BWW Previews: Patrick Kelly: Runway of Love and Gerlan Jeans Loves Patrick Kelly at Philadelphia Museum of Art
This past weekend, the Philadelphia Museum of Art opened an important retrospective featuring the life and works of fashion designer Patrick Kelly. Almost 25 years after Kelly's untimely death of AIDS in 1990, we continue to experience his profound impact on fashion. Yet, "Patrick Kelly: Runway of Love" is the first of its kind to comprehensively display the breadth and diversity of this designer's influential work.
Already one of the largest costume and textile collections in the nation, The Philadelphia Museum of Art was lucky to receive a generous gift of Kelly's business and life partner, Bjorn Guil Amelan, and Bill T. Jones. The Museum now posses approximately 100 of Kelly's head-to-toe looks as well as other memorabilia, photographs, and videos, totaling nearly 1,000 objects. For "Patrick Kelly : Runway of Love," the Museum is displaying 80 ensembles, along with additional objects, that are sure to make you smile.
Video footage from his Kelly's runway finales is projected behind a central "Runway of Love," featuring looks with heart-shaped embellishments. Tunes by Michael Jackson, Prince, and Paula Abdul are piped in through overhead speakers. Immediately, you're transported to La Palace in Paris in the 1980s, sipping cocktails with Yves St. Laurent and Kelly. Grace Jones walks by in an all-leather outfit, designed by Kelly, with a hat shaped like the Eiffel Tower.
In addition to looks on display created for living divas, the exhibition presents ensembles inspired by iconic women of the past. One, as a tribute to Billie Holiday, is covered in artificial gardenias, the favorite flower of both Kelly and the legendary singer. Another pays direct homage to Josephine Baker's iconic costume banana-skirt costume worn during the 1920s.
Kelly does not need to create a skirt out of fruit of flowers to make a statement, however. "Runway of Love" also exhibits Kelly's striking yet simple street wear. Curator Dilys Blum confessed that one look on display was originally mistaken for rags. These simple strips of turquoise fabric with unfinished edges were later discovered to be an ingenious tube top and skirt.