Pat Kerr Tigrett
Memphis Philanthropist and Chairman/CEO, Pat Kerr Inc.


Pat Kerr gowns have graced 11 covers of the main bridal books printed today. I've produced weddings around the world, from the Vatican to Monte Carlo, from Egypt to underwater! Pieces from my private collection have been shown at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and other museums. I was invited to Althorp, Princess Diana's ancestral home in England, to commentate the Princess Diana collection in their family museum for English television. A book or two is in my future, as well as a serious collection that will travel. Like I said, I've been incredibly blessed.

But I never run out of ideas. It's like I've found what I was supposed to become, and I've always just let life take me to whatever happens next — which keeps me happy, anticipating each day.

My company headquarters is wherever I am, really. My clients are all over the world, and I travel to them. They often come to me when I am showing at The Carlyle Hotel in New York.

My favorite type of clothing to design … ethereal, gossamer, and feminine, using antique laces and making my clients feel beautiful.

The most difficult thing in this business is deadlines.

Beauty pageants teach you an awful lot about life, because you are walking that runway in front of the most critical eyes, and you have to be able to accept it and not care, basically. I loved it! It also teaches you how to win and lose gracefully.

When we lit the Memphis "M" bridge I was the co-chairman of the bridge-lighting project, and I was facing the crowd to watch their reactions. We had given sparklers to everyone. Everybody was holding up their sparklers, and they're watching the bridge lights come up behind me. I'm looking into their eyes and seeing the emotions, from tears to laughter. The bridge and the area had been so black. The only lights that had been on that bridge before we lit it were the headlights from Tennesseans returning from the West Memphis dog track!

The biggest misperception people have about designing clothes is maybe thinking you can put something together in two seconds.

My Pat Kerr Private Royal Collection included items from Princess Diana, the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, Queen Victoria, and King George III, among others.

When I first met Princess Diana I immediately thought, "How young! How young to be considering such an incredible, impossible responsibility as the future Queen of England." She was a lovely person with a keen sense of humor.

Spearheading so many big benefit parties makes me focus, focus, focus! I am a stickler for details, and I want to have everything finished before the party starts, because the moment the party starts, I am a guest. Always, I am a guest at my own parties.

Fashion bombs? I'm sure there have been, but I don't recall them. Maybe they were so bad that I pushed them out of my mind!

The Blues Ball has been extraordinary! When we started it16 years ago, nobody wanted Memphis musicians to play at anything. They were just so ostracized. Having lived in London, I saw how the English revered Memphis because of our music. I was determined to start something that would become "the musicians' ball," never allowing anybody but Memphis musicians to play on stage. We have such a plethora of legends here! And we're such a hotbed for training new sounds and new talent. And now the ball has grown to the largest annual ball in the nation, as we celebrate our 17th year this fall.

My favorite subject in school was art.

I have never had a cup of coffee in my life, or a beer.

My mother grew up an orphan. Her mother died giving birth to her. Her father was an alcoholic and committed suicide. Her Victorian grandparents raised her and just instilled those extraordinary Victorian values in her, which I am so pleased she passed along to us children.

The lesson I learned from my father is that in life, there are really no mistakes; there are only lessons.

When the first plane flew into the World Trade Center I was in a cab traveling over the Triborough Bridge on the way to the LaGuardia. I said to the driver, "What is that?" I couldn't process it. We arrived at LaGuardia, and I'm checking in. I still didn't have a clue what was going on — no one did. I was on the phone with a friend in Memphis, and he saw the second plane go in. He screamed at me, "Get out of that airport!" I jumped in a cab before they'd even closed the airport. We're back on the Triborough Bridge when they closed both ends of the bridge. The only contact we had was the car radio telling us the bridges and tunnels might be the next to go! We ended up sitting for seven hours on the bridge, waiting to be blown up. So I watched the first tower collapse from the bridge, and I watched the second one collapse. It was life-changing. Finally, we were able to inch off the bridge. I found a hotel and stayed there for three days. I finally took a limousine back to Memphis. The next week, I was hosting the Blues Ball! My office said, "You can't cancel the Blues Ball, Pat. We all need to be together." So we turned it into something highly patriotic and raised $60,000 for New York firemen.

Most people don't know that I dated Jack Kelly, Princess Grace's brother!

I learned my social graces from Mother and my great-aunt. Totally, 100 percent. I learned by watching them and how they treated others. Mother had me setting the table properly as soon as I was big enough to reach it! The napkins had to be folded just right or, dear God, you'd have to re-iron them!

I will never again not follow my heart.

I'm always mistrustful of jealous hearts, liars, gossips, cheaters, and thieves!

My first paying job was teaching at Patricia Stevens, a modeling and charm school, when I was a freshman in college. I also worked at Casual Corner — I just love fashion! Any time I could be around anything that was fashion or modeling, I loved it. It's like I never worked in my life!

The values my parents instilled in me are what I cherish more than just about anything. They gave me the security to travel all over the world, take care of myself, not be intimidated by anyone, and not take advantage of anyone.

A big turning point for me came when I married John. A different country, a European lifestyle, a little baby, and I started my business.

My father was one of four boys. Very much committed to loving God, family, and the land. I was raised in a home where they stressed the importance of faith in God and the power of prayer. Those will get anybody through anything.

When I'm not dressed to the nines, I like to wear I'm always in tights or jeans. Always. They're comfortable. I'm on the floor, on top of things, looking at designs. I work on tables some, but I can't get on top to see structure, direction, and patterns. It's so much easier for me to see the direction of lace patterns when I'm overlooking them — and wearing comfortable clothes!

I never thought I would … I don't know. If I "think it," I do it! John used to say to me, "You never see a barrier; you always see a way of working around it or through it." He's right!

If I could meet one person … I'm fascinated with Queen Victoria and that she, at such an early age, took on such incredible global responsibilities.

The time I was most afraid was when I had a gun put to my head. I was giving a birthday dinner for Fred Smith at a new Memphis restaurant. I stepped out of my car to go in and heard somebody behind me say, "Give me that purse!" I thought it was Fred teasing me. So I whiz around, and there's a great big guy with a gun pointed at my temple. I threw my purse down, and when he reached down to pick it up, I could have won the Olympics running.

I'll never forget the great loves of my life: past, present, and future.

I pay a personal price when I don't listen to my inner self and push myself too hard physically. But my joy is in doing for others, so it's hard.

I believe we are part of a bigger plan, and we each need to listen to our hearts and try to find the real reason for our being here.

Before I die, I … Philanthropically, I want to properly chronicle the efforts of the amazing volunteers who have surrounded me through many years of creating events together and making remarkable memories for Memphians, because many of the projects we've done are truly historic. Professionally, I would like to develop some items I've been working on for a long time; write my books; and have my private collection chronicled and in a museum. Personally, I want to watch my little granddaughter develop into a happy, accomplished young lady.

My final 2 cents … Live fully, love deeply, and pray without ceasing.


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