Saturday, September 29, 2012

Style Maven: Patricia Field

Per the video above, being that this is the "January" of fashion, what more of a perfect moment to highlight fashion visionary, Patricia Field, who, in my fashion, while she doesn't consider herself to be a visionary , in my fashion, she really helped to shape the modern view of fashion, if not through my favorite movie, "The Devil Wears Prada", or her resume of business ventures in retail, it is most certainly through her participation in the looks of the coveted HBO series, Sex and the City! In my fashion, during the 90's and early millennia, “Sex and the City” set the standard for being an independent career women during a time when women were exploring a new reality where classic views on misogyny and gender relations were being challenged and exploited like never before. The fashions styled by Field during the show's run was the driving vehicle to delivering the shows retrospective on the the female point of viewwhich then got me to thinking: 1) how does a stylist translate a message effectively with clothes, and 2) what makes a great stylist, a “great” stylist and fashion visionary?

When one thinks of the 2005 movie, "The Devil Wears Prada", yes we first think of the insufferable, Miranda Priestly, played by, Meryl Streep, with that glamorous white bob. We also think about the bumbling naivete of, Andy Saks, played by Anne Hathaway. But the main reason we remember this movie is because of the character that had no lines the entire movie—the clothes! The clothes chosen for the movie is what furthers that voyeuristic view of the fashion industry depicted in the movie, for which reason, I'm sure, served as a large inspiration for those of us pursuing careers in fashion now—at  least it was for me! In 2007, on the way home from a high school class trip to New York, "The Devil Wears Prada" was the in-house movie on the bus ride—that’s when my head space turned from "reality" to obsessing about the glorious world of fashion. I was absolutely captivated by the beautiful images and the possibility of being in a position that allowed me to be surrounded with the ultimate in beauty all the time, at all times of my day. The prospect of dealing with fabulous clothes, photographs, and gorgeous people all the while exploiting the beauty of our world aiding in consumer’s buying decisions by suggesting what designers around the world were producing marvelous creations seemed like a natural progression of where to use my talents considering, at the that time, I was an obsessive photojournalist and photographer for my school’s yearbook.

Even though I must confess, the sardonic, aloof, austere attitude depicted of Miranda Priestly tickled me so; it is the thought of being around physical beauty all day that energizes my love for the industry. The movie did a good job of depicting the process of developing a world class fashion magazine. While fictional, "The Devil Wears Prada" uses a lot of fictional use of real fashion figures which helps to take us further behind the scenes of the fashion industry and the people who run it. The styling of each character is, in my fashion, what gives us that real life sense of what the fashion world should be if we were a part of the industry ourselves. It’s as actor, Stanley Tucci (who plays Nigel), says in one of the DVD featurettes, “Fashion is the film. We [actors] are the adjuncts to the film.” Considering all of this, I suppose it would be accurate to say that indirectly, Patricia Field, would qualify as one of my greatest inspirations in fashion.


Many people are most familiar with Patricia Field from the ever popular HBO series, Sex and the City, where she served as the show’s costume designer. From there she went on to win many awards for her work in film, all while owning her New YorkCity boutique, now located in the Bowery, that has been in operation since 1960.  In my fashion, “Sex and the City” will stand as a defining expose to the beginning of the shift, and acceptance, of a new wave of independent women of the future; women who were on the road to becoming the women they’d always hoped to become, all the while learning to cope with their busy, bustling environment, parallel to men. It was on the set of “Sex and the City” that Field first worked with director, David Frankel. He cites her as responsible for enlightening him on the effects of the tilting of the camera to show the “entire” outfit, including the shoes, for, “The shoes are everything. If you don’t see the shoes you might as well not see the rest of the outfit.”

David Frankel, also the director of “The Devil Wears Prada”,  mentioned in the DVD featurettes and commentary that getting the fashion right for this film was as simple as hiring Field, and leaving the room. In his opinion, “She’s got a fantastic eye and ear for where fashion is going, and anticipating trends, and anticipating combinations.” He continues, “Nothing in fashion is totally new, but the way things are combined is new. And that’s her gift.” Wendy Finerman, the movie’s producer, proclaimed, “She’s classic, yet quirky, in every single way and pushes the envelope without ever going over the edge.” I, personally, enjoyed listening to Field’s commentary in the movie as she explains how and why she got the clothing concepts together for each character , for one can tell that her vision was very calculated, logical, and down-to-earth, while still whimsy, original, and mildly far flung. In describing the  evolution of Andy Saks’ look throughout the movie from a basic, ordinary girl-next-door, into the new, edgier “textbook chic” fashion assistant, Fields explained that at the beginning of production she had 45 look changes, and with the growing scale of the movie, by the end, she had 60 look changes (a huge accomplishment in my experience). Meryl Streep had 40-45 designer coat looks, each one inconspicuous to the audience as to who designed them  specifically because Fields wanted to sustain the aura of luxurious mystery as well as a level of superiority that fueled the distant work relationship between Andy, and her boss. When Field was asked about her trend forecasting abilities and how she was able to create looks for the movie that would be trendy 8-10 months ahead of the movie’s release date, she replied simply by saying, “I don’t know anything. I just try to make it look beautiful.” She continues to explain, “I think beauty is something that is attractive, and people are drawn to it.” As Frankel puts it, “She has an unerring sense of how things go together in a special way.”

Now, to most, styling would seem an easy occupation, but what is shown in “The Devil Wears Prada” is that fashion is not to be mocked, and that in all actuality, it is a vital industry in our economy and everyday lives. The seemingly glam process of inspiring consumers to like and buy certain clothes takes a person with a discerning eye, not just for colors, and textures, and patterns. How does one develop this unerring sense of how things go together as David Frankel describes? In my fashion, it is, one half an open and bountifully creative mindset, and the other half a certain distinct awareness of one’s environment and the people in it. Fashion is a very subjective topic, and there are many points of views about fashion. A great stylist looks for those ideas and points of views of which we have not been exposed to already. For something to be interesting to someone, it is because the viewer is not too familiar with the subject of interest. Now a days, stylists understand what Frankel postulated before, that nothing in fashion is totally new, but the way things are combined is new. It takes an intimate knowledge of what used to be considered attractive, what we find attractive now, and why certain people will find certain things attractive in the future. It is a stylist job to understand what has been done before, so we can progress with aspirations to be something better than we were before.  As Field says in the video above, “The best way you put yourself together is achieving success in expressing how you feel about yourself, in general, and at that moment, for that occasion.”

I find the reason why people would be afraid of, or “nonchalant” towards fashion, is because fashion is very connected with our emotions. All of us have emotions, and we all need outlets for our emotions, and for a lot of us it is difficult to confront our true feelings. In my fashion, fashion is one outlet for one’s emotions in that the pieces you put together reveal  and amplify aspects of your personality that you prefer to project to clearly communicate your intentions for what you can do in this life (and want to do in this life). When we are able to, at a glance, accurately read a person’s personality by the way that they present themselves, there is a certain level of respect established in that your look shows the type of communication you prefer to have with people. If people cannot tell this about you, there is a disconnect which leaves the door open to the possibility of you to experience negative vibes between you and others.  We accept the love we think we deserve, and people will only treat you as bad as you let them. In my fashion, communication begins from as soon as you see someone, to when you part ways and don’t see each other anymore. 

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