Patrick Kelly archive

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Collection Data

Kelly, Patrick, 1954-1990 (Creator)
Dates / Origin
Date Created: 1980 - 1994
Library locations
Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, Manuscripts, Archives and Rare Books Division
Shelf locator: Sc MG 631
Angelou, Maya
African American fashion designers
African Americans -- Clothing
Fashion drawing
Fashion shows -- France -- Paris
Biographical/historical: Born in Vicksburg, Mississippi in 1954, Patrick Kelly's interest in fashion design began in his childhood. He took courses in art history, fashion and black history at both Jackson State University and Parsons School of Design in New York and in 1979 he travelled to Paris for the first time, where he sold his handmade dresses on the streets. Early in his career in Paris, Kelly worked for major designers like Paco Rabanne and Hubert de Givenchy. In 1985 he showed his first collection, and also began his business partnership with Bj ̅rn Amelan. His celebrity clients, such as Bette Davis, Madonna and Princess Diana, brought his fashions into the spotlight. In 1987 Kelly closed a $5 million deal with the American apparel company Warnaco, Inc., which backed and distributed his women's ready-to-wear line. In 1988, Kelly was was voted into the Chambre Syndicale du Prêt à Porter des Couturiers et des Créateurs de Mode, the prestigious French organization of fashion designers. He was the first American to be so honored. As only members of this select group may exhibit their fashions at the Louvre, he was the first African American to have been awarded this distinction. At the time Kelly was voted a member, there were only forty-four members, thirty-four of whom were French. He presented two major fashion collections a year, with a third that included his holiday line. He also organized other requisite showings in the United States and Europe, made personal appearances, judged contests and visited retail shops. Besides selling his fashions at major Parisian stores, in the United States Kelly's apparel was carried by Saks Fifth Avenue and Marshall Fields, among other stores. His designs were sold in nineteen countries worldwide. Always seeking additional outlets and opportunities to expand his market, by 1988 Kelly was working with Vogue Patterns to enable women to make their own clothing based upon his styles. He designed for the Victoire Boutique in Paris and as well as for the Italian clothing manufacturer Benetton. Always close to the roots of his family in Mississippi, many of Kelly's fashions showed his grandmother's influence of bows and buttons (enlarged for his designs); these trademarks became staples of French fashion by June 1989. Kelly had plans for a line of sunglasses and jewelry, and was preparing a cookbook with his mother's, grandmother's as well as his own recipes. In addition, having amassed a collection of six thousand black dolls, he planned to open a doll shop. Kelly's last runway show was spring/summer 1989 held in March of that year. By the time of the autumn/winter 1990 show held in the fall of 1989, he was too ill to participate fully, and succumbed to AIDS on January 1, 1990 at age 35. Kelly's mother, Letha R. Kelly, granted permission for Kelly's partner, Bjorn Amelan, to continue working with the business following Kelly's death.
Content: The Patrick Kelly Archive consists of press books, sketches of his designs, clippings, scrapbooks, and some letters. The bulk of the press books and sketches document Kelly's Paris fashion shows from 1985 to 1989. A number of the sketches are accompanied by fabric swatches and annotations for colors and types of fabric to be used. There are numerous clippings about his designs and fashion shows, magazine covers and feature articles advertising his fashions in major American and French fashion magazines. Included in the collection are a scrapbook and documents related to his death, a small amount of correspondence referring to this fashion career, as well as a proposal (1993-1994) prepared by Maya Angelou for a book about Kelly. Other scrapbooks document Kelly's birthday and Christmas parties, and post-fashion show parties. One of the scrapbooks contains photographs of the behind-the-scenes preparations for his March 1989 show and includes color sketches of his designs. There is also a small sampling of the black themed postcards Kelly was known to collect.
Physical Description
Extent: 2.75 linear feet (8 boxes, 1 tube)
Type of Resource
Still image
NYPL catalog ID (B-number): b16517052
MSS Unit ID: 20919
Archives collections id: archives_collections_20919
Universal Unique Identifier (UUID): 05c77250-b4a7-0138-9c26-61281c17e7ae
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