Laura Camerlengo, Exhibitions Assistant at the Philadelphia Museum of Art says "His rise in the fashion industry was meteoric, selling on the streets of Paris in the early eighties to being a multi-million dollar company by 1987."
Born and raised in Mississippi, Kelly's aesthetic was shaped by his African American and Southern roots. He adorned his clothes with hearts and colorful buttons. "As a child growing up in Vicksburg, he would lose his buttons a lot on his shirts and his grandmother would mend them and replace them with any button she can find and so that inspired his look very early on," explains Camerlengo.
Kelly's career was cut short when he died of AIDS in 1990. His business and life partner recently gifted the museum with 80 of Kelly's ensembles. Dilys Blum, Senior Curator at the Philadelphia Museum of Art says the exhibit is designed to be fun. "We've got a lot of eighties music that he used in his runway shows, we have all the clips from his runway shows."
There's also a satellite exhibit-Gerlan Jeans Loves Patrick Kelly. Created by New York Designer and graphic artist Gerlan Marcel, the street-wear clothes reinterpret Kelly's buttons, bows and other ornamentations. "I think we share this element of being very serious about taking ourselves less seriously," says Marcel, "and obviously our love of color, our love of print and just that kind of vibrancy and energy."
Both exhibitions are on display through November. For tickets, go to www.TheArtsinPhilly.org.