On Thursday Oct. 17, Parsons The New School For Design opened its doors in celebration of pioneering designer Perry Ellis, whose all too short career forever altered the face of American fashion. Coty Award-winning designer Jeffrey Banks was on hand to launch the much-anticipated monograph, "Perry Ellis: An American Original," which he co-authored with Doria de La Chapelle and famed photographer Erica Lennard; the book also contains a forward by designer Marc Jacobs. To mark the launch, Banks worked closely with Ellis’s former assistants Patricia Pastor and Jed Krascella to create a mini-retrospective of some of the designer’s most memorable looks from 1976-1986. Fashionable fans of Ellis’s eponymous line, including photographer Bill Cunningham and friends CFDA’s Steven Kolb, Diane von Furstenberg, Isaac Mizrahi, Fern Mallis and Vogue’s Hamish Bowles.of the late designer, enjoyed wine and hors d’oeuvres while taking in the extensive archival collection, which featured nearly 70 looks curated for the occasion.
Parsons Dean of Fashion, Simon Collins, took the stage to introduce Jeffrey Banks and speak about Perry Ellis’s contribution to the world of fashion. “It strikes me that this evening is all about legends,” Collins mused. “People use that term loosely and I don't think that’s appropriate. I think there are certain things in our industry in New York that are legendary, and I think this is one example of them: The work of Perry Ellis. I think if you look at the work around us, in some ways it defines a generation, it defines an era.” Indeed, Ellis’s era-defining, casual sensibility could be seen in each archival look on display, whether it be the relaxed men’s khakis and cable crews, or luxuriously cozy-looking women’s sweaters and circle skirts.
Stealing a small break from book signing, Jeffrey Banks took the time to speak to Examiner.com about "Perry Ellis: An American Original." When asked about the legacy he feels Perry Ellis left on American fashion, Banks said, “I think the greatest stamp that Perry made was that he was a real American designer. He didn’t look to Europe for inspiration, he didn’t look to Europe for direction. He designed from his own heart, his own background, being a southern gentleman from Virginia. All of that comes through in his work, you know, it was always original. He didn’t care what anyone else was doing, he did what he felt was right.” Did the author learn anything in researching the legendary designer that surprised him? “The thing that I kind of knew but I really found out as we were doing the book was his laser focus. When Perry wanted something, nothing got in his way, whether it was a material or a kind of construction. I mean, he wanted to do plaid furs, and the furrier said, It’s impossible, we can’t do it! And he said, It’s not impossible! —And he did it, and it was spectacular!”
Brigid Ronan contributed reporting.