Patrick Kelly's 'Runway of Love': Exuberant and Jubilant Fashions
The 'Runway of Love' retrospective currently on view at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, celebrates and pays homage to the late fashion designer Patrick Kelly. The exhibit is a sartorial explosion of flamboyance, exuberance, and femininity. Kelly's height of success occurred in the late 1980s in Paris, where he simultaneously became the first American designer and person of color to be inducted into Chambre Syndicale du Prêt-à-Porter des Couturiers et des Créateurs de Mode, France's equivalent to the CFDA. Notorious for his body conscious dresses and bold accoutrements, Kelly created witty and gleeful ensembles that became all the rave in Parisian fashion circles. Kelly majored in art history and African-American studies at Jackson State University, but later moved to New York to pursue a fashion education at Parsons School of Design, and eventually landed in Paris to cut his teeth in the French fashion industry. A native of Mississippi born in 1954, Kelly's identity was strongly shaped by his African-American southern roots and his love for garments, a passion which was cultivated by the women in his family. Kelly faced harsh criticism for exploiting and promoting racial stereotypes by depicting 'mammies', 'pickaninnies', and 'golliwogs' in his branding. He defended his stance by stating it was 'black culture' and that 'this memorabilia meant a lot to him'. The very animated exhibit 'Runway of Love' is on view through December 7 at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.