The history and legacy of Patrick Kelly

The history and legacy of Patrick Kelly

Andrea Tuzio · 2 months ago · Style, Style

At the black Baptist church on Sunday, the ladies are just as fierce as the ladies at Yves Saint Laurent haute couture shows“.

Patrick Kelly was a winner, one who fought and unhinged the thick, bigoted plots that American society has woven for years, through his work imbued with the most powerful weapons: courage, humor and audacity. The landmarks of the famous American designer have always been the black women of the South of the United States, those with whom he grew up and who taught him everything. His life’s work, which ended tragically too soon, was an amusing glamorous journey imbued with cultural and historical curiosity. The 1980s saw the birth and death of one of the most significant and culturally important designers of our time; Kelly fought against all forms of racism and homophobia until he had the strength to do so and today more than ever, it is essential to recall the legacy he left us.

Patrick was born in Vicksburg, Mississippi in 1954. Raised by his mother, a home economics teacher, and his maternal grandmother, after his father abandoned them when he was still very young, he became passionate about fashion as a child. At the age of 6, his grandmother showed him a magazine borrowed from the house of a “white lady”, young Patrick’s first observation was: “there are no black women“.
The answer was just as direct and true: “nobody dedicates time to them“.

That was the first spark that ignited the soul and conscience of that child who shortly afterwards put to good use the teachings of his mother and grandmother, learning to sew while attending elementary school. 

In 1972 he graduated and briefly attended Jackson State University in Mississippi before moving to Atlanta, Georgia. In the same year he received a scholarship to attend the Parsons School of Design in New York, but apparently, “once the dean of Parsons discovered that Patrick Kelly was not Irish, he refused to give him the scholarship”.
The story is told by Bjorn Amelan, her boyfriend and business partner who will remain with him until the day of his untimely death in 1990. In Atlanta, Patrick earns his living working in a vintage clothing boutique where for the first time he has the chance to have designer clothes in his hands, some of which he modifies and sells in a small corner in a beauty salon, until he opens his shop in Buckhead, the fashionable district of the city.

1979 was a decisive year in Patrick’s life, he began a strong friendship with black supermodel Pat Cleveland who, esteeming the work of the young designer and appreciating the designs he made, pushed him to move to New York.
In the Big Apple Kelly tries to enter the fashion industry at any level, but the rubber wall on which he clashes is huge, “they couldn’t believe that an African-American applied for a job in fashion design”, explains Amelan.

After a horrible year in New York, he moved to Paris in 1980, again on Cleveland’s advice.

In the Parisian capital, Patrick’s life takes a different turn. Thanks to a report in Elle magazine, the success was immediate.
His clothes were conceived and designed for the black women of the south, those who had raised and inspired him throughout his life and who in a transversal way embodied the elegance of the 80s.

Princess Diana, Grace Jones, Naomi Campbell and Iman are just a few examples of the women who adored Patrick and his fantastic work, which led him to become the first American and black designer to be admitted to the Chambre syndicale du prêt-à-porter des couturiers et des créateurs de mode, the prestigious governing body of the French ready-to-wear industry.

Patrick Kelly has shocked the fashion world from the ground up, his collections have been a tool to explore and combat racist stereotypes. His approach through which he neutralized racist imagery by re-appropriating the same symbols that supported him (such as watermelon slices, black children’s dolls, bananas, etc.) thanks to playfulness, exuberance and irony has also provoked controversy. What makes Kelly an example that more than any other deserves to be remembered, are the battles he fought to establish himself in an industry dominated by whites, the same ones that many black designers continue to fight every day.

In 2004, Robin Givhan wrote on The Washington Post
“Any lasting contribution that Kelly made to fashion’s vocabulary is dominated by the singular significance of his ethnicity. Kelly was African-American and that fact played prominently in his designs, in the way he presented them to the public and in the way he engaged his audience. No other well-known fashion designer has been so inextricably linked to both his race and his culture.

Inclusiveness was in all the clothes he designed, in 1987 he declared to People magazine: “I design for fat women, skinny women, all kinds of women. My message is, you’re beautiful just the way you are”.

At the peak of his career in August 1989, while working simultaneously for Warnaco, Benetton and many others, Kelly fell ill with AIDS and because of this he was unable to complete preparations for that year’s show scheduled for October. His illness remained a secret until long after his death on January 1st, 1990.

At her funeral, her friend and client Gloria Steinem concluded her speech by saying: “instead of dividing us with gold and jewels, he unified us with buttons and bows.”

His work has paved the way for brands like FUBU and Jeremy Scott‘s techniques. 

Patrick Kelly’s cultural and artistic legacy should be, today even more so, a beacon that guides the entire fashion system in the fight against racial discrimination in all areas and that pushes all those involved to work with strong and long-term projects and ideas that aim at upsetting an unjust and not at all inclusive status quo.

The history and legacy of Patrick Kelly
Style
The history and legacy of Patrick Kelly
The history and legacy of Patrick Kelly
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The Mountain Refuge, the modular wooden shelter

The Mountain Refuge, the modular wooden shelter

Giulia Guido · 2 months ago · Design

The two architects of the studio Gnocchi+Danesi Architects have reinterpreted the traditional idea of shelter by designing and realizing The Mountain Refuge

It is a small, modular, prefabricated cabin with a simple, minimalist shape reminiscent of huts. The basic structure is made up of two modules that form a 24 square meter dwelling, but the architects added the possibility of incorporating an additional 12 square meters structure, reaching a total surface area of 36 square meters. 

The modular nature of The Mountain Refuge allows it to be built anywhere and on any surface, however, although the cabin does not need foundations, the architects specified that in the most extreme places it is recommended to place the structure on a concrete slab. 

Outside, the hut is completely covered with a layer of black pine cement, which not only gives it a mysterious, dark air, but also makes the structure waterproof; inside, on the other hand, the choice of leaving the plywood exposed immediately transforms The Mountain Refuge into a warm and welcoming place. The pride and joy of the project is the huge window that allows you to live in contact with nature while remaining safe both during the day and at night.  

The Mountain Refuge, the modular wooden shelter
Design
The Mountain Refuge, the modular wooden shelter
The Mountain Refuge, the modular wooden shelter
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The Spy Glass, the beach cabin at JaK Studio

The Spy Glass, the beach cabin at JaK Studio

Giulia Guido · 2 months ago · Design

On the seafront of Eastbourne, an English summer resort less than an hour from Brighton, the JaK Studio has built a unique beach cabin. Called the Spy Glass, its design was based on the idea of constructing a structure reminiscent of the old typical British beach huts, but incorporating the convenience of modern design. 

Measuring 2 meters wide and 3 meters both in length and height, the Spy Glass offers inside all the comforts you need during a day at sea: outside there is a showerhead, while inside there is a bathroom, a locker where you can store your personal belongings and a cantilever bed. 

From the outside, the design of the Spy Glass is fun and fits perfectly into the landscape, and its shape is inspired by the classic coin-operated binoculars that are often found on piers and in seaside resorts. The JaK Studio has also taken over the swivel system from these disused objects. The cabin, in fact, is positioned on a platform that allows you to rotate the entire structure of 180°, giving you the opportunity to admire the coast, the beach, the promenade or the pier from the large window and to put yourself in favor of the sun. 

We think our beach hut will add something special to the coastline, at the same time it will fit in with the fabric of the traditional British seafront.

The Spy Glass, the beach cabin at JaK Studio
Design
The Spy Glass, the beach cabin at JaK Studio
The Spy Glass, the beach cabin at JaK Studio
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Invisible House, the mirror house in California

Invisible House, the mirror house in California

Giulia Guido · 1 month ago · Design

Imagine the design and features of a New York skyscraper reproduced in the middle of the desert. Designer Tomas Osinski and film producer Chris Hanley not only imagined this strange combination but also created it by presenting the Invisible House

Located in the middle of the famous Joshua Tree National Park, the house was built on a series of reinforced concrete pillars and is completely horizontal. The name of the Invisible House comes from its exterior design, in fact the house is completely covered with tempered glass panes that reflect the surrounding environment. From the outside, therefore, the house seems almost to disappear among the rocks and shrubs, while from inside the windows allow you to enjoy the landscape at 360° from any room. 

The plan of the Invisible House is rectangular, long and narrow, and in addition to housing a kitchen, a living room, a dining room, 4 bedrooms and bathrooms, inside there is also a 30 meter long swimming pool that occupies half of the living area. 

Even the furniture designed by the designer and the manufacturer takes up the clean and minimalist style of the architecture, which in addition to fit perfectly into the landscape has allowed to reduce the environmental impact as much as possible. On the roof, which like the house has an area of just over 500 square metres, both a photovoltaic system and a water heating system have been installed. 

The Invisible House can be rented for overnight stays, but also for events, shooting and filming. 

Invisible House, the mirror house in California
Design
Invisible House, the mirror house in California
Invisible House, the mirror house in California
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A wall of stained glass between Parisian boulevards

A wall of stained glass between Parisian boulevards

Giulia Guido · 1 month ago · Art, Design

Imagine walking through the Parisian streets of the Rive Gauche when you take Boulevard Raspail and instead of walking past the walls of the buildings you find yourself looking at the reflection of the streets on a very long wall of stained glass. This is the latest work by architect Aldric Beckmann for the Embellir Paris initiative. 

Embellir Paris is a project aimed at all artists, collectives, students, designers, architects and art schools in Paris that aims to give new life to specific points of the city through the creation of installations and works. After a first selection in 2018, the 20 selected artists have started to design and realize their works. 

Aldric Beckmann’s work, entitled Tangram sur Raspail, was officially inaugurated at the beginning of the year, but only now (after the lockdown and with the arrival of the summer season) does it show its full potential. The work consists of a wall, also known as a landscape fresco, made by assembling enamelled glass panels, each of a different colour. 

The production of the panels was commissioned to the French company Sto, specialized in glass processing, while the choice of colors was the result of a careful study of the surrounding landscape. Every shade present in Aldric Beckmann’s work is in fact present in the street and in the neighborhood, in this way the installation becomes a real reinterpretation of the environment. 

In addition to bringing a touch of color to the Boulevard Raspail, Tangram sur Raspail reflects everything around it, from buildings to cars on the street, offering citizens and tourists a new vision of Paris. 

Go to the Embellir Paris website to discover all the other projects and Aldric Beckmann’s website to learn about the architect’s past work. 

A wall of stained glass between Parisian boulevards
Art
A wall of stained glass between Parisian boulevards
A wall of stained glass between Parisian boulevards
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