Black Influential Designers
by Alexandra Phanor-Faury
In celebration of both Black History Month and New York Fashion Week, Essence.com is paying homage to the great designers of the past, present and future whose unique perspective has helped shaped the fashion landscape.
Patrick Kelly was a fashion trailblazer that paved the way for a number of Black designers who followed after him. Kelly was the toast of Paris when he arrived there in the late 80’s. Kelly’s dresses, which he sold on the streets of Paris, were a hit. Soon Bloomingdale’s and Henri Bendel were selling his outstanding, fun, colorful designs. The honors kept rolling in for the designer. Kelly was the first American to become a member of the ultra prestigious Chambre Syndicale du Pret-a-Porter (French’s governing fashion body). The French loved his use of color and prints.
Grace Jones and Cicely Tyson were loyal fans of Kelly’s infectious designs. Kelly’s reign on top would come to a sad end when he would lose his battle with AIDS in 1990. Kelly will always be remembered for his joyous designs and wonderfully cut fashions. Also, Kelly was instrumental in pushing issues of race to the forefront of the fashion world’s consciousness in the 80’s by using controversial images on some of his pieces to spark discussion.