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Patrick Kelly Was the Jackie Robinson of High Fashion

by Antwaun Sargent

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“We lost Patrick Kelly on New Year’s Day in the winter of 1990… This was a gay black man who did not make ordinary Parisian prêt-à-porter—through his signature buttoned and bowed jersey dresses, he was bold and daring. He actively tried to reclaim racist iconography for black people. He evoked the flare and sophistication of bygone eras in his totally trendsetting collections. And he elevated the styles of the black women he grew up around in the deep South to the highest echelons of fashion. As feminist icon Gloria Steinem said when she eulogized him, “He unified us with buttons and bows, tassels and fringe…”

Art curator Antwaun Sargent examines Kelly’s influence on visual artist Derrick Adams’ 2017 exhibition, “Derrick Adams: Patrick Kelly, The Journey”, and why Kelly’s life story and work should be “instructive for these young black designers.”

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