With her acclaimed womenswear line, emerging talent Katie Ermilio is the latest in a legacy of designers celebrating Main Line style.
With a hint of Grace: Katie Ermilio, with her classic, Philly aesthetic, helped revitalize women’s formalwear with silhouette-focused designs harkening back to the days of Grace Kelly.
While Katie Ermilio’s blossoming brand is the toast of the New York fashion industry, you could say it’s Philadelphia blood that runs in its veins. The 28-year-old designer came of age working at Ermilio Clothier & Specialty Shop, the Haverford clothing store that’s been in her family for generations. There, she acquired a skill for classic tailoring and an aesthetic inspired by the Main Line beauties her family has dressed.
“My grandfather designed clothing for Grace Kelly and that whole lineage, so we’re definitely a [local] family, and there’s a certain kind of style [in] Philadelphia that is ingrained in my aesthetic,” Ermilio explains. “I have a very strong penchant for that moment in time when there was a classic hint of sexiness in silhouettes. That’s something I’m drawn to constantly.”
Since launching her eponymous line in 2010, Ermilio has seen her ultraluxe gowns and feminine separates praised by InStyle, Lucky, and Elle, and worn by the likes of Michelle Williams. This year, Ermilio, whose line is stocked at Barneys New York and Moda Operandi, was inducted into the CFDA Fashion Incubator, an ultracompetitive program offering free studio space and business mentoring to up-and-coming talents. Alumni include Sophie Theallet, Prabal Gurung, and Dao-Yi Chow and Maxwell Osborne, of the brand Public School.
Despite an inherited propensity toward design and a childhood spent holding pins for her father, Ermilio didn’t initially anticipate entering the fashion world on the design end. After interning at Vogue and WWD during college, she landed a post-graduation position in the PR department of Teen Vogue.
In college, Ermilio began making clothing for her own wardrobe and then for private clients through Ermilio Clothier—an enterprise that she juggled with her role at Teen Vogue, until it became clear that this was something she was ready to pursue whole heartedly. “I had this little side business,” she recalls. “Eventually, it got to the point where I decided to launch ready-to-wear [and partner with stores] so I could reach more clients than I ever could by myself.”
The line took off rapidly, filling a niche in classic formalwear with its bright colors, throwback silhouettes, and high-end fabrics. “When we were picked up by Barneys, that was definitely the ultimate coup,” Ermilio says. Other major stores followed suit, and early praise in industry press helped land the designer a spot on Forbes’s 30 Under 30 list in 2012. She now produces four collections a year and has created capsules for Steven Alan and Anthropologie’s bridal line, BHLDN.
Currently showing her pre-fall collection and fresh off the fall shows of February, Ermilio is particularly enthusiastic about her line being stocked by recently opened boutique Atelier (1921 Walnut St., 215-266-7272). “I’m really excited about being back in my hometown.”
Atelier owner Sharla Floyd says she built the boutique around Ermilio’s aesthetic and design, explaining that she “epitomizes the throwback but elegant look [I try] to represent.” Among the Ermilio pieces that Floyd will be featuring for spring are a pink and cream striped silk slip dress, a belted knee-length shift done in hot pink velvet and a black silk version that’s exclusive to Atelier, and a pair of high-waisted, wide-legged silk trousers perfect for black tie.
With increased press from the incubator program, 2015 could be the year Ermilio moves from on the brink into full-fledged stardom. But for all the accolades, what thrills her the most is having a hand in creating some of her customers’ happiest moments. “It’s just amazing to know that something that started as a tiny idea in your brain is now living its life with a woman that’s having birthday parties and celebrations, engagement parties and weddings, all in your dress,” she says. “You’ll never know her, but you’re connected to her.”