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June 2006
The Devil Wears Prada - A Interview with Patricia Field

The Devil Wears Prada
An Interview with Patricia Field
By Wilson Morales
June 23, 2006

Besides the names of actors and directors that make a film attractive, there are the grossly unnoticed composers and costume designers that add flavor to the film. Patricia Field is a costume designer, whose fame reached a high point when she did the clothing work for HBO’s popular series, Sex in the City. She gave recognition to some fashion names that those outside the fashion industry now recognized because of the attention it got on the show. So when it came to designing the wardrobe for the upcoming fashion film, The Devil Wears Prada, Field was the right choice. In speaking with blackfilm.com, Field discusses her thoughts on the clothing choices for the film, why she left a film in production, and working with Meryl Streep and Anne Hathaway.

Would you say that you put Jimmy Choo shoes on the mainstream map through your work on “Sex in the City”?

Patricia Field: I think we help elevate the Jimmy Choo name. I love television. The power of television is hot.

In a way, wouldn’t you say that you were the star of that show?

PF: No, I wouldn’t.

The clothes and what you did.

PF: You know, I was there to do my job, which is to create the picture the way I see it. The people who watch the show, they see the four girls. My job is to make sure these four girls look as great as they can and entertain people so people are happy and watch it. That’s my job.

In terms of this picture, in a way, you steal the scenes here too. Aren’t the clothes really the stars of this movie too?

PF: I think the clothes play a really big part of the movie because after all, it’s a movie about fashion, but I also think it’s many of us and the experiences we go through in our lives, when were young, when we older, maybe we had a divorce, maybe we have a career goal. I think it touched beyond fashion and it has to because … I love fashion and I’m so happy these days that we have fashion because it’s so uplifting in terms of the atmosphere today but if it were just about fashion I don’t think there are enough people that are interested in that per se. It has to have other factors and I think the stories are very important, including the actors; Meryl Streep brought so much to it. It was an honor to work for her and I really did enjoy that experience.

This was basically a Rolls Royce being done on a New Jersey budget in a garage.

PF: Well, Miss Streep is used to the Rolls Royce budgets, and I don’t mean it in a bad way. She’s the greatest actress in our country, but she’s not snobby, which I love about her. She’s totally real and honest. She’s self-confident and so she had fun with it.

What can you say about the wardrobe budget?

PF: I think we came in right at budget. Actually, what I did with the budget, in the beginning there was more budget and I took away some of that money to pay my team because what’s more important is a real good team that can go out to all these places and get all these things. It takes time and you just have so much time. I felt that it was better to put more money into the labor. The clothes we can get I wasn’t worried about that.

That’s because of you right, because of your relationships?

PF: It is.

Who’s your favorite designer?

PF: There are many. I love Valentino, but it’s hard to say your favorite among so many beautiful designers. How are you going to choose your favorite child or something like that.

Did you worry about offending Anna Wintour or other people like that who did this film may relate to?

PF: No, I didn’t worry about offending anyone. My main goal was to present fashion to people visually and to help tell a story, and I felt that story in order to reach out to more people, it had to be a bigger story. If you go to the movies when it opens up and you take a survey. In the first days, it will be all the fashion people, but across the board, if you take a survey after all, out of 5000 people, how many people know the name Anna Wintour? It’s not a slur to Anna Wintour; it’s that fashion is a small segment. I wanted to tell a bigger story, not a story of Anna Wintour, Anna Wintour..

The book is much harder than the movie in terms of how it portrays that character of Miranda and she’s a lot less human in the book. Are there people as bad as they are in the book?

PF: I don’t know many bad people so I can’t be an authority on that. I think that, as in the movie, when Andie says to Christian, “If she were a man, you wouldn’t be saying these things about her. You would be saying he’s a great whatever”, but she’s a woman, she becomes a bitch the minute anything is there whether it’s a divorce or etc. All of a sudden she’s in the spotlight.

She is a bitch.

PF: She is a bitch by virtue of the fact that she’s a female, not by virtue of the fact that she’s unfair or that she’s evil or anything like that.

You recently left the film, The Girls' Guide to Hunting & Fishing, which stars Sarah Michelle Geller and Alec Baldwin. According to the Lowdown column in the New York Daily News, his sources say you left the movie’s production because of Baldwin’s bad behavior. What really happened? Were you fired or did you choose to leave?

PF: I left

Was it because Alec was impossible to work with?

PF: No, it was because the movie run by a bunch of amateurs, except for the two actors (Alec Baldwin and Sarah Michelle Gellar), who were experienced, and it just turned into a disorganized mess. So I left. I stayed with it really long, and it was disorganized from the beginning. I want to say this very clearly, but it wasn't Alec Baldwin. It was the whole picture. Disorganzined and really difficult. I left three weeks before the end. It was done.

Will you still get credit for the work you put in?

PF: I don't want the credit. I will not get the credit cause I left, but it doesn't matter.

Is this the first time in your career that you ever left a project?

PF: Yes, it's the first time

So what did you learn from this experience?

PF: Nothing. It was just one bad apple in a bunch of great apples. No big deal.

To what extent did you design the character that Meryl Streep plays and to what extent did you design for Meryl Streep?

PF: For me, it’s like this funny formula that I figured out – actress, character, wardrobe. The actress comes to you or the actor, with a body or with a mind, they could be ten feet tall or they could be two feet tall, or they could be this or they could be that. They could be many things, plus they have their own psychology, their own securities, whatever, they’re human being. You kind of have to pay attention to that person because that’s the person that is creating the character and you’re helping them in any way you can. So it was someone else, it would be another individual situation. Of course the character is there but the person could be different so that would change maybe the mix. I don’t know. I’d have to know the person.

“Sex in the City” was such a high point in your career and in your life. Will there ever be a chance to do something similar again?

PF: Here it is, possibly. If you had asked me that question at the end of “Sex in the City” and even up to recently I couldn’t really answer that question, but I have been asked that question; and my only answer is that if it happens again it would be unbelievable because a success like “Sex in the City” is like I’ve been doing this kind of thing since the mid-80s and my work is always the same quality. It doesn’t change, but here it was after twenty years and this TV show exploded into whatever.

How would you describe what you are? Are you a designer, a stylist, or a costumer?

PF: I’m a stylist.

There haven’t been a lot of movies done about the fashion industry. How important is this for you?

PF: It’s true. There have been movies done about the fashion industry, but I think the problem with them in the past were that they were too self-conscience and that they weren’t being fashion. They were parodying fashion and they just trivialized it and of course, people were like, “I don’t want to see trivial that has no other saving graces.” I never wanted to do that. Parodying is no way to go. I like to be funny but you can’t be that funny with everyone because a lot of actors couldn’t carry it and then it just turns into a mess. A fashion movie is “The Fifth Element” because it shows gorgeous art, fashion, set design. If Devil Wears Prada is in the category of “The Fifth Element” I would be very, very satisfied. It’s like showing fashion as an example not preaching.

Can you talk about the transformation of Andie from ordinary to Chanel wearing beauty?

PF: The hair was very important. Well, here’s the character and she wants to be a writer and she’s not fashion. She’s not ugly. She doesn’t walk around like complete horror. She’s just a normal girl that you see walking down the street. She’s doesn’t really know about her body yet, because she wears things that makes her waist look thick. She’s just not thinking about fashion. She’s just normal. I didn’t want to overdo that because that would then make a mockery of it. I never wanted in any way try to get cute with it. It’s easy to do that. That was it and then when she transformed, it was all so script driven because she was in that closet with Nigel. She was in that closet because she was in tears and she couldn’t take it anymore. She ran to Nigel and Nigel put her in her place and said, “Grow up, kid!” and then he takes her into the closet and starts throwing clothes at her. They are the clothes in the closet that are waiting to be editorialized in the magazine so they’re the labels. So Andie went from that to nothing but labled. She put it together the best way she knew how. She became a Chanel girl definitely. Chanel is one of the top labels so when Chanel wanted to dress Andie, I thought “that’s perfect”. I’d put other things on her, but Chanel was like, “We’d be happy to dress Annie Hathaway in this movie” and I said “Perfect. My problems are over.”

So, is it mostly Chanel in the film?

PF: I would say that it’s 50 percent and the others are a mix. It’s Calvin Klein, Dolce & Gabbana, Yigal Azrouel; that white coat was his. It’s mixed.

And for Meryl?

PF: Meryl is a whole other approach; a completely different character.

Was it mostly Prada for her?

PF: Only obviously in the bag in the opening of the movie I saw as an opening title credit. Prada made their decision to be in the movie based on many things.

The title probably.

PF: That’s the big one.

How did you approach Meryl with the clothes?

PF: The point is that Meryl’s character was entirely different. Meryl played the role of a leading fashion editor-in-chief of the biggest magazine in the world. She is a woman who has to have her own original style and she had to wear expensive clothing because a woman in her level would not wear Zarra. That was part of her style and that was in her style. She really loved textile and those jewel jackets. To me, I would define this character as the queen of the fashion industry or fashion or whatever.

Who was her main designer?

PF: There were a few designers. They included Bill Blass, and Donna Karan, and Valentino and some Prada and other things, but I can’t remember, and Dennis Basso.

Did people donate clothing?

PF: We borrowed a lot of it.

How much anticipation is there for this film within the fashion industry?

PF: I don’t know. I’m not a spokesman for my industry.

Can you talk about how you can go from one world, from the punk adventurous edgy stuff from East Village, which is your trademark, to the kind of stuff you can do in movies or “Sex in the City”?

PF: Sure. My store is one expression of my life. I was born in Manhattan on the upper East Side, grew in Central Park, shopped in Bloomindale’s; that’s another segment of my life. In the course of my shop in the 70s when there was a huge inflation and people were like investment dressing, I was going to Paris and buying clothes that I sold in my shop. I do have that tag and I’m very happy for that tag. My life is much more complex or full than only my shop.

What’s your next movie or TV project that you got going?

PF: I’m going to be doing a new TV series called “Six Degress” for ABC, which is set in New York. If you know the movie, “Crash”, it’s kind of like that. Six different people whose lives intersect in one way or another.

THE DEVIL WEARS PRADA opens on June 30, 2006


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