There are many fashion designers in the world; some are established and some independent. We all know of fashion designers such as Michael Kors, Donna Karan, and Zac Posen, but when someone speaks of Patrick Kelly, very few people know of him. For tonight's Black History spotlight, I will discuss Patrick Kelly. Kelly was one of the most influential fashion designers who changed the fashion industry, and a Mississippi native.
Patrick Kelly was born in Vicksburg, MS on September 24, 1954 in Vicksburg, MS. He was interested in fashion by his influence of his fashionable female relatives. He attended Jackson State University before moving to Atlanta, GA, where he worked without pay as a window dresser at the Yves Saint Laurent Rive Gauche Boutique. After encouragement from one of his friends, he moved to New York City, where he attended Parsons School of Design. Afterwards, he moved to Paris, France.
While in Paris, Kelly achieved his greatest success. In 1988, he was the first American, and first person of color to be admitted as a member of the Chambre Syndicale du Prêt-à-Porter (the governing body of the prestigious French ready-to-wear industry). After receiving funding from U.S. conglomerate, Warnaco,
Patrick Kelly Illustration
Kelly with models wearing his designs
Kelly’s designs were sold in upscale clothing stores as Henri Bendel, Bergdorf Goodman, and Bloomingdales, and his celebrity clients included Bette Davis, Cicely Tyson, Isabella Rossellini, and Grace Jones.
Kelly with Iman, Grace Jones, and Naomi Campbell
Bette Davis wearing a Patrick Kelly design
Some of Kelly's most memorable garments incorporated masses of multicolored buttons and grosgrain ribbons clustered together.
Kelly's popular use of buttons
Kelly's famous button gloves
Other motifs, like the use of hats and splashy accessories, celebrated his rural southern roots. Kelly also created works using controversial images drawn from popular culture, bringing issues of racial stereotyping to the forefront.
Kelly's iconic watermelon design
Although he produced beautiful garments for many prestigious clients, it all ended too soon when Kelly died in 1990 at age 35 from AIDS complications. Although it has been 23 years since his death, his designs still live on.
Patrick Kelly Retrospective Exhibit at the Brooklyn Museum in the 90s
For all of my Mississippi natives, and future fashion designers, I encourage you to read about Patrick Kelly, and look at some of his fashion designs. They are truly inspirational.
Until Next Time!