Patricia Field’s Last Day In Retail

As Sex and the City’s fashion designer said goodbye to her store on Bowery last Sunday, hundreds of New Yorkers paid a final visit to the funky boutique.

Patricia Field's storefront window (Katerina Iliakopoulou)

Fashion legend Patricia Field, best known for being the genius behind Carrie Bradshaw’s couture in TV’s “Sex and the City,” opened the glass doors to her boutique on 306 Bowery last Sunday for the final time.

On February 28, hundreds of people paid a visit to the boutique, including many of Field’s friends and former co-workers to say goodbye and to hail the heritage that Field created. The designer herself, dressed in a grey wool jumpsuit, kept her smartphone between her breasts and a Winston blue at hand. A large cake with fruits and lots of champagne were being offered next to the bare naked Keith Haring figurine that was looking over the crowd.

“What I am going to miss is the people,” said Field, 74, as she lit up a cigarette. “I am not going to miss being in this business. It requires a lot of work and I ‘ve done it for 50 years and I think I ‘ve done enough.” She compared the store to a 50-year-old adult she didn’t feel like babysitting for any more.

Inside the store  on Sunday, bedazzled corsets and hand painted raincoats still graced the mannequins, but some were missing their hand-curled colourful wigs or cheetah print shorts. While fur vests and gold-colored leggings hung from the half-loaded racks, a few pairs of high heels sat on the shelves.  The words “Liquidation Sale” in huge pink letters on the window front invited last-minute buyers to consume the remaining merchandise.

The fashion designer and stylist announced that she would be closing her store in December, stirring strong reactions from people, who view “Patricia Field” as an iconic shop hub in New York City.

Field first opened the shop in 1966 next to the New York University campus, and later moved her boutique to several locations around the city, starting from Washington Place, to East 8th Street, then 6th Ave. for a short period of time, and finally settling in the two-level store on Bowery Street in 2012.

She owes her worldwide fame to her involvement as a costume designer and consultant in the movie industry and particularly the popular TV-show, “Sex and the City”, which skyrocketed her brand. However, the store’s culture is rooted in the transgender and drag element that shaped its designer workforce and its core clientele at the same time.

JoJo Americo, who started working with Field in 1985, remembers hearing David Bowie’s “Scary Monsters” album, as he walked in the store on Eighth Street for the first time, while a man with flaming orange hair was sitting next to the counter wearing a pearl embellished dress. “I had never seen anything like this,” said Americo. He added that Field hired individuals with gender issues and freaks of all kinds, whom she gave total creative freedom to express themselves. And the beauty in all this was the tight group of people. “There weren’t many of us around back then, ” he said referring to the drags and queens of New York in the 90’s, “so we flocked and became a unit that created so many beautiful things. We were like the island of misfit toys and she accepted us.”

“It was almost a nucleus,” said Davey Mitchell who remembers first meeting Patricia Field during early morning hours at the Paradise Garage nightclub in 1984. According to Mitchell, the store’s significance lies not only in its creative expressions of clothing, but also in the community of people it cultivated, who all worked together and supported each other. “That’s why we call it a home,” he added.

For Field on the other hand, the sense of community for drags, gays and queens is not as strong now as it was in the past. “When you marginalize a community you really enforce its creativity, ” said Field. “When people join the mob, it’s a meltdown.”

 

Patricia Field and her crew take one last group photo inside the store (Katerina Iliakopoulou)

But to those who still heart this increasingly dispersed community according to Field, store’s closing seems like yet another fallen stronghold of an era dissolved by gentrification.

“It will definitely be a shock for the neighborhood,” said Patrick Chaitoo, who worked as the store’s manager in 1995. Chaitoo explained that he would often come to the store on Bowery, sit in the salon on the lower level and have a moment with his friends. Now that the store is closing he won’t be able to enjoy these moments anymore. “There’s no place in New York that you can have that,” he said. “It’s very hard to cultivate that culture. Everything is so rigid and so corporate nowadays.”

Back in the store on Sunday, customers frantically combed through the last pieces they will ever buy from Patricia Field’s.

But not everyone at the sale was aware of the boutique’s shutdown. “Where are all the clothes,” asked stunned Victoria Alexander, 26, a regular at Patricia Field’s as she entered the store. Alexander said she still wears her high-waist pink silk Aladdin pants, the first piece of clothing she had bought at Patricia Field’s ten years ago. She now wondered where she would buy all the unique items she could find in the boutique.

Field, meanwhile, waxed philosophical. She said she couldn’t find anybody to run the store for her. “I am the real talent here,” she explained, taking another puff of her cigarette. “Unfortunately. It took me a while to understand that.”

Now that she won’t have to deal with running the store, she says she’ll spend more time diversifying her efforts, doing things she had to turn down before because she had to take care of her “50-year-old.” First up: getting ready for an art exhibition she developed and created, named Art/Fashion, which starts on March 24 at the “Howl!Happening” gallery in East Village.

 

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