Patrick Kelly (fashion designer)

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For other people named Patrick Kelly, see Patrick Kelly (disambiguation).
Patrick Kelly's tomb

Patrick Kelly (September 24, 1954 – January 1, 1990) was an American fashion designer. Born in Vicksburg, Mississippi, Kelly studied art at Jackson State University and then attended Parsons School of Design. While in New York Kelly Struggled to find steady employment. To support himself he had many jobs that included a part time job at Baskin Robbins while continuing to sell his own designs. After receiving advice from his friend and super model Pat Cleveland and an anonymous one-way ticket he moved to Paris in 1979. Once there Kelly was promptly hired as a costume designer for a nightclub called Le Palace. In a small apartment which he shared with a model he continued to sell his own creations and even homemade chicken dinners to make ends meet. While living in Atlanta at age 18 Kelly sold reworked, recycled clothes and served as an unpaid window-dresser at Yves Saint Laurent. YSL chairman Pierre Bergé personally sponsored Kelly in 1988 to form the Paris-based womenswear fashion house Patrick Kelly Paris. Kelly achieved his greatest commercial success in the late 1980s and in 1988 Kelly became both the first American and the first person of color to be admitted as a member of the Chambre syndicale du prêt-à-porter des couturiers et des créateurs de mode.[1] Kelly died at age 35 on New Year's Day, 1990. Originally Kelly's causes of death were reported to be bone marrow disease and a brain tumor, but the actual cause of death is now acknowledged to be complications of AIDS.[2]

Working from Paris, Kelly produced collections for five years, beginning in 1985 and continuing until his death in 1990. After receiving financial backing from the U.S. based fashion conglomerate Warnaco in July, 1987, Kelly was able to hire a staff and eventually achieve wholesale sales of US $7.2 million per year.[3] Kelly's designs were sold in upscale retailers including Henri Bendel, Bergdorf Goodman and Bloomingdale's and were worn by celebrities including Isabella Rossellini, Bette Davis, Cicely Tyson and Grace Jones.[1] Kelly's designs frequently incorporated bright colors, were often embellished with ribbons and buttons and suggested a sense of whimsy and joy while sometimes addressing difficult issues of race. This was pointed out by the giving his audience a tiny brown doll with molded black hair that could be most accurately described as a "pickaninny". Kelly also used motifs such as watermelon and the golliwog. He was known to walk the runway in baggy overalls and used a large spray paint heart as the background to his fashion shows. [4][4]

Kelly was described as an extremely hard working individual and gained a reputation for demanding his staff match is work ethic. He was also an advocate for models of color and often made a point to include them in his work.[5]

In 2004, The Brooklyn Museum presented Patrick Kelly: A Retrospective, a show featuring more than sixty Kelly designs.[1] In 2014, the Philadelphia Museum of Art presented the exhibition Patrick Kelly: Runway of Love.[6]


  1. ^ a b c "Brooklyn Museum - Exhibitions - Patrick Kelly: A Retrospective". Brooklyn Museum website. New York, NY: Brooklyn Museum. 2004. Archived from the original on 2010-06-01. Retrieved 2010-06-01. 
  2. ^ Givhan, Robin (2004-05-31). "Patrick Kelly's Radical Cheek - In New York, a Designer's Guise and Dolls". The Washington Post website. Washington, D.C.: The Washington Post Company. p. C01. Archived from the original on 2010-06-01. Retrieved 2010-06-01. But Kelly died on New Year's Day 1990... 
  3. ^ Hornblower, Margot (1989-04-03). "An Original American In Paris: PATRICK KELLY". Time website. United States of America: Time Inc. Archived from the original on 2010-06-01. Retrieved 2010-06-01. In the late 1980's Kelly began selling his collection on the street and working as a costumer at Le Palais. Subsequent to signing a licensing contract with the $600 million conglomerate Warnaco in July of 1987, his business has shot up from $795,000 a year to $7 million a year. 
  4. ^ a b "FIDM Museum Blog: Patrick Kelly". FIDM Museum Blog. Los Angeles, CA: FIDM. 2010-03-22. Archived from the original on 2010-06-01. Retrieved 2010-06-01. In 1988, Kelly became the first American designer to be admitted to the Chambre Syndicale du Prêt-à-Porter des Couturiers et des Créateurs de Mode...  |first1= missing |last1= in Authors list (help) Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "chambre_sponsor" defined multiple times with different content (see the help page).
  5. ^ Johnson, Pamela (1989). "Patrick Kelly: Prince of Paris". Essence (90). Retrieved 5 November 2014. 
  6. ^ "Patrick Kelly: Runway of Love". Retrieved 30 April 2014. 

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