Written by: John Wesley
Edited by: Michael Loftus
Photographer: Adam T Deen
Art and fashion scenes often influence each other, at times borrowing themes and both having a profound effect on daily culture. Patricia Field has been deeply rooted in both worlds for over five decades. She has been praised for her fashion styling innovations in the HBO series Sex and the City, on the big screen in The Devil Wears Prada and prominently displayed on TV Land’s hit series Younger. What is often overlooked is Patricia’s passion for supporting and collaborating with many great American artists throughout her career. She gave a young Keith Haring and Jean-Michel Basquiat their first exhibitions at her iconic East Village boutique on Bowery. This past May one of Basquiat’s paintings sold at Sotheby’s for a record $110.5 million dollars, the highest amount ever paid for an original piece of American artwork. In 2015, after half a century of providing New York and beyond with her forward thinking outlook on fashion and art, Patricia opted to close the doors for the last time to her boutique. She now devotes her time and energy to cultivating and promoting ARTFASHION. This grassroots movement enlists a select group of visionary artists who create one of a kind made to order handcrafted pieces, curated by Patricia and sold exclusively on her website www.patriciafield.com and her pop-up events. I witnessed her latest exhibition as ARTFASHION took over Catskill, NY this past weekend, highlighted by fashion shows on Friday and Saturday night, as well as a pop-up store to purchase these unique wearable art garments on Saturday afternoon. The weekend concluded with Patricia hosting a Q&A on Sunday for the community.
I had the added perspective of riding to Catskill with my friend Keli Lucas, an NYC based artist who was among several newer collaborators to have paintings featured in the immersive show. It was amazing to experience the emotional shifts of a talented young artist who would be working with the legend Patricia Field for the first time.
I got the chance sit down with Patricia Field and discuss her ARTFASHION movement and what she imagines for the future.
After three days of exploring art, fashion, and photographing beautiful original pieces, not to mention hearing first hand the inspirations from a new generation of rising stars such as Scooter Laforge, Iris Bonner (These Pink Lips) and SSIK, the last thing on my mind was driving back to Manhattan.
JW: First of all, congratulations on the show last night. It was very inspiring.
PF: You look as though you get it. I like your jacket that you turned inside out with that wonderful lining. Very cool.
JW: Thank you, this is by an artist named Nima Veiseh. I read a recent interview where you described fashion shows as being too “narcissistic” and “professional.” That’s the complete opposite vibe you get from ARTFASHION. Do you think the more expressive shows like what you’re creating will ever become the norm?
PF: I never really said “narcissistic and professional.” I said “commercial.” Do I think that ARTFASHION will become the norm? I really can’t answer that other than…I do see many commercial companies have picked up on this idea. I got the idea from my clients in my shop. I had a couple of artists painting t-shirts and my clients, stylists as well, would come and say “you know we’re shopping everywhere and everything’s the same…it’s a bore and this store is the only place we can go and have a surprise.” So as I was planning to sell my store, I decided to take that segment of my shop, the ARTFASHION- the painted clothing, one of a kind, and convert my website to an ARTFASHION online gallery.
To answer your question, I think it will become more commercial because everybody will pick up on the trend. This happens with everything, it’s not just ARTFASHION. It’s off-the-shoulder blouses. It’s the skirt with the slit up the side. It’s whatever gets to be noted and becomes trendy and gets produced in China by the hundreds of millions and gets bought by the United States and other countries all over the world. But ARTFASHION, my ARTFASHION you can’t reproduce it. Yes you could buy a piece, print it exactly the way it is and apply it to a garment. I saw it on the Alibaba website…my Scooter Laforge / Iris Bonner. You know they buy a piece and then they produce it. Well of course I knew somebody at Alibaba and they put an end to it.
If I’m offering a one of a kind to someone, I just don’t want to be undermined by the commercial company that takes it and prints it…and it’s out there at H&M for $20. It’s not about the money. It’s just about the integrity that I’m putting out there. And you know, you don’t want your integrity stamped into the ground…Not mine only, but the artist’s.
I don’t think it will become commercial as the way I do it, because what I do is…artists are painting garments. We’re not printing. I can print…I can knock myself off and print if I want. I don’t do it for that reason. I’ve already done my stint in fashion. I did okay, I’m fine. I’m happy to be around the artists, represent them, have that exchange, and I’ve always done that. And I continue enjoying doing that. And so I found myself here after I sold my retail store….and now I’m representing today’s artists.
That was something that has been done…I’ve had associations way back in the 80s with those artists of those days…Keith (Haring), Jean-Michel (Basquiat)…you know it’s ongoing.
You know the cultural people, we gather. We continue to gather and that’s what’s very uplifting for me. That it’s still alive and there are those people that want to express.
JW: You were saying we’ve seen big commercial brands take some of the things these artists have done and replicate it. I personally have a few (artist) friends who have seen major brands do that. And I wonder how much of the obligation to protect these artists is on the consumer. Yes these companies can do it but we’re also choosing to buy the knockoffs instead of buying directly from the artist. We’ve empowered these giant brands to be able to get away with it. I don’t know if you have any thoughts on that.
PF: Exactly. You know these days that expression is used widely…”Follow the money.” Follow the greed. Capitalism only exists to make a profit. It doesn’t matter who they kill to do it. It’s just what’s the bottom line. It takes away the humanity from human beings. And people who support these products and these companies either don’t understand the long-range effect and basically who they are enriching…they only understand that they can get it for $20.
There’s more too it than $20. I’m not saying that people should pay $1000 for a garment. People don’t have that kind of money. But at the same time, countries including ours, are never going to have a healthy industry if they constantly suck the blood out of the industry. And that’s what’s going on.
JW: I talked to Scooter Laforge last night and he told me you worked on this show for 6 months. I’m just thinking as the person who works on a project for that long, when it actually happens are there any moments that are delightfully surprising?
PF: The best moments of any exhibition that we do is the actualization of the exhibition. We just came back from Mykonos, Greece. We had an exhibition there. We’ve been to Berlin twice…to Italy. Me I’m a retail gal so when I exhibit I have the
opportunity to speak face to face with the people who are coming in and who are interested. To me that experience is very valuable in the whole process for me personally and very good for the artists as well. I find that people really enjoy meeting the artists . It puts a very personal touch on the garment when they purchase it.
JW: It makes me feel good to wear a garment that I’ve hangout with this person in real life. It gives you more pride in it.
PF: You have a personal attachment to it. And what we put on our bodies, unless we’ve become a race of nudists, it represents us. It doesn’t represent a multi-billion dollar box store.
JW: How do you discover the artists you work with or incorporate into your shows and has social media played any role in that?
PF: The artists I’m with today…some of them I’ve worked with in the past, some of them are brand new. There’s a side that I would say…I’m a magnet for creative people because I appreciate it. It gives me happiness to see creativity. You know can I say it’s just been traditional in my career.
JW: What attracted you to this beautiful place called the Catskills and why did you decide to host your ARTFASHION show and Pop-up (store) here…as well as partnering with Greene County Council on The Arts.
PF: The town of Catskill, which houses the Greene County Counsel on The Arts, I came to know them through my friend Michelle Saunders who moved here about 10 years ago.She’s a very old friend of mine and she’s standing over there with the green hair. She’s involved in the arts and culture. Always has been, all forms. She’s a producer of commercials. She does castings…she has all kinds of experience through her years. She basically got me involved with the Green County Council on the Arts.
I just have to say that it was really fantastic…the local support, I can’t say it enough. They gave us this garage for this whole exhibition. So many local people have donated their time and talent to help make it happen. We couldn’t have done this without them. And it really elevated my heart…it skipped a beat. And also the people that came last night, they were happy to be here. It was an event that they were into. Being in that environment is very elevating, instead of some jaded…whatever.
In our exhibition, there’s a huge variation of aesthetics. You know something for the more tailored, something for the more…what we would call “Brave.” But I don’t think it’s brave, it’s just expressive.