Tyler Ellis is no stranger to the fashion industry. Guided by industry icons hailing from both her own DNA and the working environments she found herself in, Ellis has taken those lessons and crafted a successful namesake business. After finding her niche in a heavily crowded playing field, Hollywood’s elite continually seek out Ellis’ pieces. Now the bespoke accessories designer speaks to 5' ELEVEN’' about the finer details in both life and in business that have shaped her world.
Words by Maggie Jones.
LA-based luxury accessories designer Tyler Ellis is one to stand firm in her vision - personally, professionally and creatively, “for me my favorite word is respect. Nothing is easy and you have to work hard. Yes, you have down days but then you look at the products and it truly makes me happy to do what I do. That’s what really kept me going.”
A descendent of fashion pedigree, Ellis is the daughter of the late acclaimed American sportswear designer Perry Ellis (who passed away when Ellis was only eighteen months old), and NBC executive and Saturday Night Live producer Barbara Gallagher. “I grew up in LA away from the fashion world so that I could have kind of a private childhood. I went to school for film and television at Boston University, following in my mum’s footsteps, because of the fear of how successful my father was, how iconic he was... what big shoes to fill.”
Preconceived “The Devil Wears Prada” stereotypes once kept Ellis outside of the fashion world. Yet after graduating, Ellis decided to follow her heart and move to New York City and what transpired next was a pivotal internship and eventual mentorship with famed designer Michael Kors. Ellis took away invaluable lessons, “to work with him and Lance Lepere, who is his partner and Creative Director of the company, was unbelievable. I learned from the bottom up, I worked as a sales associate in the boutique on Madison Avenue... so I guess that fire was always there, but I needed that New York vibe, I needed to work with Michael Kors to show me that the fashion world wasn’t so crazy.”
That fashion experience paired with Ellis’ innate passion soon led to a legacy all of her own, “it really made a difference to work in a company where they were so respectful to their employees, it was just a very inviting family feel, so that helped inspire me to go out and start my own company.”
Initially crafted in 2011 under the name Tyler Alexandra, the line of handbags has undergone a few transitions, “it took me four years - a long time - before I was ready to put my name on a piece.” Ellis shifted from working with a LVMH-owned factory in the heart of Paris to a boutique father and son duo in Le Sieci, Italy, “[my first factory] was an incredible first experience, but while the factory had the quality, they didn’t have the care. It was more of a job so it was really impossible for me to develop my samples and my creativity. It took me three years to find my current factory and I bounced around because as an emerging brand you need access to the owner of the artisans and I didn’t really know that until I found the current one I have.” Five years and a lot of growth later, Ellis felt confident enough to embrace her family name when she launched the first collection in 2017 under Tyler Ellis, “that’s why I really began when I found my current factory. Then in 2017 I changed the logo to Tyler Ellis because I finally felt truly proud of the pieces I was creating.”
An incredibly intimate brand, one will find Ellis’ personal life within the designs (her father’s handwriting comprises the logo) without ever seeing her name on the designs, a drastic detail that sets her apart from other luxury houses, “functional luxury is really what I’m trying to do,” says Ellis. “There are a lot of great really incredible luxury brands out there, but you see them all the time and that’s another reason why I started the brand, you won’t see the Tyler Ellis logo outside anywhere.” With her training and refined eye, Ellis saw a clear gap in the luxury market and dove head first into establishing a stronghold all her own. Ellis notes how, “it’s all about the silhouette, the skin, the craftsmanship. I like people to purchase because they really do love the design, it’s not just buying because it’s a label. What I find is a lot of people will like a bag because they know it’s ‘x' label, but if it didn’t have that who knows if they would actually buy it.”
The quality of Ellis’ pieces lies within the commitment to her business and client relationships, a pillar she has championed since her brand’s inception, that separates what Ellis calls the “good from the great.” It’s a fortitude that Ellis believe is here to stay and she’s not the only one in that school of thought. Prominent women who have messages to convey with their fashion choices, including Jennifer Lopez, Emily Blunt and First Lady Jill Biden, continually choose Tyler Ellis for major events. “The fact that the First Lady is choosing a boutique brand, that says a lot to me about who she is and that the world is ready for independent luxury labels,” says Ellis. “My clients... they have their Birkin, they have their Chanel, but they’re coming to me because they want something unique. They want something that not everyone’s going to know how much it costs or who it is.”
Influence is everywhere for Ellis, “I love to travel that’s one of my passions, I want to see the whole world that’s why COVID has been frustrating. [Creativity] comes in bursts... you could be strolling in Napa and there’s this beautiful brick building and this crazy pattern and think that could be a new weave for some clutch. Being a creative is so exciting because you never know where it’s going to come from and what it’s going to turn into.”
Trained from the onset of her career to focus on, "Mother Nature and small details that many people take for granted and don’t pay attention to,” not even a global pandemic could stifle Ellis’ trajectory. “When I first started I worked with Lars Nilsson, he was the Creative Director for Nina Ricci back in the day... we would just walk and wander [Paris] at night and he would point out a door knob and be like, ‘Oh my! That would make a beautiful button for this dress!’ So that got me to really pay attention to the details the world gives you.”
Nothing makes Ellis feel more energetically alive than the collaborative creative process, and due to her close connection and daily communications with her Italian atelier, a solid foundational team years in the making, and a fine-tuned attention for detail in the world surrounding, Ellis was creatively challenged yet emerged stronger than ever before. Her most recent collection is a collaboration with couture designer Hamda Al Fahim in Abu Dhabi, and the two are talking of a second launch for brides. Also on the horizon: men’s pieces and home goods.
New ground is never scary for Ellis’ pioneer spirit that recounts, “everything worthwhile takes time, even personal growth. Who I was when I started at twenty-six to now... I’m a completely different person. I think that what I’ve learned personally has helped the business and I think that the business really helped me personally grow. I’m a happy person, I want my bags to bring happiness to the clients. I want people to smile and have fun, it’s fashion so enjoy!”
For this designer what matters most is a commitment to integrity, respect and the finest of luxuries in life - which is to say, she’s doing things the Tyler Ellis way.
All images courtesy of Tyler Ellis