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Overview (3)

Date of Birth 3 March 1940Portsmouth, Virginia, USA
Date of Death 30 May 1986New York City, New York, USA  (AIDS-related hepatitis)
Birth NamePerry Edwin Ellis

Mini Bio (1)

Perry Edwin Ellis was born in 1940 in Portsmouth, Virginia, an only child. Until the age of nine, he and his parents lived with his grandmother in a huge old house which was filled with vintage clothing that belonged to Perry's aunts, which he found fascinating just looking at them. After graduating from high school, Perry majored in business at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia. Later he attended New York University where he earned a master's degree in retailing. In 1963, Perry returned to Virginia and began working as a sportswear buyer for Miller & Rhoads, an upscale department store based in Richmond, where Perry often shopped for clothes when he was a teenager. Perry stocked the college department with preppie clothes designed by John Meyer of Norwich, Connecticut. Each year, he spent nearly $1,000,000 on Meyer's designs, making Miller & Rhodes one of the company's largest accounts. Impressed by the selections Perry made, Meyer grilled him about style trends. In 1967, Meyer hired Perry as a merchandiser and moved to New York.

In 1974, John Meyer died of cancer and Perry moved to the Vera Companies, where he worked as a sportswear merchandiser. Vera Co. specialized in designing polyester double-knit pantsuits. Perry tried to change the company's image by introducing natural fabrics. In 1975, the company's president allowed Perry to produce his own line under the Portfolio label. Perry designed 33 pieces for a fashion show in the Vera showroom where retailers and fashion critics were astonished by Perry's eclectic designs. This inspired Perry to start his own design company.

In 1978, his own company, Perry Ellis Sportswear began production. Perry opened his own showroom in an old band on the corner of Seventh Avenue and 41st Street. A peer of Calvin Klein, Ralph Lauran, and Anne Klein, Perry helped boost his reputation of American sportswear. By 1982 over 75 employees were working for Perry Ellis Sportswear. Unfortunately, Perry's health from then on began to decline after he came down with hepatitis. Soon other maladies crept in which he kept a secret from most of his friends and employees, who believed his frequent absences where letting the company slowly fall apart. In 1984, Perry and a old girlfriend, Barbara Gallagher, who lived in Los Angeles, has a daughter whom he named Tyler.

In May 1986, a gaunt Perry unveiled his latest line. People who attended the show, aware of Perry's health problems, thought it would be his last. When the show ended, Perry, too weak for the traditional walk down the fashion runway, appeared briefly in the doorway of the showroom where he received a standing ovation. A few hours later, Perry collapsed and was rushed to a hospital where he slipped into a coma. Two weeks later, on May 30, 1986, Perry Ellis died at age 46.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: Matthew Patay

Trivia (1)

Biography in: "The Scribner Encyclopedia of American Lives". Volume Two, 1986-1990, pages 276-278. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1999.

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