NEW YORK — Perry Ellis has named Patrick Robinson creative director for its women’s sportswear line.
This story first appeared in the April 10, 2003 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
Robinson, who has worked at Anne Klein and Giorgio Armani Le Collezioni, and most recently had his own line, will oversee design of the better-priced women’s sportswear collection that launched at retail this spring. He reports to Elissa Bromer, president of Perry Ellis women’s wear, in this newly created position at the company, a division of Public Clothing Co.
Former designer Niovi Forbes has left Perry Ellis and in what Bromer said was an amicable split. Jerry Kaye heads the men’s wear design team.
Robinson said it was “phenomenal” that he will be designing for a name as important to American design as Perry Ellis.
“It’s a huge, huge name and a lot to live up to with the Perry Ellis heritage, but with the backing of Public Clothing and their leadership, I think this is going to be a home run,” said Robinson, who has designed women’s sportswear his entire career, starting with being an assistant for Patrick Kelly in Paris. “There were two people that were the reason I got into fashion and they were Jeffrey Banks and Perry Ellis. Both start from fabric and both have such strong men’s wear influences, and interpret in such fresh…and new ways. Perry Ellis took men’s wear tailoring and fabrics and made them feminine, and also had such a wonderful way of looking at American fashion with such a fresh, crisp, clean eye.”
Robinson said he liked the initial spring and fall collections designed under Forbes and said he thinks the team caught the wittiness known to Ellis, but would like to now expand upon this. The first collection under his direction will be spring 2004, launching at market in August.
“For example, I would like to expand shirts into blouses, and do more shirts, and just take everything and keep growing,” he said. “There’s a great foundation, but I feel I can bring more of a sense of humor, great irresistible items — those are the things I’m going to go out and capture.”
Bromer said bringing in Robinson is about taking the Perry Ellis brand to the next level, as the company hopes to expand the business from 500 retail doors for fall and winter to some 800 to 1,000 doors for spring. When the line was launched in September, executives projected it to have sales of $50 million by the end of 2004.
“We’re moving and shaking, and culture is part of everything,” she said. “With Patrick as creative director, it’s a new position and Dan [Shamdasani, president and chief executive officer of Public Clothing] and I felt it was time to take the next step. We’ve made great inroads in an environment where business is tough out there. But the culture is to bring in great talent and allow them to do their jobs. I think there’s a mutual philosophy at Perry Ellis International and Public and that’s why this works.”
Among the attributes that attracted Public Clothing to Robinson was his understanding of workwear and how to design for women, Bromer said, in addition to his personality and ability to listen and communicate well.
Perry Ellis president Will Manzer said Robinson’s hire will add focus to the women’s sportswear collection.
“He brings a high level of sensibility of design and with Patrick on board, we’re solidifying our design credibility,” Manzer said. “That, combined with the fact that we’re having the best reaction to men’s ever by far, we’re poised to take the Perry Ellis brand to the next level.”