The MAX Museum celebrates Mississippi fashion designers Patrick Kelly and Thomas ‘DJ’ Walker

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By Brinda Fuller Willis, PhD
Jackson Advocate Contributing Writer

Mississippi’s African American designers Patrick Kelly and Thomas “DJ” Walker will be the centerpiece of “From Couture to da Streets” and “Cross Colours” at The Mississippi Arts & Entertainment Experience Museum (The MAX) which is set to be on display from September 4, 2021 to January 9, 2022.

Patrick Kelly is a Vicksburg native and Thomas “DJ” Walker hails from Toomsuba. “From Couture to da Streets” and Cross Colours” is a collection of clothing, sketches, and other works of art.

Kelly’s work emphasizes bold colors. He has been described as having a witty sense of fashion by the Washington Post and dressed celebrities that included Bette Davis, Isabella Rossellini, and the avant-garde prowess of Grace Jones before his sudden death in 1990. With 10 collections under his belt, Kelly was the first African American to be accepted into France’s most prestigious fashion design organization, Chambre Syndicale du Prét-à-Porter in 1988.

The MAX reports, “Walker moved from Toomsuba, near Meridian, to Los Angeles with the dream of becoming a fashion illustrator, but once he teamed up with Carl Jones, they accomplished far more. Walker and Jones co-founded Cross Colours, an urban clothing line that uses bold colors and designs to celebrate Afrocentrism while also working to break social prejudices. In just five years, Cross Colours became a household name that not only revolutionized the fashion industry but also African American street culture. It also uplifted the Black community.

“While Kelly worked to destigmatize racist iconography, Walker worked to uplift the Black community through positive messages. In tandem, both men changed the world, and that’s why people should come see this exhibition,” said Stacey Wilson, Curator of Exhibitions at The MAX. “They inspire and encourage others to make their own mark on the world.”

Today, both designers are seeing a resurgence in popularity because the message behind the clothing resonates with many in the current racial and political atmosphere.

In 2019, during the premiere of the exhibition at the California African American Museum in Los Angles, CA, Vogue magazine noted, “Through their bold designs and graphics, Walker and Jones originally set out to craft positive messaging around African American culture and oppression.

“To assemble this unique exhibition, Wilson borrowed artifacts and other materials from Jackson State University, the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art, the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture of the New York Public Library, and the Los Angeles-based Cross Colours enterprise.”

The admission to “From Couture to da Streets” and the “Cross Colours” exhibit is free to the public. However, to tour the entire museum, visit www.msarts.org for admission prices as other programs will coincide with the Kelly and Walker exhibition to engage diverse audiences.

The MAX is located at the corner of Sela Ward Parkway (22nd Street) and Front Street in downtown Meridian and is open Tuesday-Saturday from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm. Call 601-981-1550 for additional information regarding all events at the MAX.