Monday, April 14, 2014

Runway of Love at Philadelphia Museum of Art

Posted by Beni Schaub at 4:08 AM

Patrick Kelly: Runway of Love
and
Gerlan Jeans ♥ Patrick Kelly

Patrick Kelly: Runway of Love April 27–November 30, 2014 Special Exhibitions Gallery, Perelman Building

Fashion is celebrated this spring at the Philadelphia Museum of Art in the retrospective Patrick Kelly: Runway of Love, which explores the meteoric rise and remarkable achievements of a 1980's legend whose clothing was worn by women of every age, from actress Bette Davis, late in her life, to singer Vanessa Williams, then in her twenties. This is the first exhibition to showcase the full scope of Kelly’s head-to-toe runway ensembles, and will include selections from the artist’s significant holdings of black memorabilia, videos of his exuberant fashion shows, and works by renowned photographers Horst P. Horst, Pierre et Gilles, and Oliviero Toscani.


An exhibition of whimsical streetwear by Gerlan Jeans complements Patrick Kelly: Runway of Love. Founded in 2009 by New York–based graphic artist and designer Gerlan Marcel (born 1976), Gerlan Jeans reinterprets Kelly’s signature bows, buttons, and other bold embellishments to create clothes that embody the dynamic spirit of a new generation. Gerlan Jeans ♥ Patrick Kelly explores Kelly’s enduring relevance as he inspires a contemporary label whose vibrant sensibility is embraced by style and pop icons such as Beyoncé and Katy Perry.

The exhibition is organized into six sections, beginning with Kelly’s 1983–84 collection for the Italian experimental design group Studio Invenzione and continuing through his final Fall/Winter 1989–90 collection. It opens with “Runway of Love,” highlighting the designer’s heart-shaped embellishments to his clothing, often composed from his signature buttons. As a child growing up in Mississippi, Kelly would often lose his buttons, which his grandmother replaced with those of many different colors, a look that Kelly later adapted for his fashion designs.


 ”Fast Fashion” includes designs that Kelly assembled quickly to sell on the streets of Paris after he moved there in 1979. He dressed his model friends in body-conscious knits, which they would wear around the city, becoming in effect living advertisements of his vision. These dresses quickly caught the attention ofELLE magazine, which featured Kelly’s fashions in a six-page spread in February 1985, as well as the Paris boutique Victoire. His first collection was purchased by Bergdorf Goodman, who found Kelly’s designs fun, chic, affordable, and Parisian, and the store showcased them in a window display reserved for new designers.
The American South, where Kelly was born and raised, informed and inspired his brand from the very beginning. He used the concept of women dressed up in their Sunday best as a point of departure for many of his looks. “Mississippi in Paris” features Kelly’s work that boldly addressed the designer’s upbringing, as well as racial tropes, from his insouciant Aunt Jemima bandana and golliwog dresses, the latter of which was adapted as his logo.
“Hot Couture” is a playful tribute to Kelly’s muses and to fashion history. Many of Kelly’s own presentations parodied fashion show traditions and riffed on the work of famed couturiers such as Coco Chanel, Elsa Schiaparelli, and Madame Grès, the designer whom Kelly admired most and held in highest regard. A master at draping and manipulating fabric into Greek goddess-like gowns, Madame Grès inspired Kelly’s much more practical body-conscious knitted jersey dresses with wraps that could be tied around the body in various ways.
In 1988, shortly after receiving financial backing from the fashion powerhouse Warnaco, Kelly became the first American and the first black designer to be elected into the elite Chambre Syndicale du Prêt-à-Porter des Couturiers et des Créateurs de Mode. Membership in this exclusive group allowed Kelly to present his ready-to-wear collections in the tents at the Musée du Louvre. The section titled “Lisa Loves the Louvre” features designs from this Spring/Summer 1989 collection, for which Kelly fantasized that the museum’s most famous resident, Mona Lisa, invited him to show his latest designs. His collection was a spirited evocation of all his favorite Lisas, from Billie (Holiday) Lisa to the other-worldly Moona Lisa.
The exhibition’s final section, “Two Loves” is a tribute to Kelly’s loves, America and France, which were also embraced by his muse Josephine Baker. The designs in this section are from Kelly’s final Fall/Winter 1989–90 collection, and pay homage to cultural icons from both countries, including the Eiffel Tower and the cartoon character Jessica Rabbit. The exhibition’s rousing finale is an allusion to the Casino de Paris music hall, where Baker performed during the 1920, and which Kelly transforms into the Casino de Patrick.
Patrick Kelly: Runway of Love will showcase over eighty ensembles recently presented to the Museum as a promised gift by Kelly’s business and life partner, Bjorn Guil Amelan, and Bill T. Jones. The exhibition will be accompanied by public programs this fall, including a fashion film series and a conversation about Patrick Kelly and his fashion designs and career with supermodel Pat Cleveland, writer Michael Gross, and fashion journalist Carol Mongo.
Visit the museums website for any possible date and time changes of the event if you are planning a trip.

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