George Feldenkreis, a Cuban attorney whose parents emigrated from Russia, came to the United States in 1961 with just $700 in his pocket. In 1967, after working as a manufacturer’s representative for companies based in Asia, he leveraged those connections and launched a small wholesale apparel company called Supreme International to import guayaberas – the pleated, four-pocket shirts which are one of the most authentic symbols of Latin culture.
During the next decade, Supreme International expanded into sport shirts and began producing original designs. George’s son, Oscar, joined Supreme in 1980. He encouraged his father to transform the business model in favor of branded apparel and multi-channel distribution, and in 1990 the company launched its first major brand, Natural Issue®.
In 1988 George’s daughter, Fanny, joined the company and in 1993 Supreme went public, paving the way for additional acquisitions and further expansion. In 1996, the company acquired the rights to the Munsingwear® label and its well-known penguin logo. The sweater maker Crossings® was added in 1997, and in 1999 the John Henry®, Manhattan®, and Lady Manhattan® labels enhanced the company’s growing brand portfolio.
The company's rapid expansion was a harbinger of bigger things to come. In April 1999, Supreme acquired Perry Ellis International, which fashion designer Perry Ellis had formed in 1978 to control the licensing of his name. Supreme changed its name to Perry Ellis International and its stock symbol to PERY.
PEI signed an agreement in 2000 to distribute Perry Ellis menswear to advertising specialty and promotional products companies, laying the groundwork for the company's growing corporate ad specialty industry (ASI) division. That same year it acquired the Mondo di Marco® and Pro Player® labels while creating two Latin-inspired brands with Cubavera® and the Havanera Co.®.
In 2002 PEI acquired Jantzen® and began designing and marketing women’s swimwear under the Jantzen® and Southpoint® brands. As part of the acquisition, the company also began promoting women’s and juniors’ swimwear, men’s and juniors’ competitive swimwear, swimwear accessories and apparel under the Nike® brand.
PEI completed the acquisition of Salant, its largest licensee, in 2003. The merger gave the company greater control of the Perry Ellis® brand and expanded its brand portfolio with Axis®. Later that year, the company launched an Original Penguin® by Munsingwear® as a lifestyle brand rich in heritage but geared towards modern youth-minded consumers, and it quickly developed a devoted following.
In 2004, PEI became the licensee of the PGA TOUR® and Champions Tour®, distributing performance golf wear for several channels of distribution. The company also acquired Redsand®, a young brand born on the beach and still headquartered in Southern California.
PEI responded to the surge of retailer consolidation by purchasing the assets of Tropical Sportswear in 2005, recognizing that distributors need vast resources to best serve the remaining large retail customers. With this acquisition, PEI became one of the top three producers in the men’s bottoms market and added the Savane® and Farah® brands to its portfolio. In addition, TSI’s sophisticated planning and logistics group and state of the art distribution center enhanced PEI’s existing replenishment business, while U.K. operations provided a platform for entry into Europe.
Later that year, PEI expanded its surf brand portfolio by acquiring the trademarks to the internationally recognized surfwear brands Gotcha®, GirlStar® and MCD®, which are distributed across five continents. In 2006, the company was ranked as the number one apparel company in stock performance by the trade magazine Daily News Record, as well as signing a licensing agreement for Jag® swimwear.
PEI entered the women’s contemporary market in 2008 with the acquisitions of Laundry by Shelli Segal® and C&C California®, two prominent brands that radiate the essence of the California lifestyle. Both collections have great celebrity appeal, with distribution in luxury department stores and specialty stores.
Fortifying its already incomparable golf brand portfolio, the company signed a licensing agreement with Callaway®, the world’s top golf brand, for apparel distribution in 2009.
Looking to the future, the company is positioned to respond to the ever-changing retail climate; its proactive approach propels it to new heights in consumer recognition, revenues and profits.