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Beneath Rhinestones & Rainbow Buttons: Patrick Kelly, A Pioneer of Intersectional Fashion in the 1980s

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1980s Fashion Designer Patrick Kelly in his “Paris” baseball hat. Photo credits: https://www.mcnayart.org/blog/fashion-nirvana-patrick-kelly

Oversized bows, rainbow button embroidery, rhinestone Eiffel Tower motifs: American designer Patrick Kelly was an iconoclastic visionary in the 1980s fashion scene. Born in Mississippi in 1954, Kelly’s exuberant aesthetic especially shaped Parisian and New York nightlife culture, offering young men and women a novel form of self-expression. Inspired by his own cultural heritage and an exploration of his sexuality, Kelly’s work served as powerful racial statements in his time, albeit conveyed with humor. Though short-lived, Kelly’s decade-long career was prolific; a catalyst for audacious new forms of dress, his legacy is manifested in the wide range of intersectional celebration in the fashion industry today. 

Raised by his mom and grandma, who introduced him to the world of fashion magazines, Kelly cultivated an interest in fashion at an early age. By his early 20’s, Kelly had become an independent couturier. His designs paid homage to Parisian culture through humorous references to French fashion and art history. For instance, his silhouettes emulated iconic styles of Parisian namesake labels, such as CoCo Chanel’s slinky black dresses and the gender-bending silhouettes of YSL’s suits. At the same time, many of these ensembles were accessorized with overt references to his dream hometown such as berets and avant-garde headdresses and decorated with ironic embellishments, such as rhinestones in the shape of The Eiffel Tower, red lipstick patterns, or a framed Mona Lisa motif placed sporadically across the fabric. This playful approach to celebrating Parisian culture was unprecedented at its time; Kelly articulated to the press at a runway show in the late 80s that his central goal as a designer was for “his clothes to make you smile.” 

Patrick Kelly “Love” gowns, which represented his love for art, fashion, and expression, 1988. Photo credits: https://www.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424052702303678404579533602198595352

Kelly moved to Paris in 1979, where his avant-garde aesthetic attracted instant media coverage. The publicity from his widely-admired 1985 spread in Elle France precipitated the establishment of his own commercial business, and, by the end of the 1980s, he was a namesake label in the New York and Parisian nightlife scene. As Dilys Blu, curator of The Philadelphia Museum of Art’s 2014 exhibition Patrick Kelly: Runway of Love wrote, his work was greatly influenced by the “the heady, inventive, and often-subversive urban milieu” of New York and Paris’ subcultures namely, queer and African American communities. His ensembles featured overt references to queer pride, such as rainbow buttons embroidered in the motif of a large heart, a “I Love Patrick Kelly” pattern swooping across the front of a gown, and rainbow tulle and pinwheels as accessories.

Kelly’s designs grew increasingly adventurous and complex over the course of his career trajectory. Though his work was predominantly recognized for its aesthetic novelty, it also served as a tangible manifestation of his cultural identity. For instance, his most seminal pieces were inspired by African American folklore and his Southern roots. The influence of his heritage and cultural identity were evident in the poofy skirts, voluminous silhouettes, usage of denim, and overalls featured in the collection.  

Patrick Kelly SS89 Collection, photographed by Oliviero Toscani. Photo credits: https://www.dazeddigital.com/fashion/article/19678/1/the-secret-history-of-patrick-kelly

Patrick Kelly SS89 Collection, photographed by Oliviero Toscani. Photo credits: https://www.dazeddigital.com/fashion/article/19678/1/the-secret-history-of-patrick-kelly

Kelly’s runway shows brought his racial and cultural pride to life, as they celebrated racial diversity and body inclusivity. Some of his models’ walks were also inspired by drag culture; they danced down the stage and performed gender-bending acts such as removing a traditionally-female wig while wearing extravagant makeup during their walk. This could be due in part to Kelly’s involvement in and creative inspiration from the gay nightlife scene in Paris and New York. Additionally, many of the collection’s most striking details  such as the Golliwog logo, Aunt Jemima bandana dresses, and black baby-doll brooches — served as satirical yet playful racial statements. For instance, the Golliwog logo, which became a part of Patrick Kelly’s brand logo, was prevalent throughout many of his designs. In his 1988 runway show, the motif is scattered across one white, body-con gown from 1988. On the black version of the gown, its placement seemed more intentional, as it sat on the bust and backside of the model. Another design, a pair of denim overalls with colorful buttons, was embroidered with a large Golliwogo motif; it was styled with a white t-shirt printed with red hearts and the silhouette of a woman in a crinoline skirt and a baseball hat embroidered with the word “PARIS.” Modeled by an African American male, this multifaceted and dynamic piece opened a dialogue about the intersection of race, sexuality, and cultural identity present in his work. 

A young prodigy, Kelly passed away from AIDS on January 1, 1990, but his influence on New York and Parisian culture are long-lasting. He was not only the first African American designer who rose to fame in France but also the first American designer who was invited to join the Chambre Syndicale, an exclusive body of professionals within the French ready-to-wear community. His legacy in the fashion industry is also manifested in the designs of several contemporary designers, such as the whimsical New York-based streetwear label, Gerlan Jeans. Founded by fashion designer and graphic artist Gerlan Marcel, Gerlan Jeans pays homage to Kelly’s unapologetically loud and vibrant aesthetic; featuring reinterpretations of Kelly’s iconic oversized bows, colorful buttons, and quirky embellishments, the label strives to dress those who are fearless in the way they dress. What is perhaps most powerful about Kelly’s impact on the industry was his commitment to diversity and cultural pride. In addition to offering new, avant-garde forms of self expression, his work opened a dialogue about the intersection of identity, sexuality, and fashion, as it challenged racial and cultural boundaries within the fashion industry.

Read more fashion articles at Clichemag.com
Photo Credits: Brooklyn Museum, Dazed Magazine, Wall Street Journal, McNay

RBG’s 8 Most Historic Supreme Court Decisions & Dissents

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On September 18th, 2020, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg passed away from pancreatic cancer at 87 years old. An early litigator for women’s rights and ardent champion of progressive causes, Ginsburg founded the Women’s Rights Project at the ACLU and brought cases to the Supreme Court that consequently affirmed protections against gender discrimination. Her pronouncements of gender inequality and commitment to liberal jurisprudence continued throughout her trailblazing career. Appointed in 1993, Ginsburg spent 27 years on the bench as the second woman to serve on the Supreme Court. Reverently nicknamed “The Notorious RBG,” Ginsburg played a pivotal role in a number of Supreme Court rulings over the course of her tenure; as the high court grew increasingly conservative in her later years, she became especially recognized for her dissents, a driving force that shaped the lives of women, minorities, the LGBTQIA community, immigrants, and countless other Americans. As we mourn the loss of Justice Ginsburg and honor her legacy, here is a look at some of her most notable dissents and decisions.

 

Upon graduating from Cornell University in 1954, RBG went on to study law at Columbia University, where she later became the first female professor to be hired with tenure. During this time, she also served as a counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union. Photo credits: https://www.cnn.com/2017/06/06/politics/gallery/ruth-bader-ginsburg/index.html

United States v. Virginia, 1996

In United States v. Virginia (1996), a landmark ruling for equal access to education, Justice Ginsburg’s majority decision struck down the Virginia Military Institute’s male-only admissions policy. Earlier in the year, the United States had sued the Institute the last publicly-funded all-male university in the country for its gender-based discrimination. When the case reached the Supreme Court, Virginia contested that women were not equipped to attend VMI and that a separate women’s-only military program at Mary Baldwin University would suffice. A 7-1 ruling determined that Virginia’s gender-based discrimination violated the Fourteenth Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause, with Ginsburg writing that “generalizations about ‘the way women are,’ estimates of what is appropriate for most women, no longer justify denying opportunity to women whose talent and capacity place them outside the average description.”

 

Olmstead v. LC, 1999

In 1999, Olmstead v. LC ruled 6-3 that people with mental disabilities had the right to live in community-based housing under Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act. The Supreme Court voted in favor of Lois Curtis and Elaine Wilson two women who were held in isolation at the psychiatric unit of a state-run hospital arguing that Georgia had violated the ADA’s integration mandate. Justice Ginsburg wrote the majority opinion, asserting that the “unjustified isolation” of Curt and Wilson “reflects two evident judgments. First, institutional placement of persons who can handle and benefit from community settings perpetuates unwarranted assumptions that persons so isolated are incapable or unworthy of participating in community life…. Second, confinement in an institution severely diminishes the everyday life activities of individuals, including family relations, social contacts, work options, economic independence, educational advancement, and cultural enrichment.”

Bush v. Gore, 2000

In Bush v. Gore, one of the most controversial and notable dissents of her tenure, Ginsburg dissented the court’s abrupt 5-4 decision to halt a manual recount of Florida’s ballots. Following the highly contentious race in Florida during the 2000 election cycle, George W. Bush’s campaign requested to suspend a vote recount ordered by the Florida Supreme Court. Ginsburg criticized the court’s violation of judicial restraintnamely, respecting the mandates of state Supreme Courts and apparent bias towards Bush. As she famously wrote, “The Court assumes that time will not permit ‘orderly judicial review of any disputed matters that might arise.’ But no one has doubted the good faith and diligence with which Florida election officials, attorneys for all sides of this controversy, and the courts of law have performed their duties. Notably, the Florida Supreme Court has produced two substantial opinions within 29 hours of oral argument. In sum, the Court’s conclusion that a constitutionally adequate recount is impractical is a prophecy the Court’s own judgment will not allow to be tested. Such an untested prophecy should not decide the Presidency of the United States. I dissent.”

Grutter v. Bollinger, 2003

President Jimmy Carter nominated RBG to serve as a judge for the US Court of Appeals’ District of Columbia Circuit in 1980. Photo credits: https://www.cnn.com/2017/06/06/politics/gallery/ruth-bader-ginsburg/index.html

In this landmark ruling regarding affirmative action, the Supreme Court contended that race should be considered as a factor in college admissions. The case arose when Barbara Grutter, who applied to Michigan Law School and was allegedly denied admissions due to the admission office’s preference for other racial groups.  The university admitted to favoring certain minority races when making admissions decisions because it serves a “compelling interest in achieving diversity among its student body.” The court voted 5-4 that racial diversity is a valid reason for permitting affirmative action. Ginsburg wrote a long-term forecast, writing, “From today’s vantage point, one may hope, but not firmly forecast, that over the next generation’s span, progress toward nondiscrimination and genuinely equal opportunity will make it safe to sunset affirmative action.”

Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co., 2007

In 2007, Ginsburg dissented the court’s 5-4 ruling that denied Lilly Ledbetter’s right to sue Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company for unequal pay due to the amount of time that had passed since the violation. After 19 years of employment, Ledbetter had sued the company after discovering that she was paid less than her male counterparts. She argued that it was a violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, but the company countered that discrimination-based charges had to be filed within 180 days following the violation. When the Supreme Court voted in favor of Goodyear, Ginsburg argued Ledbetter had not known about her unequal pay earlier. She galvanized public attention towards the gender pay gap by publicly reading about the case on the bench and pressing Congress to amend the clause. As she wrote, “Our precedent suggests, and lower courts have overwhelmingly held, that the unlawful practice is the current payment of salaries infected by gender-based (or race-based) discrimination – a practice that occurs whenever a paycheck delivers less to a woman than to a similarly situated man.”

Gonzales v. Carhart, 2007

In Gonzales v. Carhart, one of the most significant rulings on reproductive justice since Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court voted 5-4 to uphold Congress’ Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003. Though opponents of the ban asserted that the procedure was the safest way to end a late-term pregnancy, Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote for the majority that “Respondents have not demonstrated that the Act, as a facial matter, is void for vagueness, or that it imposes an undue burden on a woman’s right to abortion based on its overbreadth or lack of a health exception.” Ginsburg, who was the only woman on the court, responded that “the Act, and the Court’s defense of it, cannot be understood as anything other than an effort to chip away at a right declared again and again by this Court — and with increasing comprehension of its centrality to women’s lives.” Though uncommon at the time, she stood up to read her dissent, adding that “The court deprives women of the right to make an autonomous choice, even at the expense of their safety. This way of thinking reflects ancient notions about women’s place in the family and under the Constitution — ideas that have long since been discredited.”

Shelby County v. Holder, 2013

Ruth Bader Ginsburg

In 1993, President Bill Clinton appointed RBG to the US Supreme Court. Photo credits: https://www.cnn.com/2017/06/06/politics/gallery/ruth-bader-ginsburg/index.html

In 2013, the Supreme Court nullified a central provision of the Voting Rights Act with a 5-4 vote, freeing nine predominantly Southern states to revise voting requirements without preclearance. Shelby County, Alabama had challenged Section 4B of the historic legislation, which prohibited discriminatory practices in voting at the state level. Claimed that the antiquated restrictions violated state rights, the court agreed and struck down the provision as unconstitutional. In a scathing dissent, Ginsburg wrote that “Throwing out preclearance when it has worked and is continuing to work to stop discriminatory changes… is like throwing away your umbrella in a rainstorm because you are not getting wet.”

 

Burwell v. Hobby Lobby

In 2012, Ginsburg dissented the Supreme Court’s 5-4 ruling that for-profit companies should not be required to pay for insurance coverage of contraception. Hobby Lobby Stores, a family-owned arts and crafts chain that had organized its business around Biblical principles, claimed that being required to pay for employees’ access to contraception violated the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993. When the court rejected the contraceptive mandate under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, Ginsburg wrote that Any decision to use contraceptives made by a woman covered under Hobby Lobby’s or Conestoga’s plan will not be propelled by the Government, it will be the woman’s autonomous choice, informed by the physician she consults.” Additionally, she noted the cost barrier of birth control for many women, writing that “the cost of an IUD is nearly equivalent to a month’s full-time pay for workers earning the minimum wage.” 

Ruth Bader Ginsburg

RBG in her infamous “dissent collar,” which has become a pervasive feminist motif and source of style inspiration in pop culture today. Photo credits: https://www.nbcnews.com/storyline/2016-election-day/justice-ginsburg-wears-dissent-collar-following-contentious-election-n681571

As we look back upon a mere handful of Ginsburg’s pivotal contributions to modern-day feminism and human rights, her legacy lives on in countless ways, from equal access to education and protection against workplace discrimination to access to contraception and reproductive justice. Though her career was riddled with adversity, Ginsburg persevered, fighting time after time for social progress with tenacity, grit, and bravery. A pioneer of gender equality, a ceaseless driving force for change, and, most recently, a pop culture icon, her lifelong battle for equality among all Americans paved the way for the paths countless citizens live today.

Read more articles at Clichemag.com
Photo credits: NBC , NYT, CNN

“The Crown” Review: Netflix’s New Hit Drama Reveals Hidden Cracks in the Crown

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The Netflix original series, “The Crown” depicts the beauty and delicacy of the early royal reign of Queen Elizabeth II. Through this season viewers will take in all the beauty and grace of British royalty. However, Netflix’s new hit drama also reveals the hidden cracks in the crown. This series offers a deeper reflection into the Queen’s exclusively tumultuous family life and the significantly difficult choices Elizabeth had to make as a queen. The rough consequences of these choices are heavily focused on in each episode and reveal how they leave cracks in not only the lives of the royal family but in the lives of the individuals in parliament that surround the family as well. The historical drama does sometimes stray away from the accurate portrayal of the royal family in this period. However, the combination of emotional performances from the actors, symbolic uses of cinematography, a beautifully composed soundtrack and a great number of intriguingly detailed designs and locations outweighs the errors in the historical representations.

 


This series begins with a distinctly serious tone that makes it clear the significance of moves made by the royal family, more specifically the moves made by Queen Elizabeth II (played by Claire Foy) in her political and private life once given the burden of being queen. In this fantastic group of actors, Foy shines spectacularly as a young Elizabeth; she provides a certain vulnerability, reliability and imperfection to this woman that has not really been seen in a series before. The viewers can sympathize with her and the difficult responsibilities that are suddenly placed on this woman in her 20s which included paths made by her, leaving her loved ones either pleased or disappointed. Foy also does a masterful job with the dynamics of this woman in these social and political circumstances of the time period. She portrays Elizabeth’s insecurities as queen as well as her bravery and boldness in her decisions during tough times with both her personal and political relations with her family and parliament. Foy’s performance as Elizabeth gives viewers a clear understanding of why she deserves her Golden Globe win for Best Actress in a TV Drama. She did well in presenting the other side of Elizabeth’s life that is rarely seen.


Matt Smith (well-known for his role as a past Doctor on BBC’s “Doctor Who”) plays Elizabeth’s lively husband, King Philip, he highlights Phillip’s acts of kindness and care with Elizabeth and also reflects Phillip’s faults of obliviousness and selfishness when Elizabeth is in need of a partner to help her face her obstacles. Smith reveals the likable and irritable personality of King Philip which can be a challenge for many actors to pull off.


From the incredible cast, some great picks are John Lithgow as the famous Prime Minister Winston Churchill and Jared Harris as the late King George VI. 
Lithgow’s portrayal of Churchill is caring and determined but also stubborn and sensitive especially when he tried to keep hold of his position post-WWII. Jared Harris’ portrayal of King George VI may only be part of the show for a short time but takes up each scene by balancing George as a loving father and a slowly deteriorating king with lung cancer.

The cinematography of the series stands out brilliantly. The series’ cinematographers, Adriano Goldman and Ole Bratt Birkeland, both were able to convey the seriousness and the intensity of each episode. Their use of close-up and extreme close-up shots to convey the palpable social and political tensions between each family member and the various internal predicaments that each face, particularly for Elizabeth and Churchill. The extreme close-ups would highlight the stress and worry of Elizabeth’s decisions as queen, sister, and wife.  The close ups of Churchill reveals the frustration of others, the sadness of loved ones and worry of the stability as his control of his position as well as his health as prime minister.


The mixture of the precisely placed camera angles with the deep reverberating electronic and orchestral sounds of the immensely accomplished composer, Hans Zimmer adds an extra layer of heartfelt emotion to the characters. From his highly regarded past works in films such as “
Inception” and “Interstellar” Zimmer’s distinctive sound in this series is an essential support and feels like a necessary unseen character in each episode.

Each location feels part of the series as well as each place transports the viewers back to the period of the early to mid-1950s. The detail from sets of the press-filled London streets to the lavish halls of Buckingham Palace feels real and elegant. The costume design of each royal dress, suit and casual attire adheres to the period. However, the only huge gripe is that actual severity in some of the historical situations might not be as adherently close to the truth. When checked, some of the events might be too overly dramatized when it comes to specific occurrences of the royal family. Although, the other aspects from the actors to the sets are remarkably done and masks a TV series into a 10-hour film which leaves “
The Crown” with the grade of an A.
 
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“The Crown” Review: Netflix’s New Hit Drama Reveals Hidden Cracks in the Crown. Photo courtesy of Variety.com