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 Shawna McGee about her sketch and Kelly’s legacy.
Tell us about the medium you selected to create your sketch; what informed that decision?
It’s gouache paint with a little pencil highlight and a little ink pen highlight. I came up in the era when we had to paint our sketches. When you keep painting, your illustrations in other media—like marker or digital—improve.
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?
Patrick was a very humorous person; everything was chic but also tongue in cheek. He used things like images of the “mammy” or the Eiffel Tower in his work, so I decided to use his image in a similar manner within my sketch. I decided that he needed to be glorified. I accented the garment with his favorite trims: buttons and stones. And he LOVED denim, so that’s why I did the denim skirt and boot.
Describe your relationship with the enduring legacy of Patrick Kelly; what have Mr. Kelly’s style and story meant to you?
I remember him from [our] school, [Parsons]. I remember him saying, “I’m heading to Paris!” And I was like, “You go, boy! I’ll see you there!” We never connected when I got to Paris because I went with the school and he was doing his own thing. He inspired me; he was one of my first friends to get out there and do it, despite the odds. He’s always been an inspiration to me, his love and his sense of humor. I always kind of keep that with me.
Shawna McGee’s love of fashion is a deeply personal one. The Detroit native’s talents flourished while she explored design at a specialized high school, then took flight while she studied fashion more formally at Parsons School of Design in New York. She went on to design for 7th Avenue brands with a strong focus on dressing career-minded, high-taste women. Part of a wave of small-business design mavericks who are revitalizing Detroit’s cultural landscape, McGee has recently returned to her hometown to launch a collection that fuses her love of illustration with her knowledge of wardrobe essentials. @smcgeecollection
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.