Legendary New York retailer and stylist Patricia Field, who is probably still best known for her work on Sex and the City, has a new obsession these days: increasing global traffic to her online store and website, patriciafield.com. Here, she and the site’s manager, Michael Robinson, discuss how the online shop has evolved, how selling there differs from her brick-and-mortar store on The Bowery and how to create a virtual retail environment that makes customers want to come back for more. Interview by Christopher Blomquist

When did you start your site and how has it evolved since then?

Patricia Field: We’ve had a site since I can’t even remember when. Sometime in the early 2000s probably. It took a really long time to evolve for us. And as we are an old-school establishment we were crawling and now we are walking and falling. But I’m totally into my website because I feel that it’s so strong because we can reach out to the whole world. With my store–it is a famous store known around the world by fashionistas–but it certainly doesn’t have the wide reach that a website has. We are a brand and I believe that we really need to step it up, honestly speaking.

How are you doing that?
PF: I love my website and I look at super successful websites and say, “OK, what are they doing?” I feel a bit amateurish with my website because I am from the days of a store but it is exciting to me and to me it is the future so I am stimulated by it. Michael was helping me a great deal in the past two years. Michael started out as an intern a few years ago and now he manages the website.

How often is the website updated with new merchandise?
Michael Robinson: About twice a week or so. We do our photo shoots in-house whether it is for menswear or womenswear and we have a little studio in our offices where we shoot models and the people who want to model for us and we also shoot accessories here as well. So the frequency at which we upload new merchandise is one thing we have increased a lot over the past year. Because the store is such as bazaar and has so many different things in it we’re trying to have the website reflect that so I think that every week at least we are putting up new items to keep the website as fresh as our store is.

Is the merchandise mix offered online different from that in the brick-and-mortar store?
MR: The website is really a snapshot of what is in the store. Everything online is available at the store. We pull directly from our boutique.

What percentage of styles are available on the website versus the store?
MR: If I had to guess I would say maybe 15% to 20%. There’s much more in the store than what is available online.

How do you reach out to the online customer versus the one in-store?
MR: We currently use various social media platforms and have had a strong presence on Facebook and Twitter for quite sometime. We’ve also recently been growing our Instagram as that has become a popular new path. We also have an e-blast database. We have an e-blast system that sends out to subscribers and we blast them new merchandise when it is posted.

How have your online sales and traffic grown over the years?
MR: When Sex and The City was really going on the website’s traffic and sales were reflective of that. There was a merchandise tie-in. A lot of things that Pat used on Sex and The City we had on our website or in the store. And we still do. Several of those items have become classics and we still have those on the website as well. The challenge now is–I don’t want to say finding a new angle–but that rush of traffic and sales based on Pat’s outside projects [can’t be the only driver so] we are trying to look for the new thing now to compete in this Internet world.

PF: But it is very interesting because when we do research as to how our customers who come to our website find us the number one search term is “Patricia Field” and number two is “Sex and the City.” That’s very interesting. And that’s worldwide.

Speaking of, does the online store sell globally?
MR: Our Web customers are worldwide but the bulk of them are still in the United States. That’s probably 50% to 60% while the other 40% are scattered across the globe but the greatest concentrations are in Asian countries and Australia and a little bit in Europe.

Impression of Patricia Field's e-commerce platform
Impression of Patricia Field's e-commerce platform

The site currently has special features such as a blog and videos. How much of those types of things do you need to successfully sell online?

PF: I’m excited by our videos, especially our “Speaking with Distinction” video series. I think that they are really entertaining and that people like them. That is an area I want to expand and create more of our own little videos that we put on YouTube and the website. I think that what is really missing in a website is the editorial side. When you walk into my shop you get the feeling of what the experience is from the environment. When you go to a website it more like direct selling of product. The more I can close that gap and give people a feeling of the environment on my website I think that will make us more special, recognizable and identifiable. Because if you see “Speaking with Distinction” and you laugh and you think it’s great you remember the brand and once you remember the brand you will visit the brand again.

Is there much crossover between your in-store customers and your online ones?
PF: There is a crossover but then there is an area that is not a crossover.

MR: The boutique caters to a slightly more cutting-edge customer, a local NYC kind of niche downtown customer who is very fashion-forward. The website appeals to a more broad spectrum of people, not all of whom are going to be the same as the people who come into the boutique. I think our goal is to while still maintaining that Pat Field edge to not go too far in the avant-garde direction or the niche direction so that we are appealing to some of the people that know her from her mainstream projects like Sex and the City or The Devil Wears Prada which any girl can wear.

Is that reflected in the online photo shoots and model choices, then?
PF: It does reflect that and that is something that we are constantly paying attention to. When I go on websites I see girls that look like girls today. I don’t see the high style fashionista model that looks fabulous but when a girl looks at her and doesn’t relate to this whole styling and look because it is extreme–even if it is gorgeous–it narrows down the relatability. So we are trying to find that happy medium and recently we have been shooting models that, for example, don’t have a crazy haircut but have more accessible and realistic hair. Because I really think that relatability is key. If you look at an image you either say, “That’s me” or “That’s not me.” So instead of having a green mohawk, for example, the hair is a long blonde, wavy contemporary style. There are more girls out there that look like that.

What percentage of the business does the website account for compared to the store?
PF: I am sorry to report that my store still beats my website. That doesn’t make me happy because if I have the whole world that can shop on my website and my one brick-and-mortar still beats my website I am not happy. I love to talk to the world. For example, during Sex and the City I was very present and I did many interviews. People know me. I would be in a foreign country walking down the street and kids would come up to me because they know me. I feel as though I have to find the key to that idea and apply it to my website. I find that a lot of people that know me from Sex and the City don’t even know that I have a store. That has to be improved.

And what are your thoughts on the rumors that there might be a third Sex and the City movie?
PF: I was having dinner with Kim Cattrall the other night and she brought it up and I said, “I’ve heard smoke about that but I haven’t heard anything official or direct from anyone on that level.” So I have no idea.

Would you be onboard again if there was one?
PF: Well, it’s possible. On the other hand, I would find great satisfaction if somewhere along the line someone picked up my secret formula and worked it really well. I don’t mind. It’s more important than just being me and keeping it with me. It’s more important to spread it around and inspire people.