Netflix’s “Emily in Paris” has debuted season two, a 10 episode series, which was once again packed with fashion. As with season one, there’s been a lot of debate around costume designers Patricia Field and Marilyn Fitoussi‘s choice to fill character Emily Cooper’s (Lilly Collins) closet with super colorful, over-the-top editorial pieces.
The series has received push back from Parisian women who are known for a relaxed yet chic look, which in recent years has drafted off of the U.S. streetwear movement. In a recent “Emily in Paris” post on the show’s Instagram feed titled “How to Dress Like a French Girl,” a user spoke for many when she commented, “I am French and can assure you we don’t dress this way. I’m not saying it’s not stylish, but it’s mainly NOT parisian style, the only effortless chic character is Sylvie obviously.”
Similar to her work as costume designer for “Sex and the City,” Field eschews flats for the leads, a decision that’s drawn complaints from viewers who point out that women who live in walkable cities now more than ever are not sacrificing foot health for heels. Notably, in season one Fitoussi attempted to put character Mindy Chen (Ashley Park) in sneakers but was told the choice was a no go by show creator Darren Star.
Field is aware of the push back as well as the popularity of streetwear basics like sneakers and sweatpants and she remains unmoved. Viewing the popularity of casual clothing as a sad sign of the times, in an exchange with WWD, the iconic costume designer stated, “I think the depression is driving fashion right now, sneakers, sweatshirts, hoodies. I hate to say it because everybody’s wearing it. But I have a very hard time with it. I don’t like one look that everybody wears. It just becomes a trend. We know it and we get sick of it. We’ll get sick of that.”
Viewing colorful fashion as an antidote to difficult times, Field added, “For example, after World War I, it was the flappers. They got away from that Victorian thing; they were wearing little shifts, dancing and kicking their legs up in the air. That was a positive, optimistic time. Then came The [Great] Depression and the colors became very faded.”
She added, “All I’m trying to say is that fashion reflects the zeitgeist and right now it’s sweatshirts and sneakers. I’m not a fan. I have said it before. I have sweatpants. I wear them at home. I don’t go to work in them. I like fashion to be expressive and an opportunity for people to be creative with themselves and enjoy.”
In research she conducted in Paris prior to the show, Field acknowledged, “Everybody was in sneakers, sweatshirts, hoodies and sweatpants and of course jeans, which were ripped. I just do what I do. If you want to wear your sweatpants, please wear them. Enjoy them.”
While there’s been plenty of criticism of Field’s fashion choices, according to data collected by shopping platform ShopStyle, searches for items worn by characters Emily, Mindy, Sylvie Grateau and Camille jumped up following the series’ premiere in mid-December. Still, among the four female leads, the highest jump in outfit searches were driven by Parisian Camille’s outfits, which are considerably more toned down than Emily and Midny’s looks.
Then again, as popular as the series is (it’s been a top 10 Netflix show globally since it premiered), it’s very likely if Emily were outfitted in a Cactus Plant Fleat Market t-shirt paired with a pair of Nike and Off-White sneaker, the look would launch tens of thousands of searches, and rather than inspiring complaints about an out-of-touch costumes, viewers would more likely be debating the downside of sneaker gentrification.
Field’s wish to cheer up viewers is a noble one, but as a costume designer part of her role is to document the times and currently young people are mainly casual looks with varying degrees of sexy, skin-baring outfits to socialize in. That said, they’re not just throwing on any old sweatshirt and sneakers as Field implies. There are all sorts of au courrant, fashion statements being made by legacy labels along with an explosion of trend-setting looks by independent labels (more Black owned than ever), which are leading the way by embracing new technologies as well as more sustainable practices. Vintage is a huge deal in fashion right now.
As much as an icon as Field is, she’s in danger of tethering herself to her vision of the good ole days (New York’s club era) and creating a show that appears oddly dated even when the characters are dressed in brand new looks.