When you look at some of the big brands of today, Perry Ellis isn’t exactly front of mind. That’s not to say it’s not good, though. With a footprint in stalwarts like Marshall’s, TJ Maxx, and Macy’s, the brand maintains a presence as an accessible American staple. But, is Perry Ellis still a good brand?
Here, we’ll discuss the rise, fall, and rebirth of this iconic American brand and whether it’s still relevant in a highly saturated marketplace.
Beginning and Early Success
Perry Ellis got his start in the fashion industry working retail and sales for Miller & Rhoads department stores. He was approached by a later employer, the Vera Companies, to design a womenswear collection. He used Princeton cheerleaders to create a classic America silhouette. It debuted to huge success.
After the first collection, he expanded to include a number of sub-labels, including menswear, and the eponymous ‘Perry Ellis Collection’ and ‘Perry Ellis Portfolio.’ In 1984, he entered into a partnership with Levi Strauss & Co. to create Perry Ellis America.
After Ellis’ death in 1986, Marc Jacobs was appointed head of design. Jacobs’ design aesthetic initially proved to work well. He had an eye for the trends of the time, and was able to steer the Perry Ellis brand in an innovative direction, garnering significant press and media attention along the way.
His infamous “Grunge Collection” in S/S 1993, however, was widely criticized at the time for putting flannel, knit caps, and thick boots on a runway. Jacobs was fired, and the aftermath marked major changes within the brand. Leadership began favoring a team of creators instead of relying on ‘star designers’ to carry the show.
Acquisitions and Accessibility
In the late 90s, Supreme International acquired the brand and changed the moniker to Perry Ellis International.
The acquisition helped to streamline supply chains and distribution networks. Such strategic moves brought the PEI family of brands into large department stores. It quickly found its place among contemporary American stalwarts like Ralph Lauren and Tommy Hilfiger.
The PEI family now includes over 25 sub-labels focused primarily on sports and casualwear, including Original Penguin, Callaway Golf, Ping Golf, PGA Tour, and Grand Slam.
Mass-market appeal can often result in one-size-fits all. While styling is inoffensive, sizing has been an issue for some customers. Suits are described as tight-fitting in the chest and shoulders, but oversized and bulky through the torso and trousers.
This inconsistency has not deterred customers from purchasing, however, as most appreciate the classic American style at lower price points.
Perry Ellis Today
As trends of the late 1980’s and early 1990s have reimerged, PEI has tried to capitalize on its golden years by launching two capsule collections.
The first featured direct recreations of the much-loved Perry Ellis originals; while the second collection contained modern takes on the classic track suit and other 90s silhouettes.
These collections certainly cater to brand loyalists who have followed Perry Ellis along its evolution, but they also serve to introduce people to what it used to be.
And, the company has also sought to capitalize on modern technology, even rolling out an Alexa skill to help guys get dressed for events.
Is Perry Ellis Good?
Perry Ellis created a brand that made waves throughout the late 70s and early 80s. His death saw the brand make significant changes and move more into the realm of an accessible, everyday clothing brand.
Defining “good”, though, isn’t easy when factoring in the vast family of brands under the PEI umbrella.
Materials and quality of construction are sub-par at best. But, at a low price point, that’s to be expected. And, fit is also hit-or-miss.
The brand does have a few things going for it. Styling tends to be pretty versatile and easy to wear. And, price is certainly approachable.
So, we think a brand like Perry Ellis can be good in certain situations. Consider it if you’re a college student or new professional on a budget. Polos, T-shirts, and some dress shirts may be worth it; but we believe there are better off-the-rack suits out there.
Members of our community seem to think Perry Ellis is ‘okay’ in fit and quality, but the price point still makes it a viable option.
But, what do you think? Let us know in the comments or over on our community page!