When Tyler Alexandra Ellis launched a luxury handbag line five years ago, she refrained from using her last name because she didn't want to trade on the reputation of her father, the legendary designer Perry Ellis, who died in 1986 when she was only 18 months old.
But as she has carved out a reputation as a go-to designer for the Hollywood red carpet crowd (her clients include Emma Stone, Amy Adams and Jenna Dewan Tatum), she finally decided to embrace her heritage and recently changed the name of her Tyler Alexandra accessories line to Tyler Ellis — in homage to her father.
"This is my 5-year anniversary, so I thought it was a great time," Ellis explained during a recent trunk show at Elizabeth Anthony. "The product has really come to where I wanted to see it and I felt ready to take my father's last name — my last name — and embrace it because those are pretty big shoes to fill."
Before changing the name, she consulted with stores who carried the collection and they were all for it. "I think because it is my name it actually makes more sense to people," she said. "I got some really positive feedback on it, which is nice. It just seems to fit."
The brand is known for classic, vintage-inspired handbags made of exotic skins like ostrich, alligator, and python, with a signature blue violet satin or suede lining and a small gold plaque that reads “Tyler Ellis” in her father’s cursive inside. (He left her a handwritten envelope addressed to Miss Tyler Alexandra Ellis for when she turned 1 and she incorporated his handwriting into her logo.) Handcrafted brass pinecones — a symbol of spiritual enlightenment — adorn the zipper pulls and the little stoppers underneath the bag.
Ellis feels inspired by her father's legacy. "He was a perfectionist and he wanted the best. So with my bags, everything is about the details. I don't want to cut any corners," she said. "And he also said, 'Always make fashion fun.' His models were always smiling. Just keep it fun and exciting and happy. And that's what I'm trying to do. Love what you do. Love your product. They're my babies."
For spring, Ellis is expanding the collection with clutches and envelopes in brushed velvet, in a array of bright colors, or dotted with two sizes of Swarovski crystals. She has also debuted handbags in a variety of shapes and sizes made of a soft non-scratchable French leather. She calls it the Palm Springs Collection, because it's inspired by the colors and architecture of the California resort and the work of photographer Slim Aarons.
At the request of some Texas customers who are football fans, Ellis came up with a see-through handbag made of clear plastic and trimmed in leather that meets the regulations for entry into NFL games. "It's great for the pool, too, because it's waterproof," she said. "And the large bags come with a built-in phone charger."
While in Houston, Ellis was the center of attention at a cocktail party at Elizabeth Anthony hosted by Kelley Lubanko, with 10 percent of sales benefiting the Children’s Assessment Center. DJ Supastar spun tunes, while guests, including Elaine Stolte, Kelli Weinzieri, Jill Buja, Lisa Caledonia, Elizabeth Anthony owner Julie Roberts, Kiki Wilson, Sue Pruden, and Harriet Gertner sipped champagne and sampled light bites by Swift Catering.