Donnie Wahlberg peeked out of his dressing room on the set of “Wahlburgers,” reminiscing about one of the early days of New Kids on the Block.
It was late in the day in April 1989 when he and bandmate Jordan Knight left rehearsal in search of something to wear for the Boston Music Awards. In Patrick Petty, the dapper guy behind the counter at hip retailer Allston Beat, Wahlberg found someone who would inspire him to take some risks with his wardrobe — and become a lifelong stylist and friend.
“He’s one of my closest friends. I trust him. He wants me to look good for his business, but he really wants me to look great because I’m his friend,” said Wahlberg, the 45-year-old singer-actor-producer.
The Boston-based Petty, who owns House of Culture, a clothing boutique at 585 Columbus Ave., has been one of the constants in Wahlberg’s life and career. Petty was the man behind the Reiss tuxedo and Ines Di Santo wedding gown Wahlberg and his bride, Jenny McCarthy, wore at their wedding Aug. 31 in Chicago. In addition to dressing the Hollywood pair, Petty outfitted the five bridesmaids and five groomsmen, including the members of New Kids.
“I’ve been around them so long I like to think I’m the other Wahlberg,” said Petty. “[Mom] Alma accepts me as one of her sons.”
The self-described sixth Wahlberg has been on the local scene for 25 years — since Allston Beat owner Craig Leonard plucked him from across the pond, where he had been working at WilliWear, a clothing boutique in London in 1986. Petty, who was born and raised in Ohio, said the Boston career plan was this: “Get feet wet on US soil and move on to New York.”
But a trifecta of events — besides meeting NKOTB, he had a daughter and opened his first store, Culture Shock on Newbury Street — kept him here. Meanwhile, he met a young Boston University student named Carolyn Bessette when she shopped in his boutique. Later, it was she who introduced another Wahlberg client, Mark, to Calvin Klein for those career-changing underwear ads. A visit to Petty — who also worked with Boyz II Men and Toni Braxton as well as professional athletes such as former Celtic Dominique Wilkins and former Patriots star Lawyer Milloy — always promised an array of celebrities from Sade to Sinbad.
“One day, Shaquille [O’Neal] was in at the same time as Barry Manilow and Sidney Poitier,” Petty recalled. “He’s always on top of trends or even trying to establish trends. He has a keen eye to fit and minimalism, and he really pays attention to the details — the way texture meets the fabric, the way the seams come together,” said Riccardo Dallai Jr., who, with his father, owns Riccardi and has worked with Petty for decades.
That focus was evident recently at the British clothing boutique Reiss when Petty met up with Jordan Knight to outfit him for Donnie’s wedding. As Knight hummed a new song he’s working on for his upcoming tour with Nick Carter, Petty assessed the single-button European-cut tuxedo.
“He’s probably just going to need the waist [taken in],” he said to the sales woman pinning the pant legs. “He does the standard length and he needs a 40 in the shoulder.”
Knight said his work relationship and friendship with Petty runs deep. “It’s good to have him on our team. He knows our personalities — how we move on stage, which members [of NKOTB] will gain a
few pounds over the summer time and Thanksgiving,” he said.
The Wahlbergs and NKOTB take a lot of Petty’s time, but the summer has also been devoted to helping with the costumes for Jay Z and Beyonce’s “On the Run” tour, which has taken him around the country. Closer to home, business at House of Culture picks up when the coeds come in search of their nightclub attire.
Boston native — and radio and TV personality — Marie “Free” Wright has been a loyal shopper since her early days as one of the dancers in Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch — and the Sirius XM DJ (“Free’s World Radio”) still uses Petty’s services as TV host of “According to Him + Her” on Centric and for public appearances.
“He knows his fashion like no other. I call him my Europe man,” said Wright. “With two hours ahead of time, he has the perfect outfit. Whether he’s in town or not, he makes sure I can go to his store and someone can find something for me.”
Back on the set of “Wahlburgers,” Petty has lined up dozens of outfits for the two days of shooting. For his first scene in the family’s Hingham restaurant Alma Nove, Wahlberg chose a blue-gray sweater from Michael Kors, AG jeans, and Bally sneakers, then changed into a black John Varvatos shirt over a white Calvin Klein t-shirt for a patio scene.
“He has great taste, he’s patient, and he loves sales,” said Wahlberg, ticking off a list of Petty’s best qualities.
Wahlberg’s serious about the discount shopping, by the way. He says he can’t “waste $5,000 on a suit. It’s not my style.”
“Patrick will show me an outfit and I’ll say, ‘I love it. How much?’ ‘Sixty percent off.’ ‘Buy it’,” he said. “Most stylists won’t even hear of such things. Most stylists are snobs.”
But there’s no pretension with Petty, who Wahlberg said can adapt at a moment’s notice to his whims.
“I pull all these wild cards on him. I’ll say, ‘I want black, black, black.’ Then I wake up in a happier mood and I want blue, blue, blue,” he said.
Wahlberg rattled off a half dozen more Petty tales. There was the live television appearance when Wahlberg’s wardrobe got locked in a closet, and the stylist gave the actor his own clothes. And the more recent moment on “Live! With Kelly and Michael” when cohost Michael Strahan wouldn’t stop gushing about Wahlberg’s suit.
“I was puffed up,” Donnie said. “I felt so proud for Patrick.”
Jill Radsken can be reached at email@example.com.