Patricia Field’s Big Adventure: Fashion Icon’s Art Gallery Garb

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Patricia Field’s Big Adventure: Fashion Icon’s Art Gallery Garb
It's all about Girl Power for Philly artist and designer Iris Barbee Bonner. (PHOTO: Tina Benitez)
Iris Barbee Bonner’s Girl Power body suit (PHOTO: Tina Benitez)

Patricia Field just closed her store after 50 years in February and less than a month later was already embarking on her next venture. Debuted during a three-day exhibit at Howl! Happening in New York’s East Village, Field gave a peek into her latest project, an art gallery fashion concept tied to her website.

Curated by Field, the updated site features one-of-a-kind clothing by artists, designers and longtime collaborators, including Scooter LaForge, Tom Knight, Jody Morlock, Kyle Brincefield, Suzan Pitt, Iris Barbee Bonner and Suzanne Mallouk.

An “art fashion website,” according to Field, the idea to start the online gallery of made-to-order clothes came naturally to the designer from the success of painted clothing and accessories in her store. Field said it’s moved away from the mass produced and this “period in fashion of uniformity at a cheap price.” It’s about taking something and making it your own.

“It’s not about selling a fashion or a trend, it’s about exposing artists,” said Field.

Hats built for divas, designer Tom Knight's obsession with studs has made it on to Madonna, Lady Gaga, Britney Spears, Nicki Minaj and other pop stars. (PHOTO: Tina Benitez)
Hats built for divas, designer Tom Knight’s obsession with studs has made it on to Madonna, Lady Gaga, Britney Spears, Nicki Minaj and other pop stars. (PHOTO: Tina Benitez)

Most of the artists have history with Field, from Philly designer Iris Barbee Bonner, who was asked to feature her paintings and shoes in store back in 2013 and introduced her 1980s-inspired neon pops of girl power pieces to the new online gallery to artist Suzanne Mallouk, former girlfriend of Jean-Michel Basquiat, who started hanging out at Field’s store in the early 80s with the artist. Now a practicing psychiatrist, Mallouk’s Ramones-inspired black leather motorcycle jackets are printed in white stencil on the backs with sayings like “Success is Our Disease” and “Bitch Goddess.”

“I picked black leather jackets as the garment because it makes a statement,” said Mallouk. “The group [of them] looks like a squadron, an army. It becomes part of an art object.”

“It’s not about mass marketing,” said artist Scooter LaForge, who started working with Field six years ago. At first, he’d sell $10 T-shirts that he shredded and ran over with cars. “I wanted it to look like it had been through a tornado,” he said. And it worked. From tees, LaForge has gone on to design a full collection for Field (and worked with Beyonce, Miley Cyrus and Debbie Harry) and offers his own crusty infusion of pop culture-inspired pieces to the new online gallery.

All artists said they owe their careers to Field, who mentored them from the very beginning. Tom Knight sold his studded pieces in her store for 12 years and eventually worked with Madonna, Nicki Minaj and Britney Spears. “Every celebrity that I worked with was because of Pat,” said Knight, who would visit Field’s store when he was younger and buy any ring he could afford and was in awe of all the original “Pat Fielders.”

Studded neon beanie hats by designer Kyle Brincefield. (PHOTO: Tina Benitez)
Studded neon beanie hats by designer Kyle Brincefield. (PHOTO: Tina Benitez)

“I got my best education when I moved to New York and worked in Pat’s store,” said Jody Morlock, whose clients include George Clooney, Johnny Depp and Jon Stewart. “She gave me the confidence to make cooky things…and set the tone for my life.” Morlock first met Field 1979 and remembers watching Basquiat painting jumpsuits in her store and Keith Haring painting sweatshirts, feels like their journey has come full circle with the gallery. “I feel so sentimental and lucky, because I’ve been riding this crazy wave with all new, amazing people,” she said. “Pat doesn’t have nine lives, she has 100 lives.”

In some ways, the exhibit was a second send off for the Patricia Field store and a toast to a new beginning. A client since 1991, Rene Imperato was covered head in Field’s designs and still misses shopping at her store. “Patricia is the most egalitarian person in fashion,” he said. “Pat gives you whatever you want to create your own body art. For me, going to Patricia Fields was like a second home.”

Where the site goes from here, no one knows, specifically Fields. “I don’t know where the website will go,” she said, “but it’s always going to be creative. It’s always going to be uniquely one of a kind, [made by] individuals.”


patricia field panel
Patricia Field and her designers, (l to r) Tom Knight, Jody Morlock, Iris Bonner, Field, Scooter LaForge, Suzanne Mallouk and Kyle Brincefield (PHOTO: Tina Benitez)