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Kelly, Patrick

I often wonder how Patrick Kelly's art would have evolved had he not passed on so early in his life. In his short 35 years he rose from humble Mississippi roots to being the rose of Paris. As a young man he moved to Atlanta to decorate Yves Saint Laurent windows for free. ("He was my hero. I tried to do them just the way Mr. Saint Laurent would have wanted them.") To pay the bills he took a job sorting clothes for a thrift store. He began collecting vintage, and soon he opened his own vintage shop. He had att ended fashion design classes at Parsons, but he was unable to pay his tuition and had to drop out. One day on the street he ran into an old friend from Atlanta, model Pat Cleveland. She suggested he go to Paris and gave him a one-way ticket. He crossed the Atlantic to Paris where he sold his handmade creations on the street and at flea markets. With the help of his friend, and soon to be business partner, Bjorn Amelan, he found an outlet for his talent at a trendy Right Bank boutique and for Benetton. By 1985 his dresses were selling out at Bergdorf Goodman's. It wasn't long until his talent was recognized and he found backers to open his own shop. In 1987 his fame skyrocketed when he was honored by being the first American ever admitted into the Chambre Syndicale, being one of only 43 Paris based designers who could show at the Louvre. Kelly's fame came not only from his fashion, but also from his witty and gracious personality. He was always seen wearing oversized overalls and an upturned hat, often paired with neon oragne high top sneakers. He collected more than 8,000 pieces of Black memorabilia including mammies, pickaninnies, Topsys and golliwogs. He was known to carry in his pockets handfulls of "black babies" turned into pins to give to whomever he met. He also presented guests at his fashion shows plastic babies or golliwogs. He was quoted in Time Magazine 1989 "I think of myself as a black male Lucille Ball," "I like making people laugh." He died New Years Day, 1990 of AIDS.