MEMPHIS, TENNESSEE.- Memphis Brooks Museum of Art will present Patrick Kelly: A Retrospective from June 19 through August 28, 2005. The first retrospective of this African American fashion designer, originally from Vicksburg, Mississippi, will include more than fifty complete ensembles from the Patrick Kelly estate. Archival material and numerous objects from Kellyfs personal collection of Black memorabilia will also be featured.
Kelly was born in Vicksburg, Mississippi and moved to New York in 1979 to study at Parsons School of Design. An anonymous gift enabled him to buy a plane ticket to Paris, fulfilling a long-time dream. He began his career in the fashion business by designing and selling cotton tube dresses on the street corners of the city. He quickly enlisted celebrity clients such as Bette Davis and Grace Jones. Kelly showed his first collection in Paris in 1985 and in 1988 had signed a $5 million contract with Warnaco, a powerful American fashion conglomerate.
Kelly made history, becoming the first American admitted to the Chambre Syndicale du Pret-a-Porter (the governing body of the prestigious French ready-to-wear industry). Sadly, Kelly died of complications from AIDS on New Yearfs Day 1990 at the age of 35, before he, or the fashion world, could fully enjoy his enormous talents.
Although Kelly produced collections for only a few short years, his whimsical, witty garments proved to be potent and original contributions to the field of fashion. He took his inspiration from the American South. His clothes have been described as, gfunny, funky tributes to high-strutting hot Sundays in southern Baptist churches.h
Thelma Golden, Deputy Director for Exhibitions and Programs at The Studio Museum in Harlem organized the exhibition for the Brooklyn Museum. Patrick Kelly: A Retrospective is funded in part by a First Tennessee Bravo Series grant. Presenting sponsor for the Patrick Kelly exhibition is Laurelwood Shopping Center.