Patrick Kelly specialized in firsts. The first...
...American to be voted into the Chambre Syndicale du Prêt-à-Porter des Couturiers et des Créateurs de Mode, the French fashion industry association and standards organization.
...black designer accepted into the Chambre Syndicale.
...to mix the exquisite Grecian draping of Madame Grès with his cheeky take on the Aunt Jemima bandana.
Kelly was born in 1954 in Mississippi, and the American South informed and inspired his brand, particularly the women who dressed up in their Sunday best, providing a point of departure for many of his designs. After he arrived in Paris in late 1979, he began dressing his model friends in body-conscious knits, which they would wear around the city. They caught the attention of ELLE magazine, which featured Kelly’s fashions in a six-page spread in early 1985. The Paris boutique Victoire and Bergdorf Goodman both loved the fun, chic and Parisian-meets-cartoon vibe of his designs - Kelly loved the Mona Lisa, Jessica Rabbit, the Eiffel Tower & Josephine Baker - and Bergdorf even showcased them in a window display reserved for new designers. Kelly died of AIDS in 1990 and the epitaph on his headstone in the Père Lachaise Cemetery, Paris, reads: Nothing Is Impossible.
"Patrick Kelly’s bold colors, playful aesthetic, and voguing runway shows have inspired today’s designers such as Gerlan Marcel and Michael Bastian, who has drawn inspiration from Kelly’s incredible spirit and love of France in his Spring/Summer 2014 menswear collection," says Dilys Blum, the Philadelphia Museum of Art's Jack M. and Annette Y. Friedland Senior Curator of Costume and Textiles and organizer of the full-scale retrospective Patrick Kelly: Runway of Love. (April 27–November 30, 2014) "What Kelly achieved during the 1980s has continuing resonance today. While the many barriers he faced remain, Kelly was always positive. His branding and self-marketing were unique at the time, but now, in an age of fast fashion and brand-driven sales, it is a perfect time to reexamine Kelly’s contribution to fashion history."
The exhibition cover's Kelly's work from the early 1980s through his final Fall/Winter 1989–90 collection.
Information & tickets to Patrick Kelly: Runway of Love are available at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
- Lesley Scott