Field’s ability to stay ahead of trends puts her in a unique class.
“She always has an extraordinary take on what’s happening on the street before anyone else in fashion,” he said. “She embraces young ideas and young people in a way that very few people in fashion do.”
Born and raised in New York, Field’s relationship with fashion started in 1966 when she opened her first boutique in Greenwich Village. The eponymous store, now relocated to the Bowery neighborhood, was a passion project for Field.
“I love retail because there’s a truth in it. The money goes on the counter or it doesn’t,” she said.
The know-how for the store came from her parents, who owned and operated dry-cleaning businesses. Through them, Field learned the basics: how to work a cash register, build relationships with customers and be fanatical about her work.
Her shop gradually became a primary player on the New York fashion scene, and in 1994, Field launched her own line, House of Field.
Along the way, she also added a new skill to her résumé: styling for TV and film.
A close friend recommended her for a costume job in 1986, a feature film called “Lady Beware” that was shooting in New York. Field said styling for actors was a good adjunct to running her store and was a little less stressful.
And after that, one job led to another.
“When the opportunity came up to do styling on sets, it was a good balance for me because you just sell a service and you walk away,” she said. “Whether it’s a six-day commercial shoot or a six-year TV series, the success of it isn’t your responsibility. My job is to make the actor feel comfortable and attractive in front of that camera.”
Sometimes, though, the costume design is a central part of the storytelling, as it was on “Sex & the City,” which Field styled for its entire six seasons (and for both movies). It was through the HBO series that Field is credited with turning brands such as Manolo Blahnik, Jimmy Choo and Christian Louboutin into household names.
“The fashion of the show began to make an impression, and the writers were very smart,” Field said. “They hooked into that and started making shoe sound bites, like ‘I lost my Choos,’ and writing a scene where Carrie cried over a pair of Manolos.”
Executive producer Michael Patrick King, who co-wrote the show and directed both films, said Field’s styling brought an authenticity to the look of the franchise. “Pat added the knowledge of what was real and current in New York that a typical costume designer could never have brought because they wouldn’t have the hands-on experience or passion,” King said. “She was daring enough to change up looks every season depending on what was current.”
Through her work on “Sex & the City,” Field won two Emmy awards for costuming and became a sought-after stylist. She then worked on films like “The Devil Wears Prada,” for which she was nominated for an Oscar, and TV’s “Ugly Betty.”
Now, Field has come full circle, looking to enrich what first got her hooked on the industry. Putting the focus on her retail roots, the multitasker is planning to convert her design studio into an expanded store by next spring.
And while she has accomplished a lot in her career in fashion, Field doesn’t plan on slowing down anytime soon.
“I could have walked away a long time ago, turned my business over to my top guys, took my money, moved down to my beautiful little apartment in Florida and watched the ocean,” she said. “If I were to walk away from my work, I’d be dead. My work is my life.”