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Posts Tagged ‘fashion exhibit de Young Museum’

Photo by Ulysses Ortega.

I didn’t just want to be someone who bought clothes. I wanted to learn about them. So, I collected them, wrote about them, and have had a life of helping to get exhibitions off the ground.

Christine Suppes – fashion collector and the author of the book Electric Fashion (Skira), which is a photo documentary of her couture collection. Photos by fashion photographer Frederic Aranda.

This quote is from the article, The Collector’s Eye, by Alison S. Cohn, in Harper’s Bazaar, Dec. 2022/Jan. 2023.

Suppes, a resident of Palo Alto, CA recently donated more than 500 pieces of her couture fashion collection to the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco. Her donation includes pieces by Christian Lacroix, Yves Saint Laurent, and Balenciaga. (And you heard it here first, in January 2024 the de Young Museum, inspired by Suppes donation, will open a fashion exhibition featuring the legacy of some of the Bay Area’s most fashionable women both past and present.)

As a member of Costume Society of America, I have heard and read discussions about museums accepting fashion donations. Should they? What should they accept? How and where will they preserve the clothing? It goes hand in hand with the general discussion over whether or not fashion belongs in museums at all. The biggest and much debated question – is fashion art?

The truth is fashion exhibits bring in money – especially those that include popular designer names. I would venture so say that a collection of couture clothing would be welcomed at any museum.

When I was in Seattle a few years ago for a fashion history conference, I attended a fashion exhibit at The Museum of History and Industry. This regional-focused exhibit, called Seattle Style: Fashion/Function, highlighted vintage and modern clothing owned by local people mostly purchased from local department stores and boutiques. It was by no means a spectacle exhibit and that’s why I enjoyed it so much. The fashions on display gave us a peek into what the people of Seattle wore in sunny weather and in rain; to the theater; to the 1962 World’s Fair; or just to work and the grocery store. Regional style, dictated by weather, culture, and tradition, is a fascinating subject and as much as I enjoy “big fashion” and the impeccable crafting of couture, I’m also interested in everyday fashion, particularly from past eras.

I’m looking forward to the upcoming de Young fashion exhibit and learning how Bay Area style is perceived.

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Image courtesy of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco.

On now at the de Young Museum in San Francisco is the West Coast premiere of Patrick Kelly: Runway of Love, a celebration of Mr. Kelly and his inspired fashions of the 1980s.

Black fashion designer Patrick Kelly (1954-1990) was known for combining whimsy with classic. His unique use of embellishment as well as a constant upbeat message in his designs attracted many. Originally from Mississippi, he moved to NYC to study fashion design and in 1979 he moved to Paris. There he had friends bop around the streets in his handmade jersey outfits adorned with buttons. These colorful ensembles caught the attention of French Elle magazine and voila, he was on his way to fashion stardom.

Image courtesy of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco.

I was not familiar with Mr. Kelly before hearing of this exhibit but I’m happy to have found him and now he is among my favorites. I appreciate his humor and references to fashion history; I see a touch of Schiparelli here and a pinch of Chanel there, but with a unique Kelly twist. There is something very charming about these designs – they are playful, fun, and yet still polished. He was a master at playing with sophisticated silhouettes by adding unexpected adornments like buttons, tassels, and dice. His use of buttons was inspired by his grandmother who, when he was a child, used to replace his lost buttons with whatever style and color she had on hand. That “outside the box” approach stuck with Mr. Kelly.

Runway of Love, curated by Laura L. Camerlengo, Associate Curator of Costume and Textile Arts at the Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco, is divided into four sections covering Mr. Kelly’s career from hand making knit jersey dresses in his early Paris days to his successful runway shows. One of the sections includes some of his personal collection of racist memorabilia, which served as inspiration for him in his designs. Although controversial in America at that time, his use of racist symbols was his way of controlling the charged images and that puts another interesting twist on his work.

In 1988 Mr. Kelly was the first American and first Black designer to be voted into the Chambre Syndicale du Pret-a-Porter des Couturiers et des Createurs de Mode, the prestigious French association for ready-to-wear designers. This was quite an honor and well deserved!

Patrick Kelly’s archive of fashions was given to the Philadelphia Museum of Art by Mr. Kelly’s business and life partner, Bjorn Amelan, who said that he spent years after Mr. Kelly’s early death of complications from AIDS in 1990, looking for the right home for the archive.

As well as 80 fully accessorized ensembles, the exhibit includes several videos of runway shows, sketches and art by the designer, and other ephemera.

From the 80s music in the background to the upbeat videos, from the buttons to the bright colors to the cultural references – I walked out of Patrick Kelly: Runway of Love uplifted and inspired. I can’t recommend this exhibit enough.

Patrick Kelly: Runway of Love at the de Young Museum now through April 24, 2022.

A few things to know before you go:

  1. Pack a mask! Masks are required on everyone, regardless of vaccination status.
  2. The Coat Room is closed; travel light and remember that backpacks must be hand held inside the museum.
  3. To allow for plenty of safe space in the galleries the tickets are timed, so it’s a good idea to book ahead.

And there’s more! Continue to explore Patrick Kelly with a series of panel discussions Wednesdays at 5pm: October 27th, November 3rd, March 30, April 23. Click here for the full scoop.

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PARIS, FRANCE – CIRCA 1988: Patrick Kelly at the Patrick Kelly Spring 1989 show circa 1988 in Paris, France. (Photo by PL Gould/IMAGES/Getty Images)

I just want my clothes to make you smile.

Patrick Kelly (1954-1990), American fashion designer.

Well, I think Mr. Kelly achieved that desire. His whimsical fashions definitely make me smile.

Tune in tomorrow for my two cents on Patrick Kelly: Runway of Love exhibition on now at the de Young Museum.

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Jean Paul Gaultier cover photo for his autobiography published in 1990.

Designers are to be in connection with what’s happening with the movement of society.

French fashion designer Jean Paul Gaultier

Over Dressed for Life readers in the SF Bay Area will not want to miss the current exhibition at the de Young Museum – The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier: From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk. I got a sneak peek last week and … it is fantastique. Watch for my full coverage later this week.

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