On the road to Love ... Designer Patrick Kelly

Runway of Love

Last week I hopped on the bus headed to Philly to visit the Patrick Kelly exhibit at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Who is Patrick Kelly? Some may ask, you MUST know Patrick Kelly.

As an African American Fashion Designer, Patrick Kelly blazed the industry in the 80’s spreading love through his designs with ribbon and button embellishments and his signature heart pendants. Patrick Kelly was both the first American and African American to be inducted as a member into Chambre syndicale du prêt-à-porter des couturiers et des créateurs de mode, which is the French fashion industry governing body. Patrick Kelly was able to achieve wholesale sales of $7.2 million per year while working from Paris after receiving financial backing from the conglomerate Warnaco…now that’s major.

Grace Jones, Cicely Tyson and Bette Davis (just to name a few) were frequently dawned in Patrick Kelly’s designs. Major upscale retailers Bergdorf Goodman, Bloomingdales and Henri Bendel sold his amazing wearable designs. Walking through the exhibit gave me flashbacks of my mother in the late 80’s thru 90’s, as she was my introduction to beauty, fashion and lifestyle. The exhibit was so warm and familiar and I loved every piece of it.

Patrick Kelly pushed the envelope in addressing issues of race through the use of historically racial motifs such as the watermelon and the golliwog. In the US distribution of his shopping bags, which dawned an image of a fashioned “golliwog”, was banned as it was deemed too controversial. As the fashion still lacks in this area, Patrick Kelly was an advocate for ethnic models and made a point to use them through his facets of work. 

There are so many designers that have been influenced by this amazing mans work. Even crazier is the idea that designs could have instantly translated to what’s happening in fashion today by simply moving designs from the mannequins to a real body. When you get some time please find more as his history is extensive. Check out more in the gallery below!