We sat down with Perry Ellis’ Creative Director Michael Maccari to learn more about his past experiences, what he’s bringing to the classic American brand and more.

Sitting among titans of American fashion, Perry Ellis founded his eponymous label in 1978. Known for his beautiful hand-knit sweaters, alongside new proportions and patterns, Ellis quickly became a household name next to icons like Ralph Lauren and Calvin Klein. Now undergoing a major overhaul, we sat down with the brand’s Creative Director Michael Maccari to learn more about his much-anticipated debut collection, design background and inspiration. Take a look below for the full piece.

Please introduce yourself.

My name is Michael Maccari, I’m the new Creative Director for the Perry Ellis brand.

Perry Ellis founded his eponymous label in 1978. What are your first memories of the brand?

I have a personal connection with the brand. A close family friend worked along side Perry Ellis, so I knew of the man and his clothing early on. I was fortunate enough that she would bring me some of his pieces, many of which I still have in my own personal collection today. My early memories of his work include his unusual mix of colors and oversized hand-knit sweaters.

You’ve worked for some of America’s most iconic designers including Ralph Lauren, Calvin Klein and Donna Karan. What did you learn at these labels that you’ve brought along with you to Perry Ellis?

While at these brands, I helped to articulate the vision of the designer, each with their own clear aesthetic. Coming to Perry Ellis is a wonderful opportunity for me to honor the history, legacy and aesthetic of Perry Ellis the designer, reinterpreted for today’s customer. It’s a thrill to be working for such an iconic American designer brand.

What inspired you while designing your debut collection for Perry Ellis?

This collection was inspired by New York City’s architectural grids and linear elements along with artist Sean Scully’s “Changes and Horizontals” piece featuring repetitive stripe sequences and rich, bold color.

Are there certain design elements you applied to the collection?

I took a new look at season-less dressing and layering. Unexpected fabrics and bold, playful patterns cue a new “uniform” and introduce a new take on wear-to-work wear.  I’ll introduce athletic layers, performance textiles in dressy silhouettes and dress fabrics in active silhouettes, fresh details, bold prints, and a glazed, modern palette to create an honest approach to blending active and sportswear.

How did you take Perry Ellis’ iconic history and infuse it with your own unique creative vision?

In the design, there is a nod to the brand’s namesake through unexpected patterns, bold striping, oversized knits and wearable color, all Very Perry design elements. We also cue Perry Ellis’ legacy through unexpected styling – functional layering and a lighthearted approach to dressing.

Are there any pieces or designs in particular that reference the label’s legacy?

All pieces reference the brand’s legacy but a few standout pieces include the center front cable sweater, Perry wide stripe shirt and the pieces showing playful twists on classic patterns.

Is there a certain type of man you had in mind throughout the design process?

The modern, active man who is looking for the new, unexpected wear-to-work uniform.

Technical fabrics have become a staple in fashion collections across the board. Can we expect classic Perry Ellis menswear pieces to have this contemporary edge?

Absolutely, today’s man wants to dress functionally and is able to layer technical and dressy items alongside each other. We will have multiple layers featuring windbreakers with suiting, swim as shorts, and nylon vests under smart jackets. We will also play up this contemporary edge through the duality of dressing, with technical fabrics such as nylon and neoprene in traditional sportswear silhouettes and active styles in dressier fabrics like linen and suede.

Where do you see the Perry Ellis label among the current fashion landscape?

Perry Ellis is a full lifestyle brand, similar to a Calvin Klein or Tommy Hilfiger with many different product lines and global distribution, that’s more from a business perspective. From a sensibility perspective, you see the influence of Perry Ellis’ work in such contemporary designers such as Michael Bastian, who continue to draw inspiration from his work.

Look for the collection to debut in the coming months and shop the current collection straight from the brand’s online shop.

Director of Content Strategy

Brock Cardiner is Highsnobiety's Director of Content Strategy. He oversees Highsnobiety's editorial approach across platforms & mediums. Brock splits his time between Berlin, Los Angeles and New York.

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