Broke AF: Patrick Church
For Patrick Church, good style is in his blood. The New York-based designer credits much of his fascination with clothing and love of glamour to his mother and auntie, who, draped in iconic brands like Versace and Gucci, became, for him, the epitome of impeccable taste. And they didn’t just buy designer; they embellished it—with their personality and finesse.
This little snippet from Church’s childhood should come as no surprise; the designer has established himself as one who doesn’t shy away from adornment and elaboration, creating a world on the surface of his clothing that’s truly one-of-a-kind. You could say he’s redefining the word “extra” to mean so much more, but then, putting him in a box of created by colloquial terms seems limiting in a way that’s altogether inappropriate for someone who’s wholly unique.
Church is known for his painted leather jackets (among other garments), and, according to him, it all started with thrift. (“I just went around, for months and months, collecting vintage pieces.”) Today, he’s heavily inspired by vintage silhouettes, and still prefers painting on vintage leather to new — for quality and texture’s sake. We caught up with Church at The Break in Greenpoint to cop some good Brooklyn vintage, hear more about his most memorable thrifted pieces, why he’s so obsessed with Dior, and more—get the full rundown below.
So it’s been awhile since we last talked. Give me an update on what you’re working on!
So, I am going to Paris at the end of this week. I’m doing a presentation for Men’s Fashion Week, with a store called Elevastor. They asked me to be a part of it, and I thought it would be so cool to go to Europe and show my work. I’ve never really shown my work in Europe before, so I’m excited. I used to live there a few years ago, and I’d like to revisit in a different light. I’ve just launched my Autumn/Winter collection, and am also working on the next collection. Just waiting to get the samples back. I’ve been planning Fashion Week already, which is so crazy.
As soon as summer hits, all everyone talks about is September Fashion Week.
Right! I’m already thinking, I want to do something really cool. The collection looks really amazing. Launching prints online, more underwear, speedos. I’m working like a dog, and loving it. It’s really nice to see something grow, evolve. I also just collaborated with Bloomingdale’s.
I saw that! A pop-up, right?
I did a series of leather jackets for them, like one-offs. It was a pinch-me moment, really, to see my work in such an iconic place. I’m going with the flow.
It was a pinch-me moment, really, to see my work in such an iconic place.
Did you imagine 5 or 10 years ago that this would be your life?
No! I feel like it’s been such a personal journey as well. To be able to manage it, I have to make sure I’m looking after myself, and I never really used to look after myself in any way. I felt like I made interesting work when I didn’t look after myself, but I’m also learning that especially in the city, you need to take care of yourself. I’m trying to allow myself, now, a bit more relaxed time to regroup. You need to have time to yourself to reflect, and make new work, otherwise it’s just pointless.
We’re here at The Break in Greenpoint — what is your connection to thrifting and vintage?
Well it all started from there, when I moved here, my first collection I just thrifted loads of pieces. I just went around, for months and months, collecting vintage pieces. Which I always did before anyway, but I worked onto them. What I’m designing now, I take inspiration from vintage silhouettes. Me and my husband, we’re always on the lookout for designer vintage. So we’re in the perfect place.
When you’re thrifting, what catches your eye or what are you looking out for?
Something kind of special, something one-off or rare. Vintage Dior. I like really simple silhouettes, something that’s a little unusual.
What’s a super memorable piece that you found thrifting?
A vintage Dior parasol. I have so many. A vintage fringe Moschino jumpsuit, which I love! Lots of vintage Dior things, I have a little bag.
You love Dior!
I love Dior. Also the leather jackets, like the ones I paint and I’m known to paint, I prefer working on vintage jackets that are really battered and old, because I feel that that punk DIY aesthetic carries through if the jackets are ripped and old. Battered up. I love going shopping for jackets. I don’t let anyone else do it, I have to find it.
What advice would you give to someone on how to have the best day thrifting in NYC?
Don’t have expectations. Just really look, think outside of the box. I always try on stuff that I’m not sure will look good or not, and it always ends up looking kind of cool. Keep looking around, the one amazing thing about NYC is that there is so much good vintage stuff here. People really recycle, that’s another thing I love. They don’t just throw stuff away, it retains its value. It can even go up in value. I feel like you can really find some treasures here. To know the right places to go is also important.
Don’t have expectations. Just really look, think outside of the box.
Another thing about vintage is that it kind of transcends the usual gender binary. I always buy men’s vintage.
Yes — I always buy women’s! I actually got a really amazing, vintage, maybe a quinceanera dress? It was pink with frilly sleeves, and I painted on it and I still have it. It’s so iconic. Dresses and stuff, so cute. I never think about gender. I always buy women’s clothes. I want a really nice double breasted men’s suit, maybe with flared trousers. ’70s, that’s the way forward.
When you’re making your collection, is it for men or women, or both?
It’s unisex. I make things I feel my wardrobe is missing. If I think, “I really want this,” I think other people will want it too. I just sort of fill in the gaps. I love matching sets, I think for me that’s the most important part of my work is the match-matchy-ness. I feel like I can’t find that stuff now, maybe vintage stuff I can, Versace is really good. I take a lot of inspiration from vintage, it’s all about the print. Vintage is great for prints.
And quality! No one makes that nice thick cotton or those buttery silks anymore.
When a silk shirt is so worn in, it looks so good.
And leather too.
It’s the best.
What is your favorite decade for buying vintage?
I think at the moment, the ’70s. I’m so into it. Bob Mackey, and Halston. Feather dressing gowns, floor length.
Who are some of your fashion icons?
Gwen Stefani, Kate Moss. Obviously Cher. Patsy and Eddy. My mother, my auntie are my biggest fashion icons. They used to wear a lot of Gucci, Versace, Versace jeans which are so good. I remember watching them get ready when I was younger, and thinking, why couldn’t I be them? I would be so fascinated, I could almost start crying. Watching her get ready at the dressing table, with the mirror. And my auntie, she was super, super glamorous. She had drawers for different types of shoes, Polaroids of all her things. Such a fantasy.
For me, clothes tell a journey, a story. They need to feel really special for me to wear them. Like what I’m wearing today, it’s a vintage T-shirt I bought at Beacon’s, and my friend who is a tattoo artist drew on it. This Birkin, my best friend who is a tattoo artist drew all over it. It’s about re-doing things. We throw so much shit away, and I hate that.
The thing about vintage is that it was somebody else’s, it had meaning for them, and now you get to repurpose it for your own life.
Yeah. So much of my work is repurposing old jackets, and really making them so modern, I feel. I love that.
Stay tuned to Milk for more Broke AF.