In February 1984, Ellis and his long-time friend television producer and writer Barbara Gallagher conceived a child together via artificial insemination. Their daughter, Tyler Alexandra Gallagher Ellis, was born in November 1984. Ellis bought a home for Gallagher and their daughter in Brentwood, Los Angeles, and would visit frequently. In 2011, Tyler released her first line of handbags using the name Tyler Alexandra.
Ellis was born in Portsmouth, Virginia, on March 3, 1940, the only child of Edwin and Winifred Rountree Ellis. His father owned a Coal and Oil company which enabled the family to live a comfortable middle-class life. Perry graduated from Woodrow Wilson High School in Portsmouth, Virginia in 1957. Perry then studied at the College of William and Mary, in Williamsburg, Virginia, and graduated with a degree in business administration in 1961. He enlisted in the United States Coast Guard reserve to avoid the military draft and after six months he enrolled at New York University, from which he graduated with a master's degree in retailing in 1963. (Picture: AIDS quilt for Perry Ellis And Laughlin Barker)
A Perry Ellis’ fashion from the ‘80s (©2)
Perry Ellis was an American fashion designer who founded a sportswear house in the mid-1970s. In 1981, Ellis began a relationship with divorced attorney Laughlin Barker. Later that year, Ellis appointed Barker the President of licensing division of Perry Ellis International. They remained together until Barker's death in January 1986. Ellis' health rapidly declined after Barker's death. He died of viral encephalitis on May 30, 1986.
Ellis then started out in department store retailing in the Richmond, Virginia area to gain experience in the fashion industry as a buyer and merchandiser at the department store Miller & Rhoads. While there, he was co-founder of a Richmond retail shop A Sunny Day. He later joined the sportswear company John Meyer of Norwich in New York. In the mid-1970s, eventually, he was approached by his then employer, The Vera Companies, famous for their polyester double-knit pantsuits, to design a fashion collection for them. Soon after that, Ellis presented his first women's sportswear line, called Portfolio, in November 1976. Although he could not sketch, he knew exactly how the industry worked and proved a master of innovative ideas who created 'new classics' that American women longed for at the time.
Ellis, together with The Vera Companies' parent company, founded his own fashion house, Perry Ellis International, in 1978. He opened his showroom on New York's Seventh Avenue. As the company's chairman and head designer he later developed Perry Ellis Menswear Collection – marked by "non-traditional, modern classics". Step by step, he added shoes, accessories, furs and perfume that all bore his name. It became his trademark to skip down the runway at the end of his fashion shows.
Throughout the 1980s the company continued to expand and include various labels such as Perry Ellis Collection and Perry Ellis Portfolio. By 1982, the company had more than 75 staff. In 1984, Perry Ellis America was created in cooperation with Levi Strauss. In 1985, he revived his lesser-priced Portfolio line. In the early 1980s, wholesale revenues had figured at about $60 million. By 1986 that number had risen to about $260 million.
In October 1985, rumors that Ellis had contracted AIDS began to surface when he appeared on the runway at the end of his Fall fashion show. Ellis had lost a considerable amount of weight and looked much older. Around this time, Ellis' partner Laughlin Barker was undergoing chemotherapy for Kaposi's sarcoma, an AIDS-related cancer which later metastasized to his lungs. Ellis continued to deny that he was sick, but the rumors of his illness persisted after he passed out in the receiving line at a party at the Costume Institute in December 1985. On January 2, 1986, Barker died of lung cancer at the couple's home in Manhattan.
Ellis' health rapidly declined after Barker's death. By May 1986, Ellis had contracted viral encephalitis which caused paralysis on one side of his face. Despite his appearance, he insisted on appearing at his Fall fashion show held in New York City on May 8. At the end of the show, Ellis attempted to walk the runway for his final bow but was so weak, he had to be supported by two assistants. It was his final public appearance. Ellis was hospitalized soon after and he slipped into a coma. He died of viral encephalitis on May 30, 1986. A spokesperson for Ellis' company would not comment on whether the designer's death was AIDS-related stating, "Those were Perry's wishes."
Most newspapers omitted the AIDS rumors in Ellis' obituary and simply attributed his death to encephalitis. In August 1986, New York magazine writer Patricia Morrisroe wrote a story about Ellis' where she concluded that, "...many people believe Ellis had AIDS, and given the evidence, it seems likely."
Laughlin McClatchy Barker was in charge of licensing the designs of Perry Ellis Sportswear to companies in other fashion fields. They included accessories, furs, fragrances, shoes and men's clothing as well as home furnishings.
He was a lawyer with the firm of Patterson Belknap Webb & Tyler before joining the Perry Ellis concern.
He was born in Jacksonville, Fla., and grew up in Santa Fe, N.M. He attended the University of Bologna, graduated from the University of Colorado and received his law degree from Georgetown University.
Days of Love: Celebrating LGBT History One Story at a Time by Elisa Rolle
Paperback: 760 pages
Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform; 1 edition (July 1, 2014)
CreateSpace Store: https://www.createspace.com/4910282
Amazon (Paperback): http://www.amazon.com/dp/1500563323/?tag=e
Amazon (Kindle): http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00MZG0VHY/?tag=e
Days of Love chronicles more than 700 LGBT couples throughout history, spanning 2000 years from Alexander the Great to the most recent winner of a Lambda Literary Award. Many of the contemporary couples share their stories on how they met and fell in love, as well as photos from when they married or of their families. Included are professional portraits by Robert Giard and Stathis Orphanos, paintings by John Singer Sargent and Giovanni Boldini, and photographs by Frances Benjamin Johnson, Arnold Genthe, and Carl Van Vechten among others. “It's wonderful. Laying it out chronologically is inspired, offering a solid GLBT history. I kept learning things. I love the decision to include couples broken by death. It makes clear how important love is, as well as showing what people have been through. The layout and photos look terrific.” Christopher Bram “I couldn’t resist clicking through every page. I never realized the scope of the book would cover centuries! I know that it will be hugely validating to young, newly-emerging LGBT kids and be reassured that they really can have a secure, respected place in the world as their futures unfold.” Howard Cruse “This international history-and-photo book, featuring 100s of detailed bios of some of the most forward-moving gay persons in history, is sure to be one of those bestsellers that gay folk will enjoy for years to come as reference and research that is filled with facts and fun.” Jack Fritscher
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