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Creative Notions: TJ Walker

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 fashion designer TJ Walker about his sketch and Kelly’s legacy.

sketch of three women wearing colorful Patrick Kelly-inspired outfits

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

I used markers and colored pencils on this; sometimes I’ll use watercolor for backgrounds as well. Of course, it all begins with a good sketch. I tell my students, “You have to begin with a good sketch!”

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 referenced [Kelly’s] original garments for each one of the looks. I first looked at photographs and then I altered them slightly—some a little more than others—as well. The bodysuit look on the left reminded me of a wedding; I added the buttons that are classic for him. I wanted the buttons on every piece. In the middle, the ribbed jersey dress combines two of his [looks] and features a hanging-scarves detail that he did. The look on the right is one of his classic ones; I just exaggerated the shoulders somewhat. 

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

I’ve recently learned a lot about what Patrick Kelly and [my brand] Cross Colours share. A lot of it is about diversity and inclusion. It’s something that wasn’t always talked about, but he went all the way to Europe with his overalls and his aesthetic and his smile as a Black man. 

TJ Walker headshot

TJ Walker

Often cited as a pioneer within the now-booming streetwear market, TJ Walker cofounded the iconic urban label Cross Colours prior to establishing a career as a fashion design and illustration professor at Los Angeles’s Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising. Most recently he and fellow West Coast, Black design professionals have advocated for greater equity within industry opportunities via the Black Design Collective, an organization that affords enrichment, community, and guidance for Black-identified fashion professionals. @tjwalkerofficial

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.