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April 19 2014

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9 posts tagged "Perry Ellis"

Remembering Perry Ellis—the Man and the Brand

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Archival looks from Perry Ellis

“Most people today think of Perry Ellis as a brand,” said menswear designer Jeffrey Banks, the co-author (with Doria De La Chapelle and Erica Lennard) of the new Rizzoli monograph, Perry Ellis: An American Original , of his late friend and colleague. “They don’t realize there was a real person named Perry Ellis. And that he was such an incredible influencer—he never followed other designers. He did what he believed in.”

The book, which will launch this evening alongside a one-night-only exhibition of Ellis’ finest designs at Parsons The New School For Design, traces the sportswear enthusiast’s all-too-short career (he died at age 46) with an aim to change that. A forward by former Perry Ellis designer Marc Jacobs (“When we talk to Marc, the one designer he ever idealized and wanted to be like and loved his clothes more than anyone was Perry Ellis,” recalled Banks) and never-before-published photographs from Lennard, who was Ellis’ campaign photographer, accompany Banks’ narrative.

The pieces on view at the show (a sneak peek of which debuts here) are a celebration of Ellis’ singular ability to push the aesthetic boundaries of sportswear classics. A hand-knit sweater emblazoned with a P for Perry (from Ellis’ first collection in which Princeton University cheerleaders danced down the runway) brings to life the moment the designer brought hand-knits into the high-fashion lexicon; a mohair dress and matching cape (“Perry always had amusing touches that were not silly, but fun,” remembered Banks) sits alongside a rich cashmere tunic in a graphic print inspired by French cubist artist Sonia Delaunay. Elsewhere, an oatmeal tweed jacket with Ellis’ signature dimple sleeves and an all-red suit for men (“It takes a gutsy man to wear a raspberry red tweed suit,” said Banks with a laugh) are on display. Each element of the show illustrates Ellis’ take on traditional, all-American sentiments—loosened up and ever-so-slightly irreverent.

“There was no compromise in his vision,” said Banks. Lennard continued, “He really had his own path. He was, to me, the only American designer of his time who was completely original. The other designers were looking at Europe. He had his own vocabulary.”

Photo: Samuel Bristow

Quick to the Draw: A Moment With Richard Haines

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Richard HainesRichard Haines is somewhat of a fashion-week anomaly—he’s a 61-year-old illustrator with a blog. In a past life, he was a womenswear designer for some of America’s biggest brands, such as Calvin Klein, Bill Blass, Perry Ellis, and Puff Daddy, but he threw all that in to focus on art in the digital age. He quickly gained traction, getting hired by everyone from J.Crew to The New York Times for his ability to make guys look far cooler on paper than they do in real life (you can only imagine what he does for models at runway shows). And recently, he received the ultimate validation: a gig illustrating Prada’s menswear collections, the fruits of which were released in book and T-shirt form. Haines gave us a sneak peek at his Spring ’14 illustrations from Prada (below, left), Jil Sander (below, right), and Andrea Incontri (bottom), which debut exclusively here. And below, the talent talks about flying on private jets with Calvin Klein, life as a blogger, and that one time three days ago when Beppe Modenese mistook him for Bill Cunningham.

When did you first come to the shows and what’s changed since then?
Eighteen thirty-four [laughs]. I went to Paris fashion week in the early eighties, when I was designing, and a friend of mine, who was the editor of New York magazine, would take me to shows like Claude Montana and Thierry Mugler. It was this amazing moment in Paris. Back then I saw womenswear, now I see menswear, so the scale of the audience is different. The biggest thing [then] was this trend of sending out, like, eight models in the same outfit all at once. It was very dramatic, and that doesn’t seem to happen now. If anything, it’s gotten more intimate and more manageable. But the media has made fashion week very different, which is fascinating.

I’ve heard you say that people were dropping a lot more money back in those days.
Yeah, it was a different time. It was easier to be in the fashion business, because there weren’t these constant collections to do. The stakes weren’t as high, and people did it with a lot more money. Now, there are more brands competing for less money. A couple of years after I started going to the collections in Paris, I was working at Calvin Klein, and it was a privately owned company—it was his company—so if he wanted to charter a jet, he would. We’d go to London and then the fabric shows in Milan, and then we’d go to Lake Como and stay at the Villa d’Este. It wasn’t bad.

Richard Haines' sketches from Prada and Jil Sander

What’s it like being one of the only illustrators at the shows?
I love doing it. There’s something really exciting about sitting down and watching someone present and being able to draw it. I don’t think about whether I’m one of the only people doing this. I just love doing it, and it makes me happy. I just keep going.

What are your fashion-week essentials?
I inevitably always forget one thing. I have little cases where I carry charcoal pencils, Moleskine notebooks—which reminds me, I need to buy a new one today—a charger for my cell phone, antidepressants…. And that’s it. When I first started doing this, I would forget paper, and I started drawing on envelopes and show notes and people loved that, so sometimes it works to my advantage. Continue Reading “Quick to the Draw: A Moment With Richard Haines” »

Kristen McMenamy Through The Years

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As the self-proclaimed “first weird-looking model,” Kristen McMenamy has broken just about every rule there is during her thirty years (and counting) in fashion, which exactly is why we chose to profile her in the new issue of Style.com/Print. Throughout her career, the irreverent icon became renowned for her androgynous appeal, eccentric personality, madwoman-on-a-mission runway walk, and willingness to sacrifice life and limb in pursuit of the elusive perfect picture.

McMenamy was a fixture in the glossies during her nineties heyday (back then, her cropped hair, shaved eyebrows, unconventional features, and sinewy frame made her an ideal poster girl for the grunge movement); she has shot with the likes of Steven Meisel, Richard Avedon, Helmut Newton, Juergen Teller, and Nick Knight, who took the pared-down portraits of her that run in Style.com/Print. Along the way, she has cultivated a support system of designers. “If fashion is her family, then Donatella Versace is her big sister,” writes Jo-Ann Furniss in her profile. That makes Karl Lagerfeld McMenamy’s proverbial father. Lagerfeld did, after all, walk her down the aisle at her ’99 wedding to photographer Miles Aldridge, in addition to casting her in a multitude of campaigns and runway shows.

See them all in our slideshow roundup of McMenamy’s career highlights >

Shop The Look: We Love The Nineties

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In fashion years, when something is two decades old, it’s officially “vintage,” meaning that Marc Jacobs’ now-infamous 1992 grunge collection for Perry Ellis (i.e., the collection that made flannel shirts and ripped jeans a look) is officially ripe for reinterpretation. Coincidentally (or perhaps not), Phillip Lim and Dries Van Noten both turned out fresh takes on layered plaids and florals for Spring 2013, inspiring us to lace up some combat boots (we’ll take a heeled version these days) and cue up some Mudhoney. Shop our grungy gets from Alexander Wang, Ksubi, Rag & Bone, and more, below.

1. Rag & Bone jacket, $795, available at www.net-a-porter.com

2. Ksubi jeans, $292, available at www.ksubi.com

3. Eugenia Kim hat, $143, available at www.forwardforward.com

4. Alexander Wang boots, $825, available at www.net-a-porter.com

5. Steven Alan shirt, $198, available at www.stevenalan.com

To view more looks, click here.

Perry, Meet Duckie

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For all its incredible history (the path-breaking work of its founder and namesake; that old chestnut about one Marc Jacobs and his legendary and firing-worthy grunge collection), Perry Ellis had gone stale in recent years. But the announcement several months ago about the appointment of a design team has brought buzz back to the American label. Its new creative directors, Steven Cox and Daniel Silver (pictured), the partner-duo behind Duckie Brown, surprised many. Including the designers themselves.

Cox and Silver are the first to admit they came to Perry Ellis from a distance. “I have never been inspired by Perry Ellis in a Duckie Brown collection,” Cox said at a preview at their West Village studio. “Now, go on a few months, having looked at the videos and researched quite heavily into Perry Ellis, I feel it was a really good match. Perry Ellis was considered a little bit kooky, a little bit strange. He had this odd match, that doesn’t look as odd now.”

Kooky is a word often applied to Cox’s Duckie Brown collections, which don’t shy away from dramatic statements. The contemporary perception of Ellis, by contrast, is—to use a phrase the designers don’t much care for—”American sportswear.” “American sportswear seems to me, like, 1960-something,” Cox said. “I am American now, but I was born in England. I don’t have that root in me that is growing up as a teenager with that heritage Ralph Lauren preppy thing. I don’t know about cheerleaders, I didn’t go to a prom. I have no references that a lot of American designers do that are truly American.” His Perry Ellis by Duckie Brown collection will be “transatlantic sportswear”: beholden to the American tradition but with a more studied design flair.

While the Perry name has plenty of purchase, the designers actually began with a blanker slate than many realize. Ellis himself never did a men’s-only show in his lifetime. The label has no archive; Cox and Silver bought some pieces on eBay, but for the most part, they’re starting fresh. (They’ve been playing video of old Ellis shows on loop in the studio for osmotic effect.) The label as they envision it has a feeling of their own line—and many of the same suppliers and factories—with a more commercial aesthetic, something they say has enabled them to push Duckie even farther, too. Now the question that looms over their debut tomorrow is, will the old Ellis legions approve?

“We’re a little damned if we do, damned if we don’t,” Silver said. “People are going to go ‘it’s very Perry, where’s Duckie?’; people are going to go, ‘it’s very Duckie, where’s Perry?’ I think we did it very successfully; it’s got a real sensibility.”

They, at least, are confident. “I always worry about Duckie Brown; I don’t know if it’s right or wrong,” Cox said. “With this, it’s the opposite.” A preview suggests he’s right to be confident, and Perry may be the latest label fashion’s go-to fixers—who have already helped to revive the fortunes of Florsheim shoes with their Florsheim x Duckie Brown collections—bring back from the beyond. Before tomorrow’s show, the designers shared an exclusive video of the work in progress, below.

Photo: Etienne Tordoir / Getty Images