Perry Ellis aims to capitalize on the casualization of America.
On Friday, Perry Ellis International will unveil a new iteration of its more-casual Perry Ellis America label during a presentation at New York Men’s Day, which the company is sponsoring for the first time.
The brand has been reimagined by designer Thomas Harvey, a veteran of Theory, Aquascutum and Patrick Ervell, who joined the company as senior design director of its Original Penguin brand in November 2020. He was elevated to vice president of design for Perry Ellis International, overseeing the Perry Ellis Collection, Perry Ellis America and Original Penguin a year later.
Under Harvey’s direction, Perry Ellis America has been transformed into a brand that has its roots in the past and its eye to the future. The sub-brand was first created in 1984 as a partnership with Levi Strauss and has been revived a few times since then, most notably in 2018 with a capsule for Matchesfashion.
That collection offered colorful, logo-driven replicas of some of the brand’s key styles — but came with a steep price tag.
“The jeans were $300,” said Oscar Feldenkreis, chief executive officer of Perry Ellis International. “It was very high end, and while it gave the brand nice positioning, you don’t do that much business at that level.”
The label was shelved for a while but will relaunch for spring. The 2022 version of Perry Ellis America is more approachable, centered around denim, layering pieces and outerwear that are intended to complement the more-refined Perry Ellis Collection assortment. And at a much friendlier price point. T-shirts will retail for $39.50 to $49.50; polos for $59.50 to $69.50; fleece for $79.50 to $89.50; woven shirts for $69.50 to $79.50; pants for $69.50 to $89.50; shorts for $54.50 to $69.50; jeans for $79.50 to $89.50, and outerwear for $100 to $325.
Already, Perry Ellis has lined up a supportive partner: The line will relaunch at 167 Macy’s stores and online this month.
“We are excited to launch the reimagined Perry Ellis America collection and believe our consumers will resonate with the bold stripe rugbys, tipped knitwear and relaxed chinos as we are seeing the return of heritage and preppy styling in men’s wear,” said Durand Guion, vice president of Macy’s fashion office.
“Today there’s a need for more-youthful, classic, preppy brands,” said Jason Zuckerman, president of wholesale and direct-to-consumer at Perry Ellis International, who oversees the flagship brand as well as Original Penguin.
“We have a very strong Collections business with a modern, refined, contemporary, wear-to-work [aesthetic]. But the challenge within a pandemic is that everyone is wearing joggers and fleece.”
So that’s what Perry Ellis America will deliver.
“We thought this was the perfect time to relaunch Perry Ellis America,” Zuckerman said. “We couldn’t do this product in Collection. You can’t be everything to everyone, so we wouldn’t put denim and logo Ts into our Dillard’s assortment. But this has opened up an opportunity in more channels.”
Although he said the more dressy side of men’s wear is rebounding, the definition of dressy has blurred, with men seeking more performance attributes throughout their wardrobes. There are pieces within the Collections assortment that address that demand, but there’s even more opportunity on the casual end, the company believes.
“What Perry Ellis America allows us to do is offer a casual, traditional assortment to complement the Perry Ellis Collection,” Feldenkreis said. Both he and Zuckerman are optimistic about what Harvey has executed.
“Thomas came in to work on Original Penguin, elevate the brand and look for new opportunities,” Zuckerman said. And he did such a good job there that he was charged with doing the same for the Perry Ellis business. “Original Penguin is in a good place, so we put him over Perry Ellis and Perry Ellis America. He’s very talented and also very commercial,” he said.
“He’s done a fabulous job,” Feldenkreis added. “We have full confidence in him.”
Harvey said among the first things he did when he was promoted to oversee Perry Ellis was to take a deep dive into the archives of the brand for inspiration.
“Perry is one of the most iconic brands in the U.S.,” said the U.K.-born designer, pointing to some of the bold-face names that worked for the brand over the years, including Tom Ford and Marc Jacobs (who was subsequently fired for his famed “grunge” collection). And he’s been working hard to “understand what the brand stands for and adhere to that to know where to take the business. We want to create good, honest clothing that honors the roots of the brand.”
Because its first collection with Levi’s was heavily skewed to denim, that will continue to be a big part of the brand’s aesthetic going forward, Harvey said, with a variety of fits and washes offered. “It’s a benchmark for us.”
Other key pieces include a flight jacket and a duffle coat, graphic sweaters and other “great American staples,” Harvey said. Cardigans and vests are being offered as layering pieces, shirt-jackets are a key part of the line and pant shapes have been updated. “We have a lot of fits, but we’re staying away from skinny,” he said. There will also be an assortment of accessories including bucket hats, caps, totes and beach bags.
The eagle logo that was synonymous with the brand in its early days will again be the primary graphic for the collection.
“They’re simple styles that you can style up or style down,” Harvey said.
In addition to showing its line during New York Fashion Week, Perry Ellis will host a competition where Harvey will select one of the other designers showing at New York Men’s Day to create a special capsule on behalf of the brand for an upcoming season. The design competition is intended to support and encourage emerging talent.
That’s just one of the marketing initiatives that will be launched in support of the new Perry Ellis America.
Earlier this month, the company shot an image campaign in Los Angeles, styled by former GQ editor Jim Moore, that is reminiscent of the images created by Perry Ellis himself on Water Island in the brand’s early days, Harvey said. Moore, who is serving as a creative consultant to the company, also styled an e-commerce shoot for the brand. There is a print advertising component for the relaunch as well.
Although Perry Ellis America is launching at Macy’s, it is available to other retailers, too, the executives said. “We worked with Macy’s for spring, but it’s not exclusive,” Zuckerman said. “They’re a great partner, but we will continue to pursue other opportunities.”
The relaunch will allow the expansion into other licensed categories, according to Feldenkreis, who added: “We see Perry Ellis America as a platform to go international.” Currently, the Perry Ellis brand has a strong business in Latin America and Mexico, and Feldenkreis said he’s close to finalizing a deal in India.
Zuckerman would not offer a projection on how large a business Perry Ellis America can eventually be, but has high hopes. “We’ve had a relatively large Collections business, but casual is a major opportunity and the lines are going to complement one another. This can be big.”
He said Perry Ellis is already a multimillion-dollar label and with the large launch of America in Macy’s, “we have a lot of runway.”
Overall, Feldenkreis said Perry Ellis International is “performing very well,” both at wholesale and direct-to-consumer where the company operates online as well as through its own stores. Although the company hasn’t been immune to supply chain issues, Feldenkreis believes that while it may continue to put a crimp on business in the first half, “we see it alleviating in the second half of the year.” The company is also less affected than others since the majority of its shipments come into the East Coast rather than the West Coast where the worst of the bottleneck at ports has been, he said.
Among the strongest performers have been Nike swim, which PEI has the license for, as well as Callaway, PGA Tour and Original Penguin golf. “It was a great golf year and this year looks even stronger,” he said.
All told, Feldenkreis said the company, which owns a wide variety of brands in both men’s and women’s wear, “will surpass pre-COVID-19 numbers this year.” PEI is now a private company after it was purchased by Oscar Feldenkreis’s father, George, for $437 million in 2019.
“We’re excited about the future,” the CEO said. “COVID-19 allowed us to reset the clock and now we’re moving forward and expanding. There’s a lot of momentum within this company.”