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Tyler Alexandra handbags launch, inspired by image of classic femme fatale and by designer's icon father, Perry Ellis

February 24, 2011 |  1:30 pm

Tyler Alexandra Ellis, the 26-year-old daughter of designer Perry Ellis, has launched her first line of handbags, Tyler Alexandra, for the “classic, chic femme fatale,” she says. “Handbags have always been my passion … and all the pieces fell into place for this line.”

Her bags are distinguishable by their wing-tipped edges. For instance, the “Barb,” named after her mother, Barbara Gallagher, has a gathered or pinched leather tip that she says was inspired by her late father’s trademark “Perry pleat,” which made his men’s shirts so popular in the 1980s. “I don’t like labels, so I wanted you to be able to look at the bag and, without it having to say Tyler Alexandra all over it, be able to identify the shape,” she says.

Other signature Tyler Alexandra touches include the pine cone — a symbol Ellis identifies with health and wealth — engraved on the metal clasps, and the blue-violet lining. “Blue-violet is my favorite color. My personal touch is all over these handbags,” the designer says.

The fashion bug was not always at the forefront of Ellis’ mind. Originally a film and television major in New York, Ellis was driven to give fashion a try when she came across an unofficial biography of her father. “When I started reading I suddenly felt so connected to him. He died when I was 18 months old, so I hardly knew anything about him,” she says. “But I suddenly felt like I was more similar to him than my mother, which was odd, because she raised me. I was getting the chills the whole time reading it.”

This newfound connection with her father turned her to fashion, which she says she really fell in love with while completing an internship for Michael Kors during New York Fashion Week in 2008.

On a trip to Paris last August, Ellis came up with the idea of creating a line of handbags. “The way people dress in Paris is so interesting, you could never get away with some of those looks here in the U.S.,” she says. “So I came up with the idea of a classy femme fatale, and I wanted to accessorize her.”

Within six months she had sketched her designs, set up a production team out of Paris and created her first collection, which is currently on view by appointment in Los Angeles and will be unveiled at Paris fashion week to select editors and buyers.

Her father’s inspiration also adorns the brand via its name and logo. The logo is in Perry Ellis’ handwriting and was taken from an envelope he had addressed to  “Miss Tyler Alexandra Ellis” on her first birthday. One of her friends noticed the envelope framed on her wall and suggested it would make a great name for her collection.  “I cut off the 'Ellis' because I wanted it to be my own. He inspired me, but this is my own project,” she says.

The current collection will be available for purchase in fall 2011. The handbags come in croc leather, metallic leather, industrial metal and satin. They are priced between $2,500 and $30,000.

-- Raha Lewis

Photo: Selections from the Alexandra Tyler collection. Credit: Raha Lewis