Fashion for many is a form of self expression. Fashion allows you to tell the story of who you are to a stranger without having to exchange a single word. It could be the powerful aesthetic an individual gives off with a well tailored blazer. The on-the-go lifestyle that is portrayed through modern day athleisure. An understanding of color and balance that a brightly colored pair of earrings can have when paired with a neutral monochromatic look. No matter what clothing you are wearing your ‘look’ is an elevator pitch for what you may be trying to portray in life.
Clothing is often aspirational for many. Wearing a new gold plated ring, or a new leather bag can signal to the average passer-by that you are a lover of the classics. Style can also portray that you want to be left alone when headphones are paired with a baseball cap and sunglasses. When walking into the new Patrick Kelly Runway of Love exhibit the message is clear from the moment you walk in, the style is fun and daring. With brightly colored looks styled with space age accessories, animal prints, and fun stitching, Kelly’s collection transports you to a runway show in Paris without having to leave Salem MA.
The Peabody Essex Museum (PEM) presents an exhibition celebrating the life and legacy of the late fashion designer Patrick Kelly, whose meteoric rise in fashion remains unprecedented and unmatched today. Rooted in expressions of love and joy and inspired by his experiences growing up in the American South, Kelly’s fearless yet lighthearted designs pushed racial and cultural boundaries. First presented by the Philadelphia Museum of Art in 2014, and reconstituted for presentation at the de Young, Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco in 2021, Patrick Kelly: Runway of Love is on view at PEM from June 25 through November 6, 2022.
Born in Vicksburg, Mississippi in 1954, Kelly was primarily self-taught and drew inspiration from his Black heritage, his days in the New York and Paris club scenes and his personal muses. Drawn from the collection of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the exhibition – which features footage from the designer’s exuberant and groundbreaking fashion shows and over 75 fully accessorized runway ensembles created between 1984 and 1989 – situates the artist and his work in the broader context of fashion history by exploring the provocative objects and lived experiences that inspired his clothing. Patrick Kelly’s promising career was cut short by his premature death from complications related to AIDS on January 1, 1990.
“Since his passing more than 30 years ago, Patrick Kelly’s vibrant aesthetic has become part of the lexicon of global fashion,” said Petra Slinkard, PEM’s Director of Curatorial Affairs and The Nancy B. Putnam Curator of Fashion and Textiles. “Kelly’s short but inspiring career produced fourteen collections in just six years. He promoted powerful messages of joy and love, while addressing important cultural and social issues head on. Kelly and his work have subsequently become touchstones for a number of established and emerging designers.”
*Images and quotes in this blog have been provided by the Peabody Essex Museum
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