So on Thursday 3rd April I was lucky enough to interview Costume Designer, Patricia Field and boy what an incredible, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity it was, all thanks to Enex100 and Forrest Chase!
I arrived early at about 5:10pm and the interview wasn’t due to be until 6pm – very early indeed, I often am but more so this time. Maybe you could call it fate. As soon as I walked towards The Greenhouse at Enex100 where we were all meeting, I saw Patricia up ahead of me walk towards Woolworths. I could tell she was lost so I approached her and introduced myself and asked if she was looking for The Greenhouse, which was over this way and I could take her. We arrived there and were the first so we sat together and ordered a coffee – she asked me to join her. As a typical New Yorker she took some time figuring out what she wanted because she just wanted ‘Cowfee’, none of this latte, short mac business, so we decided on a flat white for her and mocha for me. She noticed my Tshirt which, as you can see above is somewhat political. It sparked a lot of thought provoking conversations between us, she told me about Tshirts she once designed in her early days with ‘DUMB REAGAN’ written on them. I told her about the designer who sent it to me, a young Sydney fashion girl by the name of Olivia Henderson (my next post will be on her – so watch this space) and she was very interested. Patricia told me she had studied politics at College and we talked for about 45 minutes about politics in US history, Mitt Romney before Obama and Obamacare, Republicans vs Democrats and how the young creative people in New York seem to have given up on activism. Strangely enough, she told me the young people most interested in politics in New York these days are the more conservative kids like people in finance. I said it was completely the opposite here, that the more alternative thinkers and creatives (or hippies even) are more politically active active but indeed agreed that my generation is very conservative generally and a lot of us do just accept the status quo more than our baby boomer parents did.
Anyway, a lot of rather political discussions took place between us in that short but memorable time, not that I am an expert on those subjects by any stretch of the imagination but it is a topic that also interests me very much. We eventually went outside for a cigarette, she gave me one her hers (how bizarre haha) and we talked about Costume Design. I told her about the film I recently worked on, (These Final Hours – you can watch the trailer HERE if you like) that comes out in cinemas in July. She told me about the most recent film she worked on, The Other Woman with Cameron Diaz along with all kinds of other stories about the Industrial Revolution and how it affected fashion and started Ready-to-Wear.
Wow, what a day! After all of that we went back inside and everyone arrived and we did the round-table interview with other bloggers in attendance. I recorded the whole hour on my dictaphone and thought it would be an amazing opportunity for you all to hear the entire thing as though you were there too.
It has taken me HOURS to transcribe this, so I hope you enjoy it. It’s A LOT of text but definitely worth taking the time to read! Patricia tells us where some true gems in New York are, where to go to really capture the heart of New York and experience it when you happen to visit next and about herself, her likes and dislikes and of course, Costume and Styling and Sex And The City. It’s remarkable! Enjoy xx
(NB: I don’t know all the names of the bloggers asking questions so if it doesn’t say who’s asking, that’s why. Sorry! Feel free to fill me in if you know. Everything not in bold or brackets is Patricia speaking.)
Question 1 (Asked by me) – What is the biggest misconception about your job as a costume designer people have?
Patricia: Oh that’s a good one…I guess just the most popular misconceived question that I receive..I’m always asked, has an actress ever refused to wear something that I gave them? They have this idea that the costume designer is the role of a dictator and I always tell them, it never happens because I’m just the first editor, I give the actors choices within a certain thing…and I go ok here’s 5 possibilities, see which one you like because after all, the actor’s on camera. My role as a Costume Designer is to support the actor and help the actor through their wardrobe to find and develop the character but people think there’s a different process going on, like it’s some kind of like, “You wear this!” And of course, that’s not the way it goes. So that’s one of the biggest misconceptions. It’s amazing I get asked that question from the average fan to the highest journalist. It’s kind of surprising to me. They have this idea that you sit there and you fight with the actors to make them wear your clothes, it’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard.
Me – Do you work closely with the directors in that process?
I work with the directors, I love to work with the directors. Usually in feature films, the chance is better to have a strong director. In TV, especially series, once it’s a series it kind of takes on a life of its own. The Director’s kind of the babysitter because after a while, the actors, the crew, it’s a machine, it’s automatic. The actors know what to do every morning, so the director is not as important but in a good feature film, you’ll have a good director. I recently worked with Nick Cassavetes who is the son of John Cassavetes and Gina Rowland and he was really fun to work with. He was the kind of director that, you know, let’s say you plan it a certain way but in the course of the shooting you get an idea, you want to change it, he’s that kind. And of course it causes more work from my end, or any of the other staff, whether it’s the Production Designer or whatever, but I don’t mind to do that because in the end, the only thing that you see is the film.
Me – Was that the Cameron Diaz film you were telling me about earlier?
Yes, The Other Woman which is going to open up here shortly. As a matter of fact, Cameron’s coming here (to Australia) for the opening. So I prefer that kind of a Director because, if you have a great idea and it didn’t come to you two months ago when you were prepping all this, let’s go for it because in the end, that’s what you’re going to see. The people that see the film, they don’t know the back story, they see the finished product. So if you can improve the finished product, along the way,I’m all for it! I don’t mind doing changes or adding a costume or whatever it is, whatever it involves. The Director is more on the creative side of it as opposed to, in TV it’s all these producers and it’s one of the reasons I had to take a break for a while. You have all of these producers (in TV) and there are too many of them to start off with and they all have these uneducated opinions because ‘creative’ is not their job, but then they have to approve your work and I said the other day – on this other project that I’m working on – they’re still shooting actually, I had to leave because they pushed it back – it’s the kindergarten telling the professor what’s going on here. I was really losing my cool. I said, back off! Because they don’t know what they’re talking about. They’ll say the craziest things like, ‘oh well my wife was saying that so and so designer is really good.’ I’m like, oh great!?
Question 2 (Chelsey Wayte from Perth Fashion Festival) – we put it out there to our facebook fans. What is your view on fun headpieces for fun events like cocktail parties instead of just racewear?
Oh I know whay they asked that question! I’m famous here for making a remark about those fascinators. What is my view about wearing headwear at cocktail parties? I love headwear, I wear headwear all the time. I really feel that, when you see a person, the first thing you see is this (points to head), especially in TV and movies and so on, so I love headwear. And of course you wear headwear to a wedding, its traditional. I guess it’s because of more religious than cultural, but maybe a mix of cultural and for me headwear is great because it expresses something that is right there. It’s Immeditate and for me, fashion or dressing or how you present yourself, if you want to communicate to others who you are, and how you think and what you feel, do it here first (points at head again) because that’s what you see. So I’m totally into head wear. But I’m into headwear that functions, I’m not into headwear as a Christmas ball on a tree. I love headwear as protection but then of course you make it look gorgeous. As long as there’s a function and it makes sense to me, headwear is one of my favourite things – along with gloves.
Chelsey – On a more serious note, your boutique has been a fashion landmark in New York for almost 50 years.
That’s because I was a child when I opened it.
Chelsey – it’s obviously changed a lot in recent years, you would have seen a lot of designers come and go, and it’s becoming more challenging with things going online, what are your views on where the industry is headed? And what advice would you give designers and fashion creatives who want to start a business in the fashion industry these days?
Ok well, there’s a left hand and a right hand. There’s creative and then there’s the business side. The brain has to be able to operate on both sides to find success. One could be the most artistic, creative, original person but if you don’t understand how to get your creatitivity out there to others so that they can enjoy it – that is the point of art. It stays within you or within a small, tiny circle, so it’s very important, I think, from that point of view to either be able to do it yourself or find a counterpart, a partner that you can actually create a business out of your talent with. Unless you just like to design for your own enjoyment and not think of it in terms of a career.
Today, getting to your question, things are more difficult but sometimes out of the, what do you call it? The flowers grow out of the mud. For example, all of these hard times, the last whatever, last 5, 6, 7 years, designers always came to me, to a degree through the years, young designers, back in the day, I would give them backing – small amounts of money to get their little collection together for my shop. Today, kids come to my shop with their things and they leave them in my shop as though my shop is a gallery. Now I really appreciate that because they show their willingness and their work and they’re serious about it, instead of ‘oh I don’t have any money, I could make this thing for you but you have to give me the money to do it before I even make it.’ So sometimes out of hard times, it’s like when the going gets tough, the tough get going.
The thing about business and creativity is a very important point. It’s just necessary (to have both). Unless you find a counterpart, for example I’ve known Bestsey Johnson for years, we’re contemporaries so we started together from the beginning. She’s very talented, very signature, but back in the early days she was having business problems, getting into situations, working with investors for example and she really didn’t have the head for that. She would put in all this energy and then after a year or two it would fall apart and then she met her partner. Her own contemporary, who was an organized business woman – non-creative (in the fashion sense), creative in the business sense – and it was the best thing that happened because from zero she built that business up with her partner. A few years back (her partner’s name was Chantal Bacon) Chantal was like ‘Ok, I’m over it, I’m retiring, good bye. I’m cashing out.’ And it was really difficult for Bestsey and I think it still is because she’s never developed that business sense. She’s extremely creative on the imagination, on the fashion level but being disciplined with business, she never created that skill. Now she’s having problems again. All the sharks come after her and she lets them bite her. She went bankrupt, she sold her business to a manufacturer who’s name is Steve Madden and he’s notorious, he was in jail.
I pipe up and say we all know him now from The Wolf of Wall Street
Yes. And he basically owns her label now. I love her and I feel bad for her but you know, I want to shake her. So that’s really important. If you’re talking about a career, you have to have that business side covered.
(Patricia says cheers as we all raise our Cosmopolitan cocktails served to us by The Greenhouse – yes this actually happened)
It’s a pleasure to be here with all of you. I tell you, that’s a reward for me that I have a chance to sit down and chit chat, one-on-one with you all. It’s really cool.
Question 3 – I want to ask a question about us fashion bloggers. Because fashion bloggers have been popular for, maybe around 5 years, they are kind of the new power in the fashion industry.. I wanted to ask what you and the industry in general think about us amatures? (everyone laughs)
That’s a good questions because it’s kind of like what I was saying before – out of the mud, the flowers grow – ok maybe in this case…the mud is the old garb, the old system, and you know, it’s worn out and there was something sitting right there to replace it. I think that the establishment in the industry, it’s fear and loathing on one hand (the attitude towards bloggers) and at the same time it’s awe. I think the establishment, I do hear they’re excited by it. You always hear, ‘Oh she’s the famous fashion blogger and she’s front row.’ Fashion bloggers, you know in a few years they got on the front row and they’re important people and it’s like what I was saying about the designers…how can I say this…they took the ball and ran with it. Like today’s young designers and the fashion bloggers, they did the same thing. The technology, the internet came and opened up the opportunity to – on your own, make your own noise. It’s fantastic. It became a wide open field, it’s a much bigger field and it’s less political, so it’s healthier.
Question 4 (The Boyfriend Shirt Blogger) – My question is more about your process, so creating Sex And The City, that’s ten years, that’s an enormous project to evolve. When you go out, do you walk up to a shop and see a dress and say, ‘Yep that’s something Samantha would wear.’ Or do you have something picked out in your mind and you’re on a mission to find that?
Ok, when I go out to…when I go out, I go to a bar and get drunk (everyone laughs). Haha no, just joking. It’s a combination of both. When I go out things lead me in a direction of looking at what their character is, what their style could be, of course based on what they do and what they say. And then the other side of it is you see something and it looks really interesting and you say, that could work, but you do start out with a certain idea and that idea evolves and develops as you develop this wardrobe. It’s kind of – I wouldn’t say hit and miss, it’s more than hit and miss but it develops as it goes along and you sort of fine tune it. I think that’s kind of the process.
Question 5 (The Boyfriend Shirt blogger) – Is there anywhere in New York where you know it’s a one-stop-shop and you will always find a secret treasure there?
Well of course aside from my own shop. Century 21 is one of my favourites because, of course the prices are great but they have a lot of one-of-a-kind samples as well. They go into all these fashion houses with cash, one of the big buyers is someone I’ve known for years. They clean out the room. The room was maybe filled with left over manufactured pieces.. but that was a sample, oh they never made it, that was down the runway or whatever, so you can find real treasures there and the price is always great. Anybody who goes to New York, I suggest they visit them. Another good place in New York – that’s where I shop basically – there’s this friend of mine who started this consignment shop, probably 20 years ago. Now she’s got about 6 of them and through the years she’s made connections and actresses and models and all kinds of people bring their things and many times models get gifts from designers and they never wear it, so she’s kind of the mecca of all of that. It’s a very, very good resource. It’s called INA (I just found it HERE and you can shop it online, OMG).
I’m going in a couple of months haha so I wanted tips.
Call me when you get there.
Oh I will.
(Patricia keeps thinking) You might be interested also, there’s this fashion rental place, it’s called ‘Albright’ (I found it HERE) She goes around and buys samples and runway pieces and so on and she has this really large place with all kinds of goodies in there and it’s not too far from my shop actually, I mean from the point of view of blogging about distinct places – I think that would be a good one. And one just opened up recently, he was a stylist, I guess he had a bunch of clothing and so he opened up a fashion rental place. It’s much smaller than Albright but he’s got interesting things and I just used him on this TV project I was talking about, actually it’s still shooting, originally it got scheduled earlier and they had casting problems and they kept pushing and I said, now you’re pushing, I can’t push with you, I have to leave at a certain date and they said, ‘Ok no problem.’ There was more or less a week left in the work but it was ok, it was done.
Question 6 (Michelle Rimmer from States of Style Blog) – My question is also in the same vein as in New York – I love New York, I’m sure we all do.
I love Perth. The grass is always greener, right?
I guess for us Melbourne is similar and the West Coast of the states is like Perth. So for us we love going to the different change of pace. Apart from your own store, where do you hang out..? The Sex & The City it was Meatpacking, now it’s seeming to be Lower East Side…Williamsburg, where do you suggest and where do you hang out?
Well I suggest Lower East Side and Brooklyn. I also suggest – but most people never do, but maybe it’s a bit more difficult to navigate – I also suggest the boroughs. I mean Brooklyn, where everyone hangs out in Brooklyn is right over the bridge, right across the river, it’s close. It’s close to the downtown we have. Williamsburg and Bushwick and Greenpoint now, they developed because Manhattan gets more and more expensive and young people cannot afford it. Those places used to be slums, literally, people used to say, ‘If you go through Williamsburg drive fast, lock your doors, don’t stop.’ Now it’s cool, it’s a mecca, it’s all the cool kids, it’s all the trends. I was born in New York, not in Manhattan but then my family moved down to Queens. I’m a New Yorker, a complete New Yorker, if you go to the boroughs like Queens, you know it’s the mecca of ethnic people, there’s so much culture all mixed in. In Manhattan it’s the elite. But the real New Yok that makes New York such a great city with the mixture of all those cultures, which you guys as Australians, I’m sure you’d understand.. It’s in the Bronx, it’s in Queens and of course it’s harder to figure out where and what’s happening in those places. It’s in Brooklyn. Willamsburg and Greenpoint, they’re right on the edge across from Manhattan but Brooklyn pushes way out wide and there’s Caribbean neighbourhoods, Arabic neighbourhoods. The food, the style, the culture, it’s all there! But nobody really, visitors don’t tend to get that far.
For example, Jay Z is a big owner in a new stadium that was built in Brooklyn, it’s called The Barclay Centre and I love it there because it’s so New York-y. When you go there, for me, it’s like ‘home town.’ When people come from outside they go to Madison Square Gardens, they would never go out to Brooklyn. So you just feel like it’s your home. For example when you come to New York, you should definitely get to The Barclay Centre. Whether its for a basketball game or a concert. You can just go on the subway, it’s 3 stops from Manhattan.
Michelle – we tried to do just that but when we got to Brooklyn we couldn’t figure out where everything was. I loved the architecture and it was quite homely (and quite scary), then we got a taxi to Willamsburg.
Not far from there, there’s the Brooklyn Museum, very beautiful, big old museum, and there’s the Botanical Gardens and those are all cultural things but right beyond there are these neighbourhoods. Blackridge Avenue where The Barclay Centre is, if you go beyond The Barclay Centre, along Flatbush Avenue, all of a sudden you’re in the Caribbean. What I suggest doing and maybe less daunting is to rent a car, get yourself a little map and itinerary and do it, go Brooklyn, Bronx. Aside from the Bronx, the Zoo, you have all these neighbourhoods like Arthur Avenue, it’s like the best sandwiches in New York come from there (little Italy), you (go there) and start to feel the beauty of what New York is about. I feel like most people when they come to New York, they go ‘big town’ but you don’t have to go to New York to see Louis Vuitton – it’s in every city in the world. But it’s hard to get into a city if you’re a stranger, the best is to have a friend that is your ambassador that can really get you in, then you can enjoy what it is.
Chelsey – You might have lots of Australians hitting you up.
You’re welcome, you’re welcome..please don’t hesitate. I’m available, either email me, call my store, say we met in Australia, even if you walk in my store at the desk and you ask for me, I’m not always on the floor, but I’m there. Recently I’ve been in the shop more than in the last 10-15 years preceeding it because I was doing my expansion and I was getting a little bit, I needed a break from the TV but recently I started to get back into it – the Costume Design again. Anyway my office is downstairs, so I’m there but you may not see me but I’m there so if any of you happen to come, please ask for me at the desk!
Michelle – I have one more question – The Kim and Kanye vogue cover is so big right now and we’re getting saturated about information with it, what do you think about television reality stars becoming potential fashion icons?
(Pulls a funny face) I mean, I was over it even before it started actually, to be honest. I don’t’ understand it whatsoever. It is not interesting, it’s actually boring. And I’m ashamed of that Kim Kardashian who’s a fellow Armenian. And Kanye – I don’t understand it. It doesn’t mean anything, at least he sings. I never really got into his music, I don’t get his music. It’s some kind of commercial, I don’t know what genre it is. Really, if you find the answer, please call me. I don’t understand what is the fascination. It’s a very low level of intellect of culture in our society today. I find that really interesting, that’s the huge question for me. I don’t want to say anything bad about them, but I guess they’re making a lot of money doing what they’re doing. I’m sorry.
Question 7 (Agatha PW, model/Instagrammer) – What do you do for fun?
You know it’s a great question because lately I’ve been thinking about all that. My fun is my work. My work is my life and my life is kind of intergrated around my work, my friends are other people where we have things in common, whether it’s fashion or art or music or whatever and it all mashes together. Really the only thing that I do that I would say that’s not my work world are my two poodles and my outside interests which we were talking about..
(Patricia points to me due to our 45 minute conversation over coffee and cigarettes earlier in the evening).
I studied politics and philosophy, I didn’t study fashion. The T-shirt got me into a converasation.
(I wore – which said TONY ABBOTT IS SO LAST SEASON – as seen above)
So I love history and contemporary life of politics and philosophy and so on, so those are the two subjects not in my line of work that interest me. The main thing was, I wanted my role in business, like you guys you’re all bloggers, you opened up a whole independent way of living. I was always like that, I wanted my own business and fashion for me was the vehicle because fashion was easy (to me) and I understood business through my family. In the meantime my education was a whole other world, which I enjoyed but I never really hooked it up with a career. I continued to be vitally interested in it, whether it’s contemporary politics or philosophy, as a matter of fact, I’m like a caged philosopher that is caged by fashion.
Chelsey – maybe you could write a book about the philosophy of fashion.
Oh god. I would love to write a book, but it would be a lot of effort for me. My juices flow when I’m around people, I love the interaction. Sitting there all by myself and writing – but you guys do that and I admire that. Of course you go out in the world and you get your information but at the end of the day, you sit there and write.
I pipe up again and say I was up all the night before blogging the dinner at Nobu featuring her and hadn’t slept – story of my life.
I know the feeling.
Tonight is the big night (of the exhibition bump in) and then tomorrow morning we start early so I am the same, I don’t get to sleep much.
Agatha – What are 3 sentimental items in your wardrobe?
At the moment, I have this gift – it’s a powder blue mink vest and a friend of mine gave this to me, he’s Greek, he went to a Greek Furrier, it’s all embroidered with my name inside. It’s powder blue mink. When he gave it to me I was like, oh. And then it hung in my closet for a little bit which is normal for me. I kind of have to absorb it and I enjoy it so much because it’s so unusual after all, it’s POWDER BLUE MINK. I was saying the other day, at one point I was in Paris and I was a guest of John Galliano at Dior and he gave me these long gloves of shearling powder blue tie dye. The interior is the fur and the outside is this shearling tie dye and he also gave me a dress and it’s fierce and fabulous but let’s face it, where do you wear this? It’s like this warm fur thing and anyway so those two pieces they sat in my closet for a while, I didn’t use them even though I adored them, I had to find a way to work it and then when I got this fur vest of powder blue, I put those gloves on and the fur vest and it was like, perfect. The dress is still a work in progress though.
Question 8 – You worked for Devil’s Wears Prada and that film shows a downside of the industry so I wanted to ask, what is your downside?
Well because I have my own business, I feel that, that’s the solution to no serious downsides because for me a downside is when I’m boxed into something and I don’t have control. So because I have my own business, I’ve always been able to live free. I don’t really have a downside actually, as long as I can control my own life. I don’t want to control others, I just want control of my own life so as long as I feel that way, I’m happy. I don’t want to work for ‘The Man.’ I don’t have the temperament. When I was in school I was always getting bad results on my report card and it said needs to work at playing well with others. My mum used to say, “You don’t work and play well with others.” Ahh I do mum, I do.
Sarah Jessica Parker was quoted as saying you’re amazing at telling stories with your clothes. What was the story you were trying to convey throughout Sex & The City?
There were many stories throughout Sex & The City but I love telling stories through fashion, it’s a chance for the narrative. You want to communicate with people whatever you want to communicate through how you present yourself. So, I mean, through S&TC it was cosmic or fate because I was born in the city, I grew up in the city, I was 6 years, 7 years old going to the library down the street in the city so I would say it was organic to convey – but it’s very difficult to pinpoint something – it’s just a general ‘conveience’ of mood and attitude and experience, which in the end of the day you kind of describe as amassing all of this information and culture and creating your own blog about it.
Chelsey – There’s obviously a bit of fantasy out there, a scene when she runs down the street wearing a fur and pearls in the snow. Is that reality in New York or is that just a bit of creative fun with the characters, going a bit beyond?
It is reality to me, not only in my ideal sense but also in my experience of ‘during the high times’ of your life and conveying it and interpreting it, let’s say through Carrie in bed in her pearls and a Tshirt. You know I think life is wonderful when the imagination elevates it a bit, not to another planet, here on earth but on tip toes. And when I experience those times, I recognise them, enjoy them and they become part of my information bank or memory or something and then when I have a chance to express it, it’s there, waiting to go. I mean, I think that positive, a bit of comedy, laughter, it’s very important in the quality of our lives, that we can enjoy and when I see something that’s enjoyable or a way to express enjoyment, for me it’s my energy source. Like the pearls in bed or the pajamas and the fur coat in the snow.
Me – Is it something to aspire to for the viewer?
I don’t know if it’s that, for me, it’s a feeling I get and then if I have a chance to tell everyone, I do. I guess that’s my nature, you can’t shut me up.
Chelsey – that just blows my mind though, because it’s something that’s going on in your head as a creative outlet and you’ve made a decision based on a memory or a thought you’ve had and then it goes out there into the public and then
I pipe up again – then women are then wearing pearls to bed?
Chelsey – I actually wore pearls to bed once because of it..haha
But you know part of it, especially with Carrie, Sarah Jessica Parker, she got it and sometimes she didn’t get it eventually but you know (clicks fingers) she got it. She’s tuned in. She loves fashion, she’s creative so she was a great partner to dance with. I always say, we did the Tango together. Because it takes two to Tango and if the actor doesn’t really understand where you’re coming from and doesn’t relate, it’s much more difficult to achieve that level. I have a private client – I don’t do that in general because it gets too personal and then it’s not fun but anyway her husband charmed me into it and I’ve worked with her for quite a few years now, several years and so right now she has me designing her closet. I’m like, ok. A closet. So I’m making her private, ‘key club’ world. It’s her closet but you just go in there and get dressed. For example it’s very hard for her – to fly with me – but I try to stay with it because her husband’s a sweetheart and she’s the kind of person that you could give her the treasure of the world and she would say, something INSANE like, oh can you get it for me cheaper, but it’s not even expensive, it’s cheap.! And you’re spending thousands of dollars for CRAP and I’m bringing her a treasure and you want to save $100 when you’re spending $100,000 on a carpet or something that’s horrible. So SJP, she got it and so it made it fun. As I say, it’s like doing the Tango. It’s Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers time and you know you need the partner to create that. So I hope that answers the question.
This is me talking now. Are you still there? If you are, I’m sure you don’t regret it! Phoah! Epic but amazing!
‘Til next time,
xxx SV xxx