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Creative Notions: Julian Guthrie

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 apparel designer and patternmaker Julian Guthrie about his sketch and Kelly’s legacy.

collage of Patrick Kelly photograph and mannequin surrounded by a gold frame

Tell us about the medium you selected to create your sketch; what informed that decision?

I did a huge mix of things. The end result is digital, but there were so many steps along the way to getting there. The hand-drawn elements are the hearts and buttons; those I did with marker and paper. I photographed an actual frame that I painted with gold leaf, and I drafted the dress and figure in the software called CLO3D (that I teach a course in at Parsons). I digitally collaged all of these images together to create my final illustration.

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 decided to look up his work and put my spin on it. It’s a tank dress—a silhouette that I feel is very Patrick Kelly—that I’ve interpreted through my design style. I chose to obscure the racial identity of the figure somewhat but her hair is worn in an Afro; when I was studying in undergrad, sketching white models was the default and for better or worse that just stuck with me for some time. I always think about race and representation when I work, so I made conscious decisions here. I didn’t want that to overpower the garment, though.

Describe your relationship with the enduring legacy of Patrick Kelly; what have Mr. Kelly’s style and story meant to you?

It’s a complex one; the racially provocative images that are part of his work are sometimes difficult for me to process, let alone enjoy. I know he was reclaiming these things, but I’m not sure if they can or should be reclaimed. I respect that he was bold enough to work so authentically, though. Maybe he had to put it in people’s faces so brazenly because we are so reluctant to have difficult conversations about race and representation in America.

Julian Guthrie headshot

Julian Guthrie

Hailing from Des Moines, Iowa, apparel designer and patternmaker Julian Guthrie has called New York home for roughly two decades. Employing both traditional and emerging technology as methods of patternmaking and design development, Julian utilizes a range of resources: handwork, Photoshop, Illustrator, and CLO3D, a digital fashion-design software program. His uniquely hybrid skill set has been sought after by the likes of the Calvin Klein, J.Crew, and Coach. Currently, he splits his time between this consulting work and teaching 3-D digital design at Parsons School of Design, from which he holds both a BFA and MFA. @the_julian_g

Kibwe Chase-Marshall

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.

See all Creative Notions posts.