At BET, we are privileged to celebrate our Blackness every day. In honor of Black History Month, we are pulling out extra confetti as we profile some of the most influential Black people in the fashion and beauty industries—especially if their accomplishments and contributions are overlooked by mainstream society. Cheers to our icons!
Patrick Kelly was a fashion pioneer who used his playful designs to open a dialog about racism and gender identity. Although his successful career was cut short due to his early passing, the fashion designer left a legacy that still lives on today.
Below see some of his biggest accomplishments.
In 1987, Warnaco signed an agreement to manufacture Patrick Kelly's clothing. With the fashion conglomerate's backing, his fashions were soon available in stores worldwide, with sales approaching $7 million in the first year.
Kelly became the first American to be voted into the Chambre Syndicale du Prêt-à-Porter des Couturiers et des Créateurs de Mode in 1988. This allowed him to debut his colorful, playful, and thought-provoking designs during Paris Fashion Week.
Kelly was all about designing clothing with inclusivity in mind. The Mississippi-born creative told People Magazine in 1987: "I design for […] all kinds of women. My message is, you're beautiful just the way you are."
Since his untimely death in 1990, the famed 80s visionary has been celebrated in numerous museum exhibits, including the popular “Patrick Kelly: Runway of Love” that was originally organized in 2014 by the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
In 2020, Kelly’s legacy continues with the “The Kelly Initiative.” In an open letter to the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA), hundreds of Black designers demanded more inclusivity in the fashion industry.
(Photo: julio donoso/Sygma via Getty Images)
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