Patricia Field changed our world with Carrie Bradshaw's style in Sex and the City as loyal fans watched anxiously to see what Carrie and the girls would wear each week. Pat has been an icon of the downtown fashion scene for years and an advocate for LGBT youth. We had the chance to catch up with Pat to talk about her huge sale of Sex and the City wares and other fab items at the NYC consignment store INA, the opening of her new store, and more.
Cannon: Pat, you have so much going on! Opening a new store and selling memorabilia from Sex and the City, The Devil Wears Prada, and Ugly Betty at INA, the most fab Consignment shop in the city. You finally cleaned out your closet!
Patricia Field: I did, I sure did.
C: So, tell us about what inspired this and where you got all the pieces from?
P: You know, Ina is an old friend of mine, and when we finished the Sex and the City series, I called Ina and told her there was a lot of stuff here. She came and bought whatever was left that hadn’t been taken by any of the actors and she ran a big sale and it was sensational. The line was around the block! Actually, it was Ina’s idea to do a sale.
Ina: She was cleaning out her stuff. She didn’t want a lot of it and didn’t want to move it anymore. She was just ready to let go.
P: I’m moving into a much smaller place.
C: I would have loved to have seen this process!
P: Really, I’m not a hoarder, but over the eight years that I was there, I didn’t realize how much [I had collected]! So Ina came over one day, thank god, and she went into my main closet and we started pulling. She came a few times and we went step by step through my place — my coat closet, my jewelry, whatever. There were so many things I didn’t even recognize that were in boxes.
I: She'd say, "Where did this come from? I never saw this before!" [We ended up with] just under a thousand items in inventory, and that doesn’t include all these little ziplocks of jewels.
C: And you’ve been friends for… many, many years.
P: Since when, early 90s?
I: Yeah, I knew you because I used to have a showroom, and you had your store on 8th Street. But we were not friends, I just knew who she was.
P: We became friends after Ina opened up her shop and I used to go there a lot for my work. You know, that famous fur coat of Carrie's came from Ina.
I: From the first season, that was a vintage fur!
C: I always find it so great how real old New Yorkers always support each other and find each other and I think you both have been such great friends and collaborators for such a long time.
P: Yes, you know New York is really a small place and it's got many, many, many facets, but it's all a little crammed together, so if you are here long enough, we get to know everybody.
C: Well, I grew up in New York so I was going to your store on 8th Street since I was in Xavier High School. I was always obsessed.
I: We are a bunch of little villages you know. And even if you don’t know certain people, you just see them in a restaurant or walking down the street or walking their dog, going to the market…you know it's lovely.
P: that’s why we live here.
I: That’s right.
P: It’s a big little city.
C: You have changed the face of fashion and styling and for the most part you’ve really set the standard with Sex and the City. Tell us about what it was like working and creating these iconic looks that are so legendary that they are going to live on forever.
P: I think that part of the Sex and the City story was good timing. I think the timing was intrinsic, not only in the look, but in the script and in the characters — and timing is very important. I came into Sex and the City after so many years in business in New York. It wasn’t like I was a newcomer, I started doing films and TV in the mid-80s.
I had worked with Sarah Jessica Parker before and we had established a relationship of trust and respect, which was one of the reasons that I was asked to do Sex and the City. She’s very, very different than me and my taste but she would always be ready to listen and look at anything. She didn’t accept all of it, but she was always open, she never turned anything down without checking it out, and that was really important because she was the vehicle. She encouraged me to make these twists because she found it interesting, amusing, and she responded to it, and so I was able to really travel that road with her. And then, I think what happened was that the other three girls (Kim Cattrall, Cynthia Nixon, and Kristin Davis) started seeing…
C: …the response the show and fashion had on everyone!
P: Yeah, then they kind of got it — because I didn’t know them until we met! But very quickly they saw that it took two to tango! Yes, I was the stylist, but I couldn’t have done it without Sarah Jessica, and vise versa. It was like we created Carrie together. I’ve done many jobs after that and before that and it's really important if you have that collaboration and understanding and you have fun together.
The clothing was out there and then the writers started writing for the fashion. Originally, it wasn’t conceived as a fashion show, it was just about these four girls in the city. As the fashion started clicking, the writers Darren Star and Michael Patrick King saw the reaction and they kind of went with it, and then they stared writing fashion jokes and so on. So it was a very good run, it was a great experience!
C: And it made Manolo a household name.
P: Yes, Manolo.
C: I think one of my favorite stories was when David and Phillipe Blond came to one of your parties and Phillipe was wearing the red dress with the spikes, and I guess he walked into the party and you were like, that’s the dress I want for Samantha!
P: I need that dress!
C: And you were trying to get it off his back, I think.
P: Actually, I did get it off his back because the one made for me didn’t have the spiky shoulders, so they ripped apart the shoulders and put it on the new one for Samantha. And it's really funny because when Kim (Cattrall) saw the dress, she [didn't like it at first] but everybody was telling her to wear the dress. She wore it in that number where they were all singing and it became one of those iconic dresses.
C: You’ve been such a strong supporter of downtown New York and club kids and transgenders and young gay teens, I think it is so inspiring. Tell us about how that came about.
P: You know, my support of gays and gender and the whole family of it, it's not really because I’m altruistic. I find that gay people are entertaining, they are expressive, they are artistic, they are visual — not all, but the numbers bear out — so they entertain me, they make my life a show. I respond to entertainment, I respond to a show, and so I want that around me. That’s really the reason! It's selfish, it's not that I’m not being altruistic about it. You guys lighten up my life, you brighten my life, you bring me interesting ideas and visuals and creativity. So really, that’s what it's about — it's about my entertainment.C: Tell us about what it was like going through thousands of pieces of merchandise and seeing it all at once!
I: When Pat and I were doing it, it was really fun. She has this fabulous round bed with a leopard print spread — it is very Pat — so we would start laying clothes out on the bed. I was just amazed at what she had. I know her really well, I know what she likes to wear, but she had this treasure trove of things. Yes, there are some that are from Devil Wears Prada, but a lot of them she’s maybe never worn or they weren’t used in something. They still have something about them that is very Pat — either the colors (her favorite colors seem to be chartreuse, purple, red, orange, and turquoise, although she has a lot of black things, too) or there was a theme to a lot of things, like hoods. If you look at photos of Pat online, she often has a hood on, so we have a lot of hooded clothes. She also likes strapless and asymmetrical things. I could see the theme of her personality coming through, whether it was a $25 item or a $2000 item. That was really wonderful because you could see that this is a really talented woman and she had this vision where maybe these were things that she bought for herself but never wore.
P: You know how that goes.
I: Yep, we all do that, which is why she also had to clean out her closets. But I could see them being part of who she is and that was really fun.
P: (As she tries on a vintage Chanel motocross jacket) I just had to have Chanel. I just thought it was so pretty and every time I put it on…
I: …it didn’t feel like you.
P: No, it just wasn’t cut properly for me and as much as I looked at it and loved it, I never wore it.
I: Another thing is that she likes sexy clothes. We have quite a few things that are either beaded with feathers, with chains, metallic, and so it’s a wonderful collection of what’s been there for 20 years.
C: I feel like a good vintage store collector is like a really good curator of a museum, the ones that are really good find the most amazing pieces.
P: Because a vintage store owner or consigner is a curator; they make the first edit. So what, next stop is the FIT museum for you, Ina.
I: I don’t have that ambition, I am happy with what I do and I’m happy the way we’ve grown. We have lots of wonderful customers, lots of wonderful consigners, we have great employees, and we are slowly just expanding. We also just bought a truck and we are going to go out to Williamsburg for a day, advertise that people can come to the truck give us their stuff to bring into the stores.
C: We are coming out of a pretty hard economic climate. What would you say to emerging stylists and young people who are coming into the industry?
P: I don’t think fashion is much different than many other industries. I have a very good friend who is a marketing professor for the last 20 years and he is always telling me that the generations of kids today have to put out more than, let's say, the 80s generation, or whatever generation in the past. Kids today work harder, they work for free, there’s a whole new career called intern. In our day, you got out of school and you got a job, there was no such thing as intern. I find that the kids today are a lot more industrious, hard-working, and I think the economic climate is definitely part of that — it requires when the going gets tough, the tough gets going. I see it in my shop, I see it in the film industry or TV, there are great kids like Rosie here, who we found as an intern on Ugly Betty. I think it's good, I think it is a dose of reality that will take you through life on another level, so there’s always a silver lining on a dark moon.
C: What was your favorite episode or movie that you ever worked on?
P: Well, of course I have to say Sex and the City because of the amazing success that brought so much fun, positivity, and joy. But I've got to say, the most fun project that I ever worked on was actually my third experience, a TV show called Crime Story with Michael Mann, about how the mafia from Chicago established Las Vegas. Half of the actors were originally cops or crooks, so they were kind of the real thing. This is 1987 and the show took place in the late 50s, early 60s, and in those days that was the first big show in Las Vegas, and there were fantasies that they were the new Rat Pack. I had such a good time with them and I think that was probably the most fun show I worked on.
I called up every big dealer I knew to send me sharkskin suits and then I had this huge warehouse of vintage clothes. They paid me well — you know, in 1987, the salary for a costume designer was absolutely the same as it is today, it has never elevated. We're talking 25 years, so when you talk about the economic climate today for kids that do costume design…
The first time I did a movie, they wanted to pay me like $2500 a week and I thought that was so much money to do such an easy thing. It’s a lot of responsibility, you have payroll, you have rent, you have inventory, it's every day. In those days, if I walked out with $500 at the end of the week, I was happy. I just found heaven, I loved it, was so appreciative, and I had been in this business for 20 years already, so it was something that happened that I never took for granted.
C: It's been said that you can case a store in 5 minutes, be in-and-out and know exactly what you want within 5 minutes.
I: She’s very good, and very fast, I can tell you from many years of experience.
P: But I would look at every single piece, I would go right down the line.
I: You do but you're very definitive, you always know exactly what you're looking for when you see it.
P: That’s also part of doing film and TV because you have a character, and once you kind of get who that person is, there is a general structure for that character. What’s funny with Sex and the City, I would go into a store, Saks or whatever, and a salesgirl would come up to me and show me something for Charlotte.
I: They know the characters so well they could just do it. They got into it!
P: That was fun, people got into it so much they became part of it.
EXCLUSIVE PHOTOGRAPHY OF PATRICIA FIELD AND INA BY: CHRISTOS KARANTZOLAS
Store party images: Instagram images by CANNON