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Creative Notions: Trevor Ballin

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 Trevor Ballin about his sketch and Kelly’s legacy.

fashion sketch of women wear red dress

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

I created my sketch on an iPad, so the drawing is digital. I switched from pen-and-paper sketches to digital about six years ago, and I love the fact that the drawing only truly exists virtually. Also, I love that I’m not wasting paper.

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 Kelly has always been a source of inspiration to me, so I used his signatures to create an evolved look for today. Using his favorite tone of bright flame red, I imagined a double-faced wool wrap coat with buttons placed in a stripe formation loosely resembling Hudson’s Bay blanket stripes. I’m a Canadian that grew up with the “Bay stripe” permeating my unconscious mind; sooner or later it always resurfaces. The beret is an evolution of Patrick’s signature cap.

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

Though I first discovered Patrick Kelly when I was 15, he’s still a very strong influence on how I design clothing. Back then, I watched Jeanne Beker cover his collections and interview him on TV.  What I saw at the time would have a long-lasting impact on my world as a designer—a strong, optimistic color palette; sexy, fun, youthful, body-conscious silhouettes; and an inclusive cast of the most unstoppable black models. Most importantly, I saw a sense of humor about clothing and witnessed that the simple, joyful things about every day (a button, a teddy bear, a pair of dice, a valentine heart) could magically be transformed from ordinary to extraordinary. This has probably left the most indelible impact on everything from the way I design collections of clothing to the way I see the world.

Trevor Ballin headshot

Trevor Ballin

Trevor Ballin has worked as an apparel designer within many of New York’s most influential studios (Michael Kors, Isaac Mizrahi, Alexander Wang, Calvin Klein), bringing a rich knowledge of American sportswear fundamentals and a timely fascination with contemporary style to the complex work of building assortments. He currently calls Brooklyn, NY, his home and office, as like so many others he converted to working remotely in 2020. @trevor.ballin

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.