Patrick Kelly: The American in Paris

November 24, 2021

Close-up of Patrick Kelly's face

“There were no opportunities for him, but he made it anyway.” — Pat Cleveland

Filmed in New York City, Paris, and the de Young museum, this short documentary — named an Honoree by the Webby Awards in the 2022 Video - Documentary: Longform category — celebrates the life, career, and legacy of Black fashion designer Patrick Kelly (1954 – 1990). Kelly’s evolution from “little young American from Mississippi to a grand master of fashion in Paris” is captured in vintage footage, as well as accounts of his friends and close collaborators, including business and life partner Bjorn Amelan, supermodel and friend Pat Cleveland, Kelly’s right hand Elizabeth “Ms. Liz” Goodrum, “Paris Match” photographer Gilles Decamps, runway show coordinator Audrey Smaltz, and cofounder of the Kelly Initiative Kibwe Chase-Marshall. The film also features an interview with Laura L. Camerlengo, associate curator of costume and textile arts at the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, and offers a look into the Patrick Kelly: Runway of Love exhibition at the de Young museum.

Patrick Kelly: Runway of Love is on view at the de Young museum October 23, 2021 through April 24, 2022.

Statement from the director Rashidi Natara Harper:

Growing up with my mom, I used to pour over all of her fashion magazines, marveling at the beautiful women, clean photography, and unique fashion styles within their pages. From Essence to Vogue to Elle, the images within these magazines popped out as I soaked in their majesty. I remember my mom and her sisters talking with excitement about African American designers Stephen Burrows, Willi Smith, and, of course, Patrick Kelly. Everyone loved Kelly. He stood out to me because of his youthful energy, bright smile, and bold approach to his designs. He was relatable to my generation and didn’t have the typical “fashion designer” persona. His personal style was current, reminding me of a more laid back version of Spike Lee’s character Mars Blackmon from the film She’s Gotta Have It.

Mr. Kelly’s story is the epitome of the American dream in spite of the fact that the actual dream doesn't come true in the United States but in Paris, France. He brings the phrase “where there’s a will, there’s a way” to mind. His exceptional journey is one that proves grit, southern charm, and ingenuity can create a life as big as you can imagine.

Director Rashidi Natara Harper’s bio:

Rashidi Natara Harper is a respected director and producer whose versatility continues to impact music, film, television, and the digital space. His dynamic visual style creates vivid depictions of real life. He has lensed projects for everyone from Mike Tyson to Venus and Serena Williams to Justin Timberlake, Dr. Dre, and Quincy Jones. He was an integral part of the executive team that launched Apple Music and Beats 1, its global radio station, helping visually brand the new streamer with a viral video that garnered over 20 million views across social media platforms. Rashidi's latest release is the highly anticipated FX documentary series Hip Hop Uncovered, for which he served as both director and executive producer.