About Perry Ellis

Overview

A man in a linen suit sipping wine on the terrace. A woman looking feminine and slightly bohemian in a white eyelet cover-up over a floral bandeau bikini top. A black tunic in a floral burnout pattern cut down to there, allowing a sneak peak of black-and-white striped top. The Perry Ellis label may be known for menswear, but the swimwear, active wear and accessories for women strike the perfect balance between sweet and sensual.

The Making of Designer

Southern-born Perry Ellis found himself in New York by the early '70s where he learned the ins and outs of the rag trade working for both a sportswear company and a manufacturer of polyester pantsuits. By 1978, he struck out on his own, opening a design showroom on Seventh Avenue. Thankfully, he left behind his background with the double knits and channeled the Calvin Klein and Ralph Lauren vibe of basic but beautifully constructed casual wear. Never one to kowtow to trends, Ellis thrived in the '80s by ignoring some of its flashier fads and sticking to chic, timeless pieces.

Career Cut Short

The designer's life and career were cut short by the tragedy of AIDS. In 1986, at the age of 46, Ellis died at the New York Hospital-Cornell Medical Center. He had been ill for several months prior to his death. Designer Marc Jacobs assumed the helm of operation for the label's women's division. His work there was short lived, however, due to a controversial though well publicized runway show that showcased Jacobs' infatuation with grunge fashion.

American Design

Along with other major sportswear designers like Anne Klein and Ralph Lauren, Ellis changed the landscape of global fashion. His work entered the United States market at a time when all eyes were on Paris and Milan as the world's design capitals. The Ellis ready-to-wear collections, unpretentious and elegant, made fashion editors sit up and take notice of the potential of American design.

Evolution of Style

The breezy, preppy look of someone who spends his summers sailing and his winters skiing defined the early Ellis style. Marc Jacobs' brief tenure with the company swapped the knit polos and cashmere sweaters tied around the neck with plaid flannel and chunky boots. As of 2011, creative director John Crocco has steered the Ellis brand toward a more traditional course, using a dark palette and formal wear details such as slim pinstriped pants and structured jackets.

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