Meet Designer Patrick Kelly
” I want my clothes to make you smile.”
Patrick Kelly was born on September 24, 1954 in Vicksburg, Mississippi. His interest in fashion came at a young age, Patrick’s earliest recollection of his love for fashion was when he was about six years old. One day after his grandmother brought home a fashion magazine, he noticed that there were no pictures of African American women in it. His grandmother explained that designers did not have time for African American women and he was determined to change this.
Teaching himself to sew, he began his career as a designer at an early age. While in junior high Patrick began to design and sew party dresses for the girls in his neighborhood. By the time he got to high, school he began designing department store windows and drawing sketches for newspaper advertisements. After graduating from high school in 1972 Patrick attended Jackson State University on a scholarship and studied art history and African American history. Sophomore year he decided to leave Mississippi to escape the oppressive racial tensions, to pursue a serious career in fashion.
He moved to Atlanta and got a job sorting clothing for AMVETS, an American veterans organization. As a way of working his way into the fashion industry, he volunteered to decorate windows for an Yves Saint Laurent boutique called Rive Gauche. These experiences helped him build his fashion career. While working at AMVETS, Patrick had access to a large collection of clothes, some of which carried designer labels. He would redesign the old clothes and sell them on the streets along with some of his original creations. This job provided him with a steady paycheck along with gaining exposure in the fashion industry.
Patrick decided to move to New York City after his friend told him that if he wanted to really get noticed by the fashion industry, NY is where he should be. While in NY, he enrolled at the Parsons School of Design.
Struggling financially, he wasn’t able to find a steady job so he supported himself with occasional work here and there. After receiving a one-way ticket to Paris that was mailed to him anonymously, he used that opportunity and moved to Paris, the fashion capital. Things were going better for Patrick in Paris. He was hired to work as a costume designer for a nightclub called Le Palace. He sold his own creations on the street and even sold homemade dinners to bring in extra income.
Patrick Kelly, Iman, Grace Jones and Naomi Campbell
With all of Patricks hard work and dedication, it was finally paying off for him. People were starting to recognize him and his talents. In 1984 Victoire, a boutique in Paris had provided him with a workshop and showroom. Soon after the Patrick Kelly brand was launched. His style reflected his personality, he was described as fun-loving and outgoing. He used bright colors, that were often embellished with ribbons and colorful buttons, which became his trademark.
Patrick was often always seen wearing a pair of oversized overalls. He acknowledged every stereotype attached to Southern blacks. He made fried chicken for his friends and used the phrase honey chile while talking to others. He poked fun at racial stereotypes and incorporated that into his designs. He was known for carrying black baby doll pins which became a trademark for him and he gave them away to everyone he met.
He passed these out to everyone he met.
He’s clothes have been worn by some well known celebrities such as Bette Davis, Cicely Tyson, Grace Jones among others.
Check out Patrick Kelly’s Paris 1988 collection below:
In 1990, Patrick Kelly died at the age 35 on New Year’s Day.