Designer’s makeshift clothes shown in museum

DKS Editors

Artist’s work on display for Black History Month

These 1980s designs by Patrick Kelly are now in the Kent State University Museum in Rockwell Hall. Shaye A. Painter | Daily Kent Stater

Credit: DKS Editors

Second-hand garments reconstructed and transformed with multi-colored buttons, exuberant accessories and clusters of ribbons constitute Patrick Kelly’s designs.

Three of them are now on display at the Kent State University Museum in honor of Black History Month.

“He lived my dream, and that’s what I’ll do,” said Shanetta Dorsey, a sophomore fashion design major who admires Kelly’s work.

Kelly died of AIDS at 35 in 1990, five years after reaching fame in Paris.

Kelly was raised in a low-income family in Mississippi. His mother and grandmother triggered the inspiration for the style he became known for – making clothes with the materials on hand.

Kelly reworked previously owned garments into fashionable styles during the 1980s. Recycling pieces and making them into something extraordinary defined Kelly as a designer.

Museum curator Anne Bissonnette explained Kelly’s need to design using whatever he could.

“He just had the need to make things,” Bissonnette said. “You use what you have and this becomes your medium. A lot of his signature pieces were this multiple button thing and little found objects he integrated into his work.”

Candice Calire, junior costume design major, comments on the expense of fabrics, as well as Kelly’s design concept.

“Fabric is way more expensive than people realize,” she said. “It’s an awesome way to save money – to use old clothes and rework them.”

Bissonnette also finds that fabric can be the problem with a design.

“There are instances where fabric is not only expensive to buy, but it’s getting harder and harder to come by good fabrics,” she said. “If you go to thrift stores, you can often find things made out of really wonderful stuff that you cannot find anymore.”

Kelly moved to Paris and began selling his designs on the street, which gave him recognition for his work.

Bissonnette talked about Kelly as being an individualistic designer in Paris during his fashion era.

“Paris wanted to be the epiphany of luxury and everything so crisp,” she said. “Here he has this mindset that’s completely different, and they embraced him, and I love that about his work.

“He never tried to be something that would fit into a mold,” Bissonnette added.

Dorsey expressed how influential Kelly is on her as a young designer.

“Ever since I was a little girl I wanted to go to Paris and be a designer,” she said. “So to see that somebody has done that and paved the way for me, other fashion designers and fashion merchandisers and whoever, is just amazing.”

Kelly’s aesthetics and joyfulness in his designs are something some fashion students embrace.

“It’s inspiring to see someone who has done it and makes it possible for you to do it as well,” Dorsey said. “It’s not impossible. It doesn’t have to be a dream; it can be a reality.”

Contact School of Fashion Design and Merchandising reporter Sarah Blei at [email protected].