Exclusive: An Interview With Luxury Handbag Designer, Tyler Ellis

BY Rohma Theunissen / Dec 8 2019 / 12:41 PM

"Each time I see anyone carrying my bag it’s a ‘pinch me moment’,"

Exclusive: An Interview With Luxury Handbag Designer, Tyler Ellis
Courtesy of Tyler Ellis

Tyler Ellis bags have fast become an essential at any major Hollywood event; with fashion forward A-listers frequently turning to the brand to arm them with a sleek, contemporary piece to complete their most glamourous red carpet looks. And it’s easy to see why even the Hollywood elite would find the brand so irresistible, the Los Angeles-based designer’s innate knack for reinventing classic silhouettes makes her bags playful, versatile and timeless all at once.

It comes as little surprise then when you learn that Tyler is hardly a novice when it comes to fashion. Daughter of prolific American fashion designer Perry Ellis, it would seem that innovative design literally courses through Tyler’s veins. Having started out her label anonymously under the name of Tyler Alexandra in 2011, Ellis has since gone on to rebrand her successful brand to include her father’s legacy within it.

We caught up with the talented designer ahead of her private client trunk show in Dubai to talk about her career, celebrities, her collections and of course, the Middle East.

Harper's BAZAAR Arabia: Your father Perry Ellis, was a fashion icon. When did you decide to follow in his footsteps?

Tyler Ellis: I didn’t start my fashion career until I was in my mid 20’s, mainly because of the fear of following in my father’s footsteps.  When I launched my company in 2011, I left off my last name and called it Tyler Alexandra because I knew I needed time to build the brand into something myself and my father would be truly proud of.  I originally produced my bags in Paris, at an LVMH owned factory, and as a growing company I was unable to get the attention needed to push the brand forward.  As a result, I decided to move my production to Italy, where I searched to find the perfect partner.  I currently produce all of my bags outside of Florence, at a father and son owned and operated factory.  I am incredibly proud to work with such talented artisans who view the fashion world the same way I do – quality over quantity and details are of the utmost importance.  In 2017, I was ready to use my last name and rebranded my business to “Tyler Ellis.”  My logo is in my father’s penmanship, taken from an envelope he addressed to me on my first birthday, making him a very special part of every piece I create. 

HBA: Has it been challenging working in the same arena as your father had?

TE: Yes. There are many misconceptions that I grew up surrounded by the fashion world and have access to everyone in the industry.  It’s actually the opposite. My father passed away when I was 18-months old and my mother raised me in Los Angeles so I could have private childhood away from the fashion scene.  It has taken a lot of time and effort to get people to understand how seriously I take my business and the thought and care I put into every design.  As a boutique brand it is difficult to compete against the significant budgets of large fashion houses, but one of the bonuses of being an independently owned company is that I build direct relationships with my clients.  I am able customize private orders creating unique pieces for clients that will be delivered to them from Italy within four weeks. 

HBA: Your handbags have become a Red-Carpet staple, who was the first celebrity to carry your bag and which style was it? Tell us about when you found out. 

TE: Emily Blunt was the first celebrity to carry my bag and I vividly remember the moment when I was notified.  I was in Paris, walking home from dinner with a friend, and I got an email with the photo of Emily carrying my bag.  It was such an exciting feeling that I will never forget.  To this day, each time I see anyone carrying my bag it’s a ‘pinch me moment’, as these women have access to anything and everything and they are choosing to carry Tyler Ellis.

HBA: Is there a particular style that is most requested for the red carpet?

TE: The Lee Pouchet, my signature envelope shape and the Perry Clutch, named for my father and designed after my engagement ring are the two most carried shapes on the carpet.  The Lee’s clean and understated silhouette makes it the perfect complement to couture gowns.  But what makes this bag even more special is its incredible versatility.  Carry it cross-body with a pair of jeans and tee-shirt and then take it out for a night on town in a super chic cocktail dress, day-to-night perfection!  If you are wanting more of a statement piece, the Perry’s custom metal frame, which is finished off with my signature pinecone closure, offers just the right amount of pop.  Functionality is a huge factor in my designs, so both clutches hold the largest i-Phone, with room to spare, have optional cross-body chains and feel wonderful in the hand. 

HBA: Tell us about your SS/20 collection, what is the inspiration behind it?

TE: The collection is called Piuma Road, named after a beautiful street in Malibu Canyon with stunning views of LA’s rolling mountains and ocean.  The morning sky is like an incredible pastel canvas with pinks and lavenders glistening through the soft clouds.  Yet it is also home to the iconic Saddle Peak Lodge, a romantic, rustic restaurant that was a childhood favorite of mine and a secret getaway to legendary stars of a bygone era.      

HBA:You have visited the Middle East on numerous occasions. What are your thoughts on the Middle Eastern woman?

TE: There is an incredible appreciation for luxury and couture fashion. Their sense of style radiates though their impeccable clothing choices, filled with gorgeous prints, jewel-tone colors, and the perfect amount of sparkle.  I also appreciate their thoughtful and sometimes strong points of view; they command an extraordinary presence when entering a room.  It’s truly impressive!

HBA: What styles have you found are most popular in the region?

TE: My bolder silhouettes have been very well received in the region. Metallics, chainmail and crushed velvet (in gemstone colors) are what seem to resonate the most.  The shapes that are most coveted are the Ava Box with the custom metal horn handle, the Grace Pouch and the Lee Pouchet, as all of these styles transition perfectly from day to night.  

HBA: Do you have any plans to increase your presence in the Middle East?

TE: Yes!  I just started working with a regional PR team to build awareness for my brand.  I am actually headed over to Dubai for a few events in early December.  I will also be back next spring as I am looking forward to collaborating with local brand ambassadors to host several private salon shows, 

which excites me as I am able to meet more women and speak directly with them about my brand.  Based on the positive reactions I’ve had in the region you will likely be seeing a lot more of me in the coming months and years.

HBA: What can we expect next from Tyler Ellis brand?  Any surprises we should look out for?

TE: I recently partnered with the Oetker Collection hotel group and I am exploring partnerships in Asia and the Middle East.  This is exceptionally exciting to me as fashion and travel are two of my biggest passions.  Stay tuned for more to come!

All Images: Courtesy of Tyler Ellis