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Perry Ellis America: 'We're the new kid on the block'

Introducing American stalwart Perry Ellis’s new brand extension, which is drawing on its archive to feed the demand for throwback sportswear.

At the height of his career, Perry Ellis was one of the biggest menswear designers in America, alongside Ralph Lauren and Calvin Klein. Although the designer died in 1986, his brand has become a billion-dollar business in the US thanks to its smart-casual menswear.

As it expands in the European market, Perry Ellis is bringing back some of the brand’s classic designs as part of a youthful heritage capsule collection – Perry Ellis America – which originally launched in 1984 and returned last November to tap into the trend for throwback sportswear-meets-streetwear styles.

“The time is right to dive into our rich archives to put a fresh spin on the Perry Ellis brand,” says creative director Michael Maccari. “[Perry Ellis America] is our way of introducing our brand to new markets and flex our design muscles to show what we are capable of beyond the [main Perry Ellis] collection, which may, or may not, be known in [Europe].”

We are riding on the needs and wants of the savvy Gen Z customer, who is looking for retro elements in the clothing that they wear

James Shepherd, Perry Ellis America

“We are riding on the needs and wants of the savvy Gen Z customer, who is looking for retro elements in the clothing that they wear,” adds EU brand director James Shepherd. “I also think that consumers now are more switched on to brands with a story and heritage, so perhaps this is why this trend is having such a moment.”

All inclusive

Pitched as a unisex brand – and already worn by singer Justin Bieber and his wife, Hayley Baldwin – the collection is anchored by 1990s-style panelled tracksuits, T-shirts, knitwear and outerwear, including over-the-head fleeces.

Perry ellis autumn 19 (1)

Perry Ellis autumn 19

“A portion of the collection is made up of pieces that are exact recreations [from the archive],” explains Maccari. “The rest is re-interpreted or redesigned. We’ve added in some pieces to round out the assortment, but the re-issues are re-issues to the stitch.”

The re-issues are re-issues to the stitch

Michael Maccari, Perry Ellis America

And while many pieces authentically honour the original designs – particularly Perry Ellis’s stylish take on prominent branding and logos – new fabrics keep the collection fresh, adding easy care, water repellent and breathable properties.

Now on its fourth drop, new designs arrive in regular drops rather than the typical spring and autumn segmentation. Wholesale prices range from £30 for T-shirts to £150 for outerwear, and Perry Ellis wants to position the sub-brand alongside heritage sportswear collections from competitors such as Champion, Fila and Tommy Jeans.

Retro wave

As well as being available via the Perry Ellis website, stockists for the brand extension already include USC, Footlocker, Urban Outfitters and JD Sports. It has around 60 doors globally.

“Lately we have seen very strong performances for the retro sports fashion and heritage American brands,” says Venja Onnenga, buyer at Zalando, which began stocking Perry Ellis America for autumn 19. “The brand offers a strong retro sportswear look and is well known for its heritage brand roots within the lifestyle area,” she says, adding that the core customer so far has been men aged 25 to 34.

Perry ellis spring 20 (36)

Perry Ellis spring 20

But, as more and more brands reissue archive collections and lean on their heritage to capitalise on the current trend, new collections need to stand out in an increasingly saturated market, and evolve to keep up with trend-hungry shoppers.

“It is important that the retro sports brands move with the times, and continue to innovate based on the changing customer taste and market environment,” agrees Zalando’s Onnenga. “Going forward, I expect the retro trend to be more influenced by the 1970s and 1980s and we can also see that skatewear is becoming more and more relevant.”

Despite growing competition, the Perry Ellis team remain confident: “Perry Ellis as a brand is not so well known in Europe,” says Shepherd, “which I believe is its strongest selling point, as we are the new kid on the block.”

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