//Words: José Berrocoso//
REDEFINING THE CONCEPT OF LUXURY HANDBAGS (AND CLUTCHES!)
Tyler Ellis, the daughter of the iconic fashion designer Perry Ellis and Hollywood TV writer and executive Barbara Gallagher, launched her eponymous luxury accessories brand in 2011. Her seasonless designs balance luxury and function with a timeless elegance. As a result, Tyler’s handbags have become a mainstay on Hollywood’s international red carpets. Her designs are brought to life by the hands of fastidious Italian artisans who produce perfection no machine can mimic. From hand-stitching and hand-painted edges to custom hardware created specifically for each design, Tyler Ellis handbags represent an ardent commitment to couture and quality craftsmanship that has earned a cult following. The designs look equally at home on the red carpet as well as in everyday life and are carried by influential women worldwide. As a personal homage to Tyler’s father, Perry Ellis’ handwriting appears as the company logo; and most dear to Tyler, he is a part of everything she creates.
City Pages Magazine: You have created unique works of art on iconic bags, how did you come up with the idea?
Tyler Ellis: I view my handbags as unique works of art. Everything I create, down to my TE metal dog-clips, is designed by me and handcrafted in one of the few remaining multi-generationally owned Italian factories. I am a woman designing for women, which means practicality is as important as aesthetics. As the sole owner of my company, I do not have investors pushing me to cut corners in order to raise the profit margin. I’ve worked hard to create timeless defining details and source the best materials possible, while always maintaining brand integrity and continuing to strive for perfection. If you stay true to your principles your designs will separate themselves from the rest and your brand will thrive as you build your legacy.
CPM: What made you choose handbags and clutches as your premiere product?
TE: I have always loved accessories, but what really pushed me toward handbags was the challenge of finding a truly unique luxury handbag. From LA to London to Dubai to Delhi; in the exclusive world of luxury, I found women only carrying the same few established brands. This inspired me to put my roots in the ground and begin the long process of building my own luxury label that, like these legacy brands, will remain relevant for generations to come.
CPM: How does your brand revive true luxury?
TE: In today’s world, mainstream, mass-produced and in-expensive brands use the term ‘luxury’ as a marketing tool to promote their machine-made products. I view luxury items as extremely rare, timeless, perfectly crafted designs, a concept I strive to bring back to life. My designs are all handcrafted at a multi-generationally owned factory in Le Seici, Italy, by highly trained native artisans. Our partnership was founded upon our mutual desire to perfect every aspect of each design. From my metal frames, down to my dog-clips, to my signature Thayer Blue linings, Pinecone Feet, Closures and Zipper pulls, (symbolizing the highest form of spiritual awakening and the third eye) all aspects of my creations are designed and built for Tyler Ellis. The importance of quality service is another key factor in the elite world of luxury that today, few brands are investing in. I am extremely proud of Bespoke by Tyler Ellis a highly curated experience that connects you directly with a member of our dedicated concierge team to customize the decorative aspects of your bag including the skin/material, hardware, embroidery and/or engraving. Our devoted team will work with our exclusive network of top Italian and French tanneries to find the exact colour or shade you’ve been dreaming of. Straps and chains will be cut to your precise measurements and your personalized handbag will be delivered to you within a matter of weeks. When you purchase a TE product you are returning to the purest form of luxury.
CPM: What sets Tyler Ellis apart from other luxury brands?
TE: Me. I strongly believe if you’re not going to do it right, don’t do it at all. My views on the importance of top craftsmanship, unique design, timeless appeal, practical functionality and attention to intricate details are the core DNA of my brand. My goal is not to be the next trend, it’s to establish my roots in the luxury world, grow slowly, continue to gain industry trust and respect, while building my Ellis legacy. I take extreme pride in my work, and make sure each piece produced meets the highest possible standards, my standards.
CPM: What inspires your designs?
TE: My inspirations typically come from traveling and people watching. Lars Nilsson (former Creative Director of Nina Ricci) was a mentor to me in the beginning of my career. We would walk around Paris, the magical City of Lights, and he would point out old brick walls, or doorknob handles, or tops of tea kettles and inspirations for new designs would roll off his tongue. I began to really pay attention to my surroundings and realize how much the world has to offer.
My Pinecone symbol was inspired from a trip I took to the Vatican years before I began TE. To this day, I still remember standing in Pigna Court and looking up at the beautifully aged pinecone fountain and being completely enthralled – who knew years later it would become the core signature of my brand. It is all about the details!
CPM: What do you want women to feel when they carry, or covet, a Tyler Ellis bag?
TE: Happy and special! Some of the most rewarding feedback I get from my clients is how thrilled they are because they are continually stopped when carrying their TE bags, as opposed to when they carry their recognizable branded bags.
CPM: Of your designs, which are your favourites to carry?
TE: At the moment, I’m loving my Stella Petite in Metallic Lavender Lizard. It’s a mini bag but because of the accordion shaped gusset, the interior tri-compartment fits a lot more than you would imagine, including the large iPhone and all your essentials. I’m also in love with my Tiffany ‘Classica’ in patent leather. It’s incredibly timeless, super elegant and can easily transition from day to night. I’ve been spending a lot of time in Cabo San Lucas, so my LJ ‘Jelly’ has been my go-to beach bag as its water resistant and has a cross-body strap, perfect for strolls along the beach.
CPM: You work with craftspeople around the world, tell me more about these people, their skills, their passion, their life.
TE: My bags are all hand crafted in Le Sieci, a tiny region of Italy known for its highly skilled artisans who have been producing handbags for generations. The patriarch of my factory is one of a handful of people left in the world who can construct an entire handbag himself. He and his son, who happens to be my exact age, are incredibly engaged and appreciate the importance of intricate details and view the work of luxury the same way I do. We have an incredible partnership and are always learning and growing from each other.
CPM: Some brands appreciate greatly in value over time, making handbags a worthy investment. Do you have any advice for women who want to start investing in a handbag collection, but don’t know where to start?
TE: Invest in quality brands that are more than just a trend. Look for brands that cut no corners and use only the best assets possible. Many self-proclaimed ‘luxury’ brands try, and some do, to get away with sourcing average materials because the typical consumer, at no fault of his/her own, has not been properly educated. Take caiman vs. alligator, many claim the two are the same, yet caiman is the D level cousin of the alligator. Once you touch an alligator handbag’s supple, soft, agile skin and compare it to its cousin’s tough, rigid texture, you will understand why alligator is priced the way it is. Choose unique pieces you fall in love with, timeless pieces that you envision your daughter coveting. As Karl Lagerfeld said, “Trendy is the last phase before tacky.”
CPM: What are your thoughts on the Middle Eastern woman?
TE: I was born and raised in Los Angeles, CA so I’m a very casual person. I’m typically in jeans, a tee-shirt and flats, rarely will you find me in heels, though I do love to look at them. I am always in awe of Middle Eastern women because of their striking beauty and innate confidence. They are flawless from head to toe, the perfect make-up, outfit and accessories all presented with impeccable poise. Every time I’m in the region I’m always inspired to put on a cocktail dress and some high heels!
CPM: Do you have any plans to increase your presence in the Middle East?
TE: I was hoping to spend more time in the region; unfortunately I don’t know when that will happen because of the pandemic. However, I am extremely excited to be working on a spectacular handbag collaboration with Abu Dhabi based couture designer Hamda Al Fahim. We are in the final stages and are hoping to launch these incredible beauties shortly. Get ready for sparkling haute couture red carpet clutches!
I’m also in discussions with a spectacular 5-star hotel in Dubai about designing custom prints on my bags for their property. Stay tuned!
CPM: What’s next for Tyler Ellis?
TE: I spent a lot of time during quarantine expanding my creativity into adjacent verticals. I continue to be focused on women’s handbags, but it has given me opportunity to expand my men’s collection as well as create some more accessories and home goods. I’m designing golf score card holders, belts meant for the course as well as the C-suite, exotic tissue boxes, blankets, luxury goods you typically might not find. It’s exciting and keeps my creative juices flowing.