PERRY ELLIS, fashion designer (d. 1986); an American fashion designer who founded a sportswear house in the mid-1970s. 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 seventy-five 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 $250 million.
Perry Ellis fell seriously ill during the mid-1980s. Initially, it was not said what he was suffering from, although he had been treated for hepatitis in a previous year. At the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) annual awards ceremony in January of 1986 he had to be accompanied to the podium by an aide to receive his award. In May of that year, Ellis was not able to perform his traditional skip down the runway anymore and, looking shockingly gaunt and frail, had to be supported by two of his employees when he briefly appeared at the end of the show.
It was to be his last fashion show and he received standing ovations for it. Immediately after the show, he was admitted to New York Hospital-Cornell Medical Center where he fell into a coma and died two weeks later of viral encephalitis, an AIDS-related disease, on May 30, 1986. A memorial was held at the New York Ethical Culture Society that June. Perry Ellis was dead at 46 and one of the first prominent American figures to succumb to AIDS.