Flashback Fashion Friday: Patrick Kelly


Few designers have graced the fashion world and left us so bittersweetly like Patrick Kelly. This Mississippi born designer, made his mark on the fashion world with quirky, fun and often controversial collections. Using his ethnicity to not only empower himself but to also take to the forefront often shameful and hurtful imagery and twisting your perception of them.

He lived in New York but later moved to Paris in 1980 after being convinced by his model friend Pat Cleveland. He made his living by selling his dresses on the street, designing for Paco Rabanne and working as a costumer at LePalais. His designs began to take major popularity and were seen on anyone from Grace Jones, Cicely Tyson and even Bette Davis; who at the tender age of 80 wore one of his body-con dresses to a taping of The David Letterman show. Patrick Kelly literally took Paris by storm and even became the first American admitted to the Chambre Syndicale France’s prestigious organization of fashion designers.

His family played a great deal on his inspiration, noting his signature mis-matched button motifs were something he saw his grandmother do from childhood. And creating pieces influenced by his family and women of the south. His designs we quirky whimsical and fun, but sometimes controversial, using motifs like mammy and Aunt Jemima images on dresses, and a golliwogg for his logo. Utilizing it all as a way to bring up important issue about racial stereotyping, never being apologetic about it.

Ahead of his time, he sadly only graced us with his designs for 5 years, ended in 1990 by his untimely death which at the time was said to be due to bone marrow complications but later was revealed was due to AIDS. But his legacy lives on, as we can still see his influence today in a few our favorite designers.


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