IN AN INTERVIEW JUST A MONTH BEFORE HE DIED, THE DESIGNER TALKS ABOUT SOME OF LIFE’S CURVE BALLS.
Byline: Susan Alai, April 1986
The past two years have brought great change to Perry Ellis’s life, not all of it good. But now the designer feels it is time to look ahead.
On Jan. 2, his close friend and business associate, Laughlin M. Barker, president of Perry Ellis International, died after a long illness. His death, associates say, left Ellis deeply depressed.
“It’s been a difficult time for me,” says Ellis. “Laughlin was an extraordinary man, and I loved him. We worked together 24 hours a day, and he brought genius and humor to this business. We were together five years, and there was never an argument or a disagreement.”
Sad though he still is, Ellis looks much better. He’s just returned from a trip to Los Angeles, where he visited his infant daughter, Tyler Alexandra Gallagher Ellis, and her mother, Barbara Gallagher.
He is also looking to the future. Since he began designing in 1978, much of his time has been spent in the pursuit of a successful fashion career. Today, however, he wants to allow more time for personal pursuits.
“Life can be more than just a full-time job,” says Ellis, who turned 46 in March. “The heart and soul of the company is still very much here, and it’s changed. I used to do such wild looks, and now I want to be more serious about life and the quality of my life….
“We all change and evolve, thank God. I think I know where my customer is. I look at my work now and it’s still the same spirit, but it has matured.
Ellis runs an unusual studio in which his employees are free to express themselves creatively. They are even allowed time off to indulge in other interests. For example, Jed Krascella, vice president of design for the collection and longtime employee, has been pursuing an acting career and will take time off this summer to study theater in England.
“The qualities of life are not the same today in terms of taking time for reading, for being quiet, for being away at the ocean and for being with my daughter, who has added enormously to my life. I’m maturing and the business is maturing.”
“I feel I can do a lot of things and take advantage of life. My little girl is an enormous pleasure and joy to me. I never realized how important a child is, how they can make you laugh. Oh God, it’s wonderful.”