For a young designer, Katie Ermilio knows a lot about old Hollywood glamour. The granddaughter of Grace Kelly’s personal clothier, Ermilio’s first exposure to the world of fashion was through her family’s custom clothing shop and tailoring business. At twelve, she’d already begun drawing and designing, while learning about the fundamentals of craftsmanship under her father’s instruction. Her youthful approach to timeless women’s wear created a demand from a steady stream of private clients before Ermilio branched out, creating her first ready-to-wear collection in 2010. Her work quickly got the attention of fashion critics and followers, eventually landing her in the 2014–2016 Council of Fashion Designers of America Incubator Class, a program created to develop and support the next generation of New York City designers. For spring, Ermilio was inspired by the colors and lines of tennis courts. Graphic windowpane prints elevate retro silhouettes, while a crisp white palette punctuated by muted shades of green and pink shows up on everything from satin column gowns to cigarette pants. They amount to a collection that proves that we can expect great things from Ermilio and the romantic yet minimal pieces that got her noticed in the first place.
How did you get started?
Growing up in my family’s custom clothing business, I began making my own clothes just before starting an internship at Vogue. It was 2007, The September Issue was being filmed, and that summer I learned more about the fashion industry than in most of my years growing up in my father’s bespoke menswear shop.
As a fourth-generation designer, clothing is a part of my identity. My grandfather created the Masters jacket for the Tournament at Augusta, outfitted Dwight D. Eisenhower during his presidency and crafted jodhpurs for Grace Kelly. Yet it was not until my father’s clientele began purchasing my dresses as gifts for their wives that I considered designing for anyone other than myself. Before I knew it, I was working as an assistant in the public relations department of Teen Vogue and creating private commissions for a roster of clients of my own.
What inspired your new collection?
I started by researching tennis attire from the 1930s, and I was coming across all different images of different kinds of courts, and I found myself more attracted to those than the clothes. You usually think of tennis courts as green and white. But after it rains, a clay court turns dark red, and in the bright sun it becomes bright pink. The collection draws upon heritage tennis attire and the courts on which the game was played. Swarovski crystals and embroidery that accent hand-embellished laser-cut florals add subtle femininity, while custom-designed plaid checks in shades of pink and racing green reflect the graphic abstraction of the paint lines from aerial views.
Why are you so drawn to evening wear/dresses?
Occasion-based clothing was where I started, and it is still so relevant today. Women come to me asking for a fresh and modern perspective on evening wear to celebrate the special moments in their lives.
What’s been your career highlight so far?
At the risk of sounding cheesy, it’s pretty exciting that I get to design clothes every day. Being able to see the brand grow and evolve season after season is really rewarding.
How would you describe your designs?
Minimal, streamlined and classic.
Who is the Katie Ermilio woman?
I would like to think that my design aesthetic marries a sense of timelessness and modernity. My clients span generations in their age range, so I consciously try to create garments that defy limitations when it comes to a woman’s age.
What’s the best advice you’ve gotten from your father about tailoring?
My father is one of my biggest supporters. I really learned how to create clothing from the inside out just growing up in his tailor shop.
Favorite celebrity style or red carpet moment?
Kate Bosworth wore the Watteau pleat-back gown from my Fall 2014 collection to the Tiffany Blue Book Ball and it still takes my breath away.