In celebration of the exhibition Patrick Kelly: Runway of Love and Black History Month, the Kelly Initiative and the de Young paired up to invite creatives across fields to share a sketch inspired by Kelly and his designs. Here, Kibwe Chase-Marshall, cofounder of the Kelly Initiative, speaks with fashion designer and illustrator Charles Alexander about his sketch and Kelly’s legacy.
Tell us about the medium you selected to create your sketch; what informed that decision?
I use gouache as a base and then I’ll work with marker and colored pencils over that. Once you master gouache, you truly become more confident as an artist.
Describe the garments you chose to sketch; does your sketch depict an archival Kelly piece, an evolution of one of his signature looks, or a creation that is purely of your own design?
I wanted to take the colors in his logo—yellow, red, white, and black—and use them as I thought he might if he was here today. The novelty blazer, pink tights, and novelty shoes are all plays on his work. For the dress with the pronounced sleeves, I didn’t just use his signature zebra print but created a new print of zebra, leopard, and stripes.
Describe your relationship with the enduring legacy of Patrick Kelly; what have Mr. Kelly’s style and story meant to you?
I grew up in Seattle, so the first place I saw his clothing was at Nordstrom. I remember my sister buying this amazing zippered tube dress that fit her fabulously. I was obsessed with how, when the garment was off of the body, unzipped, and lying flat on a table, it was a perfect square shape. He developed these silhouettes that looked great on a lot of different women’s bodies; they weren’t afraid to wear these things.
Fashion designer and illustrator Charles Alexander resides in New York City. He began his life in fashion at Parsons School of Design, working for such designers as Geoffrey Beene, Bill Blass, and J. Mendel. He also designed custom couture under his namesake brand at Bergdorf Goodman. The current focus of his work is illustration, with a client roster that includes Women’s Wear Daily, Bal Harbour Shops, and Vogue. @charlesalexanderillustration
Kibwe Chase-Marshall cut his professional teeth as an apparel designer, working within the studios of some of 7th Avenue's most influential brands (Michael Kors, Isaac Mizrahi, Gap Inc.), before carving out a space in the editorial community as a contributing writer and market editor (Town & Country, Paper, Elle.com). Since 2018, he has diligently operated as an equity advocate, most recently cofounding the Kelly Initiative, a four-point, industry-evolving plan to increase access to opportunities for Black fashion professionals. @byanyseamnecessary
Patrick Kelly: Runway of Love is on view at the de Young museum from October 23, 2021 to April 24, 2022.