Statement bags have been a thing for decades now, and logomania isn’t a trend that’s fading away anytime soon. Yet every once in a while, less truly is more, and none would agree more than Tyler Ellis. The creative Director and CEO of her eponymous brand, Ellis has slowly but surely carved a niche for herself in the luxury accessories market, with some of the most influential women in the world—from Oprah Winfrey and Jennifer Lopez, to Jill Biden, Kerry Washington, Paris Hilton and Heidi Klum favoring her understated, yet sinfully luxurious clutches and bags.
“My father, American fashion designer Perry Ellis, passed away when I was eighteen months old,” Ellis recalls during a chat with Vogue Arabia. “My mother chose to raise me in Los Angeles, away from New York and the fashion scene. I always loved bags and accessories, but I shied away from the industry because of the fear of not living up to my father’s iconic reputation. I ended up following in my mother’s footsteps, earning a degree in communications at Boston University.” Within a year of graduating, young Ellis realized that Hollywood just wasn’t for her. “I left LA and moved to New York and was fortunate enough to get a job with Michael Kors, where I was able to work behind the scenes directly with Michael and his partner/creative director Lance LePere styling his runway show. I watched and learned how the tiniest details can make or break a look, a principle that has become one of the key pillars behind my brand.”
Today, Ellis’ bags are a hit on Instagram, and their discreet designs make them the perfect accompaniments to simple and statement looks alike. The pinecone-inspired details have become a signature—more on that later—and the jewel-toned clutches are both, fuss-free yet fashion-forward. Below, Vogue Arabia gets to know more about the woman who’s changing the way the world looks at accessories, one bag at a time.
Tell us about the moment when you first decided to launch your own brand of bags. What inspired the decision?
After my time at Michael Kors I felt ready to embark on the long process of building a modern luxury label. My goal is not to be the next trend, it is to establish my roots in the luxury world, grow slowly, continue to gain industry trust and respect, while building on my Ellis legacy.
I chose to focus on luxury not only because of my love and admiration for artisanal works, but also because I found women globally carrying the same logo driven bags from large fashion houses. I decided early on that my silhouettes would not have logos anywhere on the exterior because I want the design, craftmanship and materials to speak for themselves. The strategic, yet subtle brand details I did create are all personally significant. The interior of every bag is lined in my signature Thayer Blue, named after the Los Angeles street where I spent my early years and inspired by my long-time favorite color, Blue Violet. My symbolic Pinecone embodies the ancient symbol of the third eye, representing the highest form of spiritual awakening, perfection and much more. Pinecones adorn the zippers, feet and fasteners of many of my designs. Most special to me is my Tyler Ellis logo which is in my father’s penmanship. His writing was taken from an envelope he addressed to me on my first birthday, making him a part of every piece I create.
Your handbags look at luxury via a different lens, focusing on timeless pieces over trends. Does this approach also extend into your personal life? How so?
100%. When I purchase an item, whether it’s jewelry, clothes, or home furnishings, I want it to be relevant for a lifetime. I love well-made striking pieces that could be either new or old. My wardrobe consists mostly of neutral colors, and classic, quality silhouettes that I can wear for years to come. Our home is a collection of new, vintage, and custom pieces combined in an elegant way that sets a mood, making the home feel like it has been around for a long time, yet finished tactfully, and beautifully providing the luxurious vibe of a modern residence.
Tell us about the first time your designs were worn by a celebrity. Who was it? What was that moment like?
Emily Blunt was the first celebrity to carry one of my bags. I was in Paris walking home from dinner, and I remember looking down at my phone and saw the image of Emily holding my clutch. It was a surreal moment. My heart started pounding, and I couldn’t stop smiling from ear to ear. To this day, I am humbled every time I see my bags on the red carpet in the hands of talented, beautiful, and influential women. These are women who have access to anything and everything, and it makes me so proud that they choose to carry my designs.
This experience has also evolved for me. As much as I love seeing my bags on the red carpet, nothing makes me happier as a designer than seeing my bags worn in public.
Your pieces have made it to countless red carpet events and have been spotted on several famous personalities. Who do you hope to see carrying your bags one day?
I would love for Kate Middleton to carry one of my pieces. She is timeless, elegant and an intelligent, worldly role model for young girls. She does not go for trends, her style is classic yet youthful, and my bags would complement her wardrobe beautifully. I envision my signature Lee Pouchet paired with her monochromatic moments, my LJ Handbag styled with her chic coat dresses, and my Perry Clutch as the finishing touch to her sparkling Jenny Packham gowns.
How would you describe the Tyler Ellis woman?
Timeless, confident, sophisticated, understated, and worldly. My clients are women who have their branded high-end bags, but are looking for unique pieces with the same impeccable quality. These women have access to the créme de la crème, so I wanted to offer them something special that the larger fashion houses cannot, a full bespoke experience. I launched Bespoke by Tyler Ellis, a program that offers clients a personally tailored experience that connects them directly with a member of our dedicated concierge team to customize a one-of-a-kind handbag. This highly curated service allows you to hand select every decorative aspect of your bag including skin/material, hardware, embroidery, or engraving. Our devoted team will work with our exclusive network of top Italian and French tanneries to find the exact color 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.
One of the most rewarding complements I continue to receive from clients is that they get stopped more often carrying my handbags than any other brand they own.
Lastly, what’s next for you in terms of designing?
I’m finalizing the hardware for a new silhouette I designed with the red carpet in mind. We are planning to release it for awards season 2023. I’m also working on a capsule collection for one of the big hotels in the region. We are hoping to launch early next year. Stay tuned!