Fashion exhibit in SF’s de Young Museum explores images of race and designer’s legacy

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Fashion exhibit in SF's de Young Museum explores images of race and designer's legacy

A new exhibit at San Francisco’s de Young Museum is a joyous look into one of the most important African American figures in the world. fashion designers. Patrick Kelly’s designs have almost as many layers as his designs.

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Strolling through “Patrick Kelly: Runway of Love”The de Young museum may be the closest to feeling like you are walking down a street. fashionTake the runway and show your creativity with videos of vintage shows, and colorful, exotic gowns. It’s a feeling d’inclusion, that Kelly, friends, said, was born from her heart.


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“Part of our work was speaking to his friends and colleagues. They always came back to how much joy was in him as a person, how much joy was in the clothing, how he wanted his clothes to make you smile,” says presenting curator Laura Camerlengo.

Kelly was a huge success in America and Europe by the 1980’s. fashionIt is a circle. He was the first American to be a Black man. designerInducted into France’s prestigious fashion federation, Chambre Syndicale du Prt–Porter des Couturiers et des Créateurs de Mode. His meteoric rise was not without challenges, according to Laura Camerlengo, the presenting curator.

“Patrick overcame tremendous obstacles to become the toast of Paris before the age of 35 — being born and raised in Vicksburg, Mississippi, in the 1950s, and 60s in a segregated environment, in an environment where he experienced brutal acts of racism,” explains Camerlengo.

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Those early experiences are now woven into his work. His work was inspired in part by a gift Bjorn Amelan, his ex-partner, received at a Paris flee marketplace. It was a porcelain ashtray in the shape of a Black face.

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“I gave it to him. And Patrick had the generosity of spirit and the vision instead of reading me the Riot Act, or even explaining to me what these pieces meant, which he never did, and which I only really came to realize over time. He said to me, ‘we will start collecting these,'” Amelan remembers.

Kelly did not just collect the racially-charged items, but also made a statement by using them to make clothing and jewelry.

“His attitude was to say that by tucking such artifacts away and refusing to see them, we maintain their power over us, their negativity,” Amelan believes.

Camerlengo, the presenter, agrees.

“For Patrick, there was a power in collecting this material, resting with the imagery and sort of throwing it back to the public in his fashion designs,”She said.

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Kelly’s fashions were a beacon for the gay community, communities of color, and the traditional. fashionAll of the world and the wider public at once. Patrick Kelly would soon be enveloped by his own times, just like his many swirling fabrics.

“When we received the diagnosis that both of both of us in the summer of 87, that we were HIV positive,” Amelan recounts.

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He claims that the couple initially kept their diagnosis secret due to business reasons. The public started to understand the struggle only after his death in 90. Amelan survived treatment, and has watched Kelly’s stature rise over the decades in exhibits such as Kelly’s Runway of Love.

“Oh, I think it would be very happy. I think it would be like a big smile and a thumbs up, says Amelan.

Camerlengo hopes visitors ultimately share the same feeling.

“I hope people leave the exhibition feeling inspired, joyous, and as if they have a personal relationship with Patrick Kelly.

The Patrick Kelly exhibitThis weekend, the museum opens to the public. It runs through April.

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