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 designer Jerome LaMaar about his sketch and Kelly’s legacy.
Tell us about the medium you selected to create your sketch; what informed that decision?
I sketch straight in my digital tablet. Thank god for the tablets! As soon as I picked up a tablet, I realized I could do so much without creating all these stacks of paper! I just drew freehand; I didn’t reference anything too specific but just recalled a shot of Patrick’s models in zebra print. That visual inspired me, and I went with that.
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 design something that felt like you could separate it into more casual pieces. The T-shirt is yellow and beaded (because I’m a maximalist), and it has strong, rounded shoulders so that it doesn’t feel “regular.” Over that there’s a bias-cut dress with panels that wrap around the body. The ruffles are on [a] bias too. The light corset is in polka dots, coordinated with the zebra print accessories. I mixed Patrick’s DNA with my world, which is futuristic and sexy. It was my goal to pay homage to what he built. This look isn’t intended for any specific gender; it could go either way. I love that world.
Describe your relationship with the enduring legacy of Patrick Kelly; what have Mr. Kelly’s style and story meant to you?
Mr. Kelly was a huge inspiration for me as a designer at an early age, mainly because he was the most popular creative of color that I heard about while growing up. He was the outlier that shifted the concept of what a Black designer could be. Transcendental. Magical. Relevant.
Born and reared in the Bronx, designer Jerome LaMaar exhibited the sort of prodigious fashion design talent in high school that led to an internship at Baby Phat before he had received his diploma. Since those days in the garment district, he’s worked for Manhattan couturier Ralph Rucci, consulted for Beyoncé’s Ivy Park, and created custom pieces for Missy Elliott and SZA along the way. Currently he’s developing projects that embrace the exciting intersections of style, art, and technology. @jeromelamaar
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.