"For me, 'Emily in Paris' in certain ways was an elongated version of Carrie in 'Sex and the City,'" says the legendary Patricia Field, on a call, about reuniting with Darren Star as costume design consultant on his latest Netflix series. "It's about an American in Paris. Paris is the place for passion. Paris is exciting."
Although, instead of following a man to the City of Lights for his job, social media expert Emily Cooper (Lily Collins) lands a dream marketing gig in Pah-ree — and leaves her drip of a boyfriend behind in Chicago. But she can't speak a word of French. And her only Gallic references are Baz Luhrmann's "Moulin Rouge" and the animated rodent chef in "Ratatouille."
After confusing the ground floor and the first floor (for the first of many times) while moving in, Emily heads to her first day on the job at luxury marketing agency Savoir. She's dressed literally for her new life: in an Eiffel Tower-themed blouse by Alice + Olivia, a cropped tank by Redone, a snakeskin-print Ronny Kobo miniskirt, an Aldo bag and, cobblestones be damned, stiletto Christian Louboutin Gorgona booties, emblazoned with "Paris" and airmail stickers (below).
"We got some direction that she dresses kind of 'not sophisticated' and I was trying to think, 'How could I make it a good little joke?'" explains Field, who hired local costume designer Marylin Fitoussi for her Parisian authenticity and on-the-ground knowledge and expertise.
Emily's "touristy" button-down nods to her new beginning at Savoir as a naive fish-out-of-water. Plus, her perky efforts to impart "an American point of view to your French clients," as she announces, are met with disdain from her new colleagues and intimidatingly chic boss Sylvie (Philippine Leroy-Beaulieu).
"Then Sylvie reacts to her negatively, like, 'Oh god, she doesn't speak French,'" continues Field. "I wanted to add that little affectionate play on Emily. An affectionate joke." (Although, I mean, who can blame Sylvie and co.)
The juxtaposition of Sylvie's mostly all-black ensembles and Emily's overly enthusiastic mix-and-match further emphasizes their disconnect. Ironically, Field's inspiration for the devastatingly elegant and sexy Sylvie — with a closet full of Rick Owens and Yohji Yamamoto — came from people-watching after a Jean Paul Gaultier show.
"I called Darren Star and I said, 'Darren, I'm in Paris. I'm going to check out all the French chic gals.' When I went outside and sat around, I'm like, 'All the girls are wearing sweatpants and sweatshirts and hoodies,'" says Field. "I'm like, 'Oh my gosh.' So Sylvie, she epitomizes French chic and she was my opportunity to do that."
Along with reluctantly becoming a mentor figure, Sylvie also influences Emily's style evolution into tailored matched sets and inspired monochrome (albeit in highlighter pink) throughout the season. "Emily had this spirit and she wanted to be a success. She definitely had the brains and the technical know-how, although she was there to cooperate and learn and be successful," Field notes. "As such, she would be picking up ideas from the French chic, à la Sylvie, but in her own way."
Emily may also be influenced by her new sophisticate friends: Camille (Camille Razat) and her Caroline de Maigret aesthetic (above) and nanny/undercover "China Rich Girlfriend" Mindy (Ashley Park) and her no-boundaries outfits.
"When I met [Park], she told me that she has good shoulders and she likes to show her shoulders," remembers Field, who then customized shoulder-baring looks, like a plaid "boy's suit" from Asos, for the Tony-nominated triple-threat.
Emily's full immersion into Paris understandably involves an envy-inducing trove of Chanel — also because the Oscar-nominated "Devil Wears Prada" costume designer regularly collaborates with the illustrious design house. "As a matter of fact, I was just up at Chanel last Friday," says Field, casually flexing about a recent costume pull for her current project, the Harlem-set "Run the World" on Starz. "What I love about Chanel is: As it is classic, it allows me to reinterpret it."
To stand out at a beauty influencer event, Emily wears a boxy green multi-pocket blazer (above) from the French fashion house's Cruise 2020 collection. But Field turned the jacket into an almost streetwear-influenced oversized look by playing with proportions. She paired it, unbelted, over a preppy checked dress and accessorized with Louboutin So Kate photo collage booties and a contrast plaid bucket hat by Kangol. (Camille also adjusts Emily's floral silk scarf to reflect "the French way.")
"I love mixing Chanel," adds Field, who along with Fitoussi, sprinkled exquisitely textured layering pieces and a cry-worthy rotation of embellished flap bags in throughout the season.
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But first, in the premiere, when a triste Emily eats lunch alone in the park and meets Mindy, she's carrying a graffitied clear tote by Jody Morlock for Field's ArtFashion, to match her yellow bandanna-print cami and asymmetrical skirt by Ganni (below).
"I thought, 'Oh gosh, it goes so well with that dress. Perfect.' If it's perfect, you can't say 'no' to it. It doesn't have to be discordant. If it's perfect, that's all you need to know," says Field.
"I thought the Hood by Air was cute, you know what I mean?" Field explains. "I love that jacket. I own it and I brought it for her. When do you see a rain jacket with a hood that's as short as that? It's so unusual."
Field's windbreaker actually makes two appearances in the series. First, Emily takes a sad, rainy walk to the office with the jacket layered over a floral puff-sleeved Dolce & Gabbana mini-dress, a studded Rag & Bone belt and pink heels. She rewears it in a later episode for an awkward road trip, with a multicolor oversized sweater by Essentiel Antwerp, black Redone jeans, ankle-strapped Louboutin Mary Janes and a pink H&M beanie.
"I wasn't sure about the dress code. I wanted to look business, but casual," explains Emily.
Field also brought in some personal costume moments near and dear to her heart, including Emily's black strapless tutu-skirted gown by Alexandre Vauthier (above). "Sex and the City" fans will recognize the billowing tulle layers as a nod to Carrie Bradshaw's sea-foam green look in the Paris-set finale. Another Easter Egg: Emily wears personalized nameplate earrings, instead of a necklace. (The "Gossip Girl" references in the script also connect back to Field, as The CW show's costume designer, Eric Daman, was one of her earlier assistants. "I'm very proud of all my graduates," she says.)
For a fancy night at the opera, Emily wears an off-the-shoulder, chevron sheer-paneled midi-dress by Christian Siriano and Cosmoparis crystal-embellished D'Orsay pumps, accessorized with a vintage bejeweled bag and shrug (below).
"If you look at Lily, she's a doppelgänger of Audrey Hepburn and I'm a major fan of Audrey Hepburn," says Field. "So, I was like, I'm gonna do an homage [to Hepburn in 'Funny Face']. I was, in the beginning, I was wondering, 'Do you think people would take it wrongly?' But in the end, I think it worked."
In "Funny Face," Oscar-winning costume designer Edith Head inventively styled a stunning Cartier necklace as a tiara to accent a Givenchy gown on Hepburn. Field gave the historic fashion moment a contemporary update by turning a delicate tennis necklace from La Compagnie du Costume into a headpiece.
"When I was in college I went to Paris on my summer vacation. It was that whole Leslie Caron [in 'An American in Paris'] and Audrey Hepburn era of Paris. That romantic idea," says Field. "Of course, Carrie went to Paris and Annie Hathaway [in 'Devil Wears Prada'] went to Paris. And now we have Lily in Paris."