BLACK HISTORY FASHION MOMENT: PATRICK KELLY
Originally hailing from Vicksburg, Mississippi, Patrick Kelly (September 24, 1954 – January 1, 1990) was a celebrity-favorite designer known for his bright, flamboyant, and chic aesthetic. His bold works occasionally referenced issues of race through the use of charged imagery such as that of the golliwog. Kelly was also a tireless advocate for models of color who counted Naomi Campbell, Iman, and Grace Jones among his circle of friends.
Kelly began his career at the age of 18, working in Atlanta as an unpaid window dresser for Yves Saint Laurent. He eventually received personal sponsorship by a then chairman at the fashion house to travel to Paris to create his namesake label, Patrick Kelly Paris.
In 1988, Patrick Kelly became the first American and the first Black person to be admitted to the prestigious Chambre syndicale du prêt-à-porter des couturiers et des créateurs de mode, a French organization which governed the fashion trade in France. His clothing was sold at major department stores including Henri Bendel, Bergdorf Goodman and Bloomingdale’s.
Patrick Kelly’s work was the subject of a 2005 retrospective at the Brooklyn Museum, and most recently, a 2014 retrospective at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.