Photos: The Ellis Family
Tyler Ellis’ sartorial journey has been a lifetime in the making. In November of 1984, she was born in Los Angeles to the legendary designer Perry Ellis and his good friend, Barbara Gallagher, an NBC executive and one of the original producers of Saturday Night Live. "The plan was for me to live in L.A. for the school year and travel abroad with my father in the summers," Tyler recalls. "But things changed."
The fashion industry was rocked when Perry Ellis tragically passed away in May 1986, of complications from AIDS. Although the world lost an icon, Tyler lost her dad. "My father passed away when I was 18 months old, so I have no personal memories of him," Tyler says. "However, from stories my mom and his peers have told me, I see so many similarities between myself and my father, which to me is so amazing."
After college, Tyler moved to New York City, where she began to connect with the fashion community that had embraced her father so many years before. "I was fortunate to meet Michael Kors, and ended up interning directly with his team," she says. "They were so down to earth—a sentiment that, prior to this experience, I didn’t think existed in fashion." Eventually, the pull of her design DNA proved too difficult to resist, and she decided to launch her own handbag line in 2011. "I have always been an accessories girl, but what really pushed me into the handbag world was traveling," Tyler says. "I kept noticing that women all over the globe, from London to Delhi, were carrying the same luxury handbag brands. So I decided to embark on creating a brand of the same quality as the big houses, but with bespoke charm."
With that mission in mind, Tyler set out to create a luxurious, artisanal collection of handbags, purses, totes and clutches, manufactured first in Paris, and later Florence, using the finest leathers and exotic skins. She labeled the line Tyler Alexandra, dropping her famous last name. "Reflecting back, starting the company was a life-altering event," she explains. "I was going to be judged by the same community as my father, who is one of the most talented and well-regarded designers of his generation. Candidly, I chose Alexandra out of fear of not being good enough."
Over the past few years, as her company has evolved and expanded, so too has her personal life. She fell in love, got married and recently made the decision to move back home to the City of Angeles. "No place could change my L.A. mentality," Tyler says. "I love its relaxed, casual vibe." As she returned to her roots physically, she finally embraced them professionally, as well—last fall, as she celebrated the fifth anniversary of her brand, she officially changed the name of her line to Tyler Ellis. "I finally felt ready to embrace my last name in the fashion world," she says. "My father is an extraordinary American fashion icon, and he will always be—but that doesn’t mean that I can’t create my own Ellis legacy."
Now, as Tyler settles into her new life in L.A., she is looking to the future. She is about to introduce her Fall 2017 collection, inspired by the glitz and glamour of Monaco—think glossy red alligator and ice blue ostrich. And she is also debuting perhaps her most personal piece—the Perry, an emerald-cut shaped clutch based off of the design of her own engagement ring. "I’m hoping to see the Perry all over the red carpet this year," says Tyler. "After all, it’s obviously where he belongs."