“Never be afraid to take risks, and never take the clothes you wear too seriously.”Perry Ellis (1)

Today in 1940, American Sportswear designer, Perry Ellis, was born in Portsmouth, Virginia. As a child, he lived with his parents and his grandmother in an old home filled with his aunts’ collections of vintage clothing. Ellis would later credit this as a source of inspiration for his style and designs.

Beginning as a merchandiser for a department store, Ellis formed the Perry Ellis Sportswear Company in 1978 after an overwhelmingly positive response to his clothing selection. With little knowledge of tailoring and construction, Ellis was a new breed of designer, a merchandising phenomenon who knew just what preppy, sporty, casual Americans wanted to wear on the tennis court and beyond.

Ellis’ clothes were eclectic with a touch of whimsy true to his personality. He, along with contemporaries like Calvin Klein, Ralph Lauren, and Anne Klein, demonstrated the growing significance of American designers to the fashion industry.

Just as his company started to boom, however, Ellis’ health began to decline, and it was at the young age of 46 that he passed away. To commemorate his lasting influence, the Council of Fashion Designers of America created the Perry Ellis Award for emerging talent.

Today, his company continues to thrive. His daughter, Tyler Alexandra Gallagher Ellis, born 18 months before her father’s death, unveiled a collection of 13 handmade handbags in May 2011, proving to the world that she is indeed her father’s daughter.

Written by Mary Cabigao, Stylitics Ambassador from Georgetown University

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