“Part of the trick of the mismatch is that at the end of the day you call it the perfect mix match, because it’s not a mix but a match, which is the narrative.”
© Yaniv Edry
It goes without saying that Patricia Field is the foremost authority in the fashion world, but a little known fact is that she is a huge Japanophile. She has visited the country multiple times and loves Japanese food. Hear all about her passion for anything and everything Japanese in this interview with Chopsticks NY.
After Sex and the City (SATC), your name became synonymous with “New York Fashion in the early 21st Century.” But you have been in the industry since the 60s, so how do you describe this phenomenon? Did NY finally catch up with you?
I think NY more than any other place has caught up with me, not completely but the most, and then it started to grow in the fashion world around the globe. After that SATC made it and they caught up a big step because it was world-wide to normal people, not just fashion people but all kinds of people living everywhere. Professionals, housewives, even husbands. Because I heard husbands use the name Manolo Blahnik, and I would laugh!
You are a master at finding perfectly matching mismatches. What is the trick for that?
Part of the trick of the mismatch is that at the end of the day you call it the perfect mix match, because it’s not a mix but a match, which is the narrative. It’s not does black go with white, or do shorts go with sweaters. It’s the story that you’re telling with yourself, and that is the match. It’s not mixed. It’s all a part of a sentence, and each piece is a word. When you put the words together, you have the complete sentence. It shouldn’t be difficult because if you can construct a sentence and you know who you are and how you feel, then you know what you want to say. Then you go and you get the pieces, which are the words, and you make the sentence. We can all write a sentence and that’s what I do, I write sentences.
NY is an important element in your style. What’s so fascinating about the city for you?
I was born here in NYC, and I grew up in Manhattan and Queens. This is my hometown and I am a part of NY; I didn’t move here. When I was a little girl, I used to go up and down the streets, I used to go to the library or wherever, this was my neighborhood. If you think about if your hometown is a farm community, for example. That would be natural to you, but if I went to a farm I would be like, “Wow!” because I was never on a farm before. So it’s kind of like that.
Have you ever thought about moving to places like Paris or London to refresh your style?
No I never did. Although I like Paris and London, for me to move from NYC to another city that is similar, there’s really no point for me. I could understand if I wanted to have an option to be by the beach or some different kind of place that I enjoy, but for the cultural stimulation and the lifestyle there’s no place like NYC. And it’s a big city but it’s a small city, because everything is vertical. It’s small in area, and the people are very close and bumping up against each other, hearing and seeing each other. You get all this worldwide information just walking down the streets of NYC. That’s what makes it so wonderful.
You have a great understanding of Japanese culture. What was your first encounter with Japan and how did that influence you?
In the 80s we had a customer from Tokyo and we became friends, and this colleague had shops in Tokyo. Not exactly like ours but very similar, and this person wanted to create a Patricia Field shop in Laforet in Harajuku. So I went there to develop this with him, and that time I remember walking on Meiji Dori and seeing a shop ASH + DIAMONDS that caught my eye because it looked a lot like my shop. It was nighttime and it was closed, but I looked in the window and I saw it and said, “This is a cool shop.” Soon after that in NYC a young woman walked into my shop, and she was the owner Masuko Kato of that shop. She imported all American clothes, her store was kind of sexy girl. She would come and buy clothes from the store, because in the 80s and the exchange rate things were cheap. She was my ambassador to Japan and became one of my best friends, until she passed away five or six years ago. She opened the doors of Tokyo for me; her friends, her lifestyle, her whatever. In the 90s I started to go there very often, shopping for my store. So she would be coming here and I would be going there, and we would see each other all the time. Our friendship lasted until she died. Through her I understood so much more about the Japanese, because she opened the doors. I was there: living, partying, talking, and working. Of course on this side, all the Japanese kids started coming here in the 80s and they always loved my store because it was pop and they loved that. They loved the cartoons, and we were a favorite of the Japanese young people in NY. Japanese is very part of our substance. My buyer, my hair stylist and my graphic artist are Japanese, so it’s part of our fiber.
Suppose you could choose one Japanese film or TV drama to style, what kind of story would you pick?
The story comes first, then comes the offer. I don’t create the story as that comes from the writer; I just create the clothes or the look. I can dress any story, and if I had to say what I’m looking for it’s an intelligent story, not just for Japan but everywhere. For China, “Raise the Red Lantern” was a very intelligent story. It would be really interesting to take that and put it in our time zone.
The generation who enjoyed SATC over 10 years ago is now raising kids. Do you have any tips for raising fashionable kids?
Fashion is a cultural expression, so my tip would be that if you raise your kids culturally, intellectually and artistically, they will be fashionable.
Generally people tend to become more conservative regarding fashion and make-up as they get older. Do you have any advice for maintaining a young fashion mind?
You wear what you feel. If you feel old, you’re going to dress old. If you feel energy and excitement and interest, that’s going to be reflected in the way you look, the way you maintain your body, the way you dress. It’s not about old people trying to look young, it’s about all people looking interesting whether they are young or old.
Are there any Japanese products or culture you would like to introduce to New Yorkers?
Well, I love Japanese food. It’s one of my top two cuisines along with Mediterranean, and it’s trustworthy. I love the sake bar food, the whole style of small plates. I love noodles like ramen, and I also love shabu shabu very much, a lot of stuff. I like sushi, but I just reached a point with it and now I’m getting back to it. When Japanese culture started infiltrating NY and LA in the 70s, it was only sushi. Then as the years went by different Japanese cuisines started to come, so now there’s all kinds. It’s funny because I go to Greece a lot, and maybe five years ago there was a Japanese restaurant in Athens but it’s all sushi. That’s always the first thing, but here in NY you have all types of Japanese food, specialties such as noodles, barbeque, and sake bars. I do like sake, and I drink it at home.
What is your favorite place in Japan?
I don’t know what my favorite place in Tokyo is, but that place in the mountains, is it Nagano? A colleague Mr. Nakamura built a museum there for Keith Haring, and he also has a cowboy restaurant and a natural spa. I really enjoy that, and I have some great pictures from there. And I love Hakone, it’s not far from Tokyo and also in the mountains. Anyway, I had a gorgeous weekend there with Japanese friends. We took baths and we ate, and we took more baths and ate again, Japanese classic 10-course meals in our suite. Beautiful! I had a lot of fun in Osaka, though it’s very different from Tokyo. Osaka is more like NY and Tokyo is like Boston and Washington combined, do you know what I mean? Of course Tokyo is much more international.
—— Interview by Noriko Komura,
Written by Stacy Smith
The Patricia Field
Patricia’s boutique and salon is filled with her spirit. Carrying cutting edge outfits, costumes and accessories as well as providing hair and make-up services, the store has plenty of inspiration. The space is her former residence renovated into a store by connecting two buildings that face Bowery and Elizabeth Streets. The skylight found in the middle connecting area provides the place with a sanctuary-like feel.
306 Bowery, (bet. Houston & Bleecker Sts.), New York, NY 10012