Saturday’s and Elsa Klensch were about as regular as watching Soul Train for me in the 80’s, and when I first saw Patrick Kelly on Klensch’s CNN weekly style rewind, I was inspired. He was one of the first black designers I ever saw and he was one of the first designers that made an “it” item. I wore one of his signature red buttons on my Levi’s faded jean jacket. He was one of the first designers that was relatable and showed me that fashion was attainable.
What I didn’t realize about Patrick Kelly was that he spent the majority of his short-lived career in Paris. When he moved to Paris from New York (Kelly was originally from Mississippi) in 1979, he designed costumes for Le Palace, one of the infamous Parisian night clubs on par with Studio 54 and the Paradise Garage. His runway shows were legendary for being theatrical and irreverent. Between his design and my adolescent love for all things Benetton, this is where my unfulfilled childhood dream of being a model began.
His talent, like so many young men in design and the arts in the 80’s, was taken from us all too early. His work was full of love and joy. I’m writing this post while listening to a Larry Levan mix and dancing in my chair. Absolutely perfect. For a glimpse into the fantastic world of Patrick Kelly, here is a video from the Philadelphia Museum of Art’s 2014 retrospective of his career in fashion.