Perry Ellis was born in Portsmouth, Virginia, USA on 3rd March 1940. He gained a B.A. in Business studies at the College of William and Mary and then took an M.A. course in retailing at New York University.
From 1963 to 1967, he worked as a buyer for the Miller Rhodes department store in Richmond, Virginia. In 1968, he joined John Meyer of Norwich, New York as design director. In 1974, he became Sportswear designer for the Vera companies. In 1975 he started designing under his own label Portfolio, and in 1978, Perry Ellis Sportswear Inc was launched.
In 1980 he formed his own company. His contemporary, classic menswear designs were already widely acclaimed in the USA, and he swiftly gained a reputation for crisply stylish women's coats, trouser and knitwear. Ellis's designs for women were spirited and graceful and he is considered the ideal American sportswear designer. Many of his clothes were cut on mannish lines but skillfully adapted for the female figure. He frequently used textured wools and tweeds. He used the textures of natural fibres, linen for a T-shirt and skirt, line trousers often matched with cotton sweaters or loose blouses. His slouchy looks of the 80's created the look of a picturesque hobo.
In 1985, Perry Ellis revived the lesser-priced Portfolio Line, and in addition, began to design an America line for Levi Strauss. Isaac Mizrahi was a designer in training with the house of Perry Ellis from 1982 to 1984.
Perry Ellis himself died on 30th May 1986 at the young age of 46. The Council of Fashion Designers of America, the CFDA, have instituted an award for New Talent in the Fashion Field and they have called it the Perry Ellis Award in memory of this great American designer.
In the year 2000/2002, the city of New York decided to honour American fashion designers by placing bronze plaques along the pavement of 7th Avenue, the great street of fashion in New York. This has been called the ""FASHION WALK OF FAME."" Perry Ellis was one of those honoured with a plaque.
From 1988 to 1993, the young designer Marc Jacobs designed for the house of Perry Ellis. The company has changed hands several times, first with Manhattan Industries, then Salant and now since 1999, the Miami-based concern Supreme International owns the Perry Ellis house. It still continues to be a design house at the forefront of fashion. The Fall 2002 show marked a return to the New York runway.
In April 2003, the Public Clothing Company, licensee of Perry Ellis Womenswear, announced that Patrick Robinson has been appointed Creative Director for Perry Ellis Womens Sportswear. Robinson, shown here on the right, was born in 1967 and studied at Parsons Fashion School in New York. He was earlier with Giorgio Armani Le Collezioni and Anne Klein. He also worked with Patrick Kelly in Paris in the 1980's. Robinson is well-known for his own signature sportswear collection launched in 1997. Now he will bring all his experience to bear, on making a success of Perry Ellis Sportswear.