During his appearance on The Jimmy Kimmel Show last night, Kanye discussed his fashion aspirations.
Kanye's not wrong here. He presented two collections in Paris (spring 2012 and later fall 2012) to an unnecessarily derisive fashion crowd.
In particular, critics panned his fall 2012 line — a little unfairly.
Were the clothes perfect? No. Were they any/much worse than those of other rising designers often championed by the industry? Also no.
And on this last point, Kanye's not wrong either.
The spring 2014 Paris Fashion Week show schedule featured 99 shows. Of those 99, not one collection came courtesy of a black designer — male or female. (Though one major fashion house, Balmain, is currently led by a biracial designer, Olivier Rousteing.)
Important note: Olivier Rousteing is beautiful.
Following his appointment at Balmain in 2011, a spokesperson for the label explained that, having been raised in a French orphanage, Rousteing "doesn’t know the exact origins of his birth parents, but he identifies as a person of mixed race."
So meet Patrick Kelly, the first African American designer to woo the Parisian fashion scene.
Born in Vicksburg, Mississippi, Kelly's love of fashion developed as a child.
A scene recounted in biographies/retrospectives of his work is that of his grandmother bringing a fashion magazine home. Six-year-old Kelly asks why there are no black women featured, and his grandmother says the magazines "had no time for them." So lil' Patrick is determined to change that. And he does.
All grown up, Kelly moved to Atlanta where he opened a vintage clothing store. He'd upcycle designs, adding frills, buttons and an enticing sense of fun.
He also helped curate the window displays at an Yves Saint Laurent boutique in the city, and worked as a Barbizon modeling coach. Barbizon! And he became friends with the model Pat Cleveland, who pushed him to develop his aesthetic by moving to New York. New York! There, Kelly enrolled at Parsons to study fashion design... and then Pat Cleveland told him to move again, this time to Paris. Paris!
Kelly could not afford the move — but a one-way ticket soon popped up, anonymously, in his mailbox. So off he went. And it's there he made his name.
Often described as "fun," "frivolous," "goofy" and "exotic," Kelly's work featured bold colors and oversize, novelty accessories like bows and buttons.
His work often played with stereotypical, racially-charged representations of black and African American culture.
Watermelon hats (pictured left) and golliwogs popped up often — Kelly went as far as to use a golliwog as the logo for his brand. He owned a collection of over 3,000 "black dolls" which, he said in a People magazine profile, might have angered the NAACP but "they give me pleasure."
And there were almost always lots of gaudy buttons.
MODELS TWIRLED IN HIS SHOWS. Love it.
Bette Davis was a big fan of his clothes. Now that's an endorsement.
And so was Grace Jones. Again, a ringing endorsement.
Also: here's Madonna wearing a Patrick Kelly gown (and a really bad wig) in a 1989 edition of Vogue.
At the start of each show, Kelly would pop up on the runway and spray paint a large heart.
In 1988, he was awarded membership of the prestigious Parisian Chambre Syndicale.
Patrick Kelly died on New Years Day, 1990, following medical complications brought by his HIV positive status.
(His passing was originally reported as a result of bone marrow cancer.)