By  on August 28, 2014

NEW YORK — Michael Maccari has been a fashion designer for more than 20 years, but Sept. 4 will mark the first time his collection will be shown on the runway.

Seven months ago, Maccari was tapped to be creative director of the Perry Ellis brand, overseeing collection sportswear and licensed product. His first collection, for spring, will mark the brand’s return to the runway after a three-season hiatus from New York Fashion Week.

Before joining Perry Ellis, Maccari was senior vice president and fashion director for Armani Exchange for nine years. His background also includes Polo Ralph Lauren, J. Crew, Calvin Klein and Donna Karan New York, and he’s a graduate of the Fashion Institute of Technology.

The Perry Ellis brand is the cornerstone of the Miami-based Perry Ellis International, which has paring down its portfolio of noncore brands. In addition to Perry Ellis, the company is also focusing on Original Penguin, Callaway and its other golf brands. This summer, activist investment firm Legion Partners took a 6 percent stake in the firm in tandem with the California State Teachers’ Retirement System and agitated for change. The move was followed by rumors this month that Perry Ellis was considering an outright sale of the company.

Although management has remained mum on the sale speculation, it is taking a higher profile with Maccari, who succeeded John Crocco as creative director of the label in February.

Maccari said he met Oscar Feldenkreis, chief operating officer of PEI, about six or seven years ago and the two started talking about his joining the brand. But it took until February of this year before those talks came to fruition and Maccari took the plunge.

Interestingly, Maccari has been a fan of the Perry Ellis brand since he was a young man.

“Way back when I was in college, my grandmother got a call from a cousin we didn’t know who worked in advertising in the city,” he told WWD during an exclusive preview of the spring collection. “Her best friend was Perry’s head of merchandising. It opened my eyes to the man and the brand.” From that time, he admitted he “got a little obsessed” with the collection and the designer, who he never actually got a chance to meet in person. “I couldn’t put my finger on what it was about the clothes, but they felt a little different,” he said.

With that as the backdrop, Maccari set out to put his mark on the brand, while keeping an eye on the Perry Ellis heritage.

“I looked at how Perry pushed the scale of prints and used color,” Maccari said.

Although he contributed a bit to the fall line, working more on styling than design, spring is his first full collection.

“Perry was inspired by art and nature,” he said. “And nature to me is everything around you. This line is city-based, it’s a wear-to-work collection. It’s linear and color-blocked and very graphic. It’s neat and balanced as opposed to being neat and tropical.”

He was inspired by artist Sean Scully, an American printmaker, and even named the collection “Changes and Horizontals” after one of Scully’s exhibitions. “It seemed the perfect name,” he said.

Among Maccari’s key pieces are sweaters — “Perry was always known for his sweaters,” he said, pointing to the linen models with graphic blocking. Other pieces include black and white color-blocked swimsuits that would look as appropriate on the street as in the water. “The idea of active and functionality is a big play,” he said.

Along those lines, there’s a gray knit suit lined in mesh and a woven linen tracksuit. “We’re taking active fabrics and using them in nonactive silhouettes, and vice-versa,” he said. “I remember Perry doing a lot of that.”

Jacquard shirts with updated plackets, double-cloth dress shirts with active tape detailing, and pin-striped carpenter pants are also in the line. There’s even a nylon tie.

Maccari is excited about his first runway show, which will be held on Sept. 4 at 5 p.m. at the Waterfront. “It’s a great way to get the feel of the collection out there. We want to open awareness again to the brand.”

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