Name: Perry Ellis
Full name: Perry Edwin Ellis
birth place: Portsmouth, Virginia, U.S.
birth date: 3 March 1940
death place: New York, New York, U.S
death date: 30 May 1986
Perry Ellis was an American fashion designer who founded his eponymous sportswear house in the mid-1970s. Ellis' influence on the fashion industry has been called "a huge turning point" because he introduced new patterns and proportions to a market which was dominated by more traditional men's clothing.
Perry Ellis was born in Portsmouth, Virginia on March 3, 1940, His father owned a coal and home heating oil company, which enabled the family to live a comfortable middle-class life.
In 1963, Perry Ellis graduated from New York University with a master´s degree in retailing.
Ellis started out in department store retailing in the Richmond, Virginia area to gain experience in the fashion industry as a buyer and merchandiser at the department store Miller & Rhoads.
While there, he was co-founder of Richmond retail shop A Sunny Day. He later joined the sportswear company John Meyer of Norwich in New York City. Eventually, in the mid-1970s, he was approached by his then employer The Vera Companies (famous for their polyester double-knit pantsuits) to design a fashion collection for them. Soon after that, Ellis presented his first women's sportswear line, called Portfolio, in November 1976.
Although he could not sketch, he knew exactly how the industry worked and proved a master of innovative ideas who created 'new classics' that American women longed for at the time.
In 1978 Perry Ellis founded his own fashion house, Perry Ellis International with The Vera Companies' parent company Manhattan Industries, and opened his showroom on New York's Seventh Avenue. As the company's chairman and head designer Ellis later developed Perry Ellis Menswear Collection – marked by "non-traditional, modern classics". Step by step, he added shoes, accessories, furs and perfume that all bear his name.
Throughout the 1980s the company continued to expand and include various labels such as Perry Ellis Collection and Perry Ellis Portfolio. By 1982, the company had more than 75 staff. In 1984, Perry Ellis America was created in cooperation with Levi Strauss. In 1985, he revived his lesser-priced Portfolio product line. In the early 1980s, wholesale revenues had figured at about $60 million. By 1986 that number had risen to about $260 million.
The Perry Ellis look began as a casual, relaxed style exclusively American in feeling and sportswear-like in its practicality. It was so playful and comfortable, in fact, models at his shows would skip down the catwalk. As Ellis matured as a designer, his clothing occasionally took on a more serious tone, but even his most formidable collections were considered easy-dressing by fashion industry standards.
Through all the transitions and the fickle nature of fashion, Perry Ellis menswear—and at times its womenswear—remained relatively consistent and true to the tenets and goals espoused by Ellis himself.
In 1981, Ellis began a relationship with attorney Laughlin Barker (1948 - January 2, 1986). Later that year, Ellis appointed Barker the President of the licensing division of Perry Ellis International. They remained together until Barker's death in January 1986.
In February 1984, Ellis and his long-time friend, television producer and writer Barbara Gallagher, conceived a child together via artificial insemination. Their daughter, Tyler Alexandra Gallagher Ellis, was born in November 1984. Ellis bought a home for Gallagher and their daughter in Brentwood, Los Angeles, and would visit frequently.
From 1984 to 1986, Perry Ellis served as president of the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA).
On January 2, 1986, Laughlin Barker died of lung cancer at the couple's home in Manhattan. After Barker's death, Ellis' health rapidly declined. By May 1986, Ellis had contracted viral encephalitis which caused paralysis on one side of his face. Despite his appearance, he insisted on appearing at his Fall fashion show held in New York City on May 8. At the end of the show, Ellis attempted to walk the runway for his final bow but was so weak, he had to be supported by two assistants. It was his final public appearance.
Perry Ellis was hospitalized soon after and slipped into a coma. He died of viral encephalitis on May 30, 1986.
In 1986, the annual Perry Ellis Award—now known as the Swarovski Emerging Talent Award—was created to honor emerging talents in the world of men's and women's fashion designers. The first designer to receive it was David Cameron.
Though he worked as a designer for less than a decade, over 25 years after his death his work is "still seen as incredibly influential."
In 1999, Miami-based textile company Supreme International purchased the Perry Ellis brand from Salant, a licensee of Perry Ellis that acquired it from Manhattan Industries in 1986. Supreme renamed itself Perry Ellis International and the company became traded on the NASDAQ under PERY. Perry Ellis International also owns and licenses other notable fashion brands, such as Original Penguin by Munsingwear, Cubavera, C&C California, Rafaella, Laundry by Shelli Segal, Ben Hogan, Jantzen, Nike Swim and Callaway, among others.
Moving into the twenty-first century, the Perry Ellis name has continued to expand. Building upon styles set forth by Ellis, the brand has successfully continued to grow, collaborate with other designers, such as Duckie Brown, and hold critical acclaim.