Perry Ellis CEO Oscar Feldenkreis went from selling jeans to running a global apparel juggernaut

Oscar Feldenkreis, CEO of Perry Ellis International, is the second-generation leader of his iconic company. Photograph by Nick Garcia.
Oscar Feldenkreis, CEO of Perry Ellis International, is the second-generation leader of his iconic company. Photograph by Nick Garcia.

Oscar Feldenkreis grew up in Miami, surrounded by fashion. Now, as CEO of Perry Ellis International, he runs a global apparel juggernaut from his hometown. This Rainmaker Q&A profile appears in the October 2017 issue of INDULGE.  

The vitals

Age: 58. President and CEO of Perry Ellis International. The company was founded in 1961 as Supreme International by his Cuban-immigrant father, George, an attorney who started a fashion-apparel company to make ends meet. Perry Ellis International has grown into a global retail powerhouse, encompassing 13 upscale fashion brands. Oscar Feldenkreis took an interest in his father’s business from a young age: Free time was spent accompanying his grandfather to downtown Miami’s retail shops, and a high school job at a local jeans store cemented his desire to join his father at work. After graduating from North Miami Beach Senior High, Feldenkreis studied Business Administration at the University of Miami. In 1982, he married his childhood sweetheart, Ellen, and set to work growing their family: daughters Jennifer, 34, Erica, 32, and Stephanie, 26. Today, Feldenkreis is at the helm of the family business, which has offices in Miami, New York and Los Angeles. He oversees PEI from his hometown and now spends his free time spoiling his six grandchildren.

What was your first paying job?

“In high school, I worked in a family-run jeans store on 163rd Street in North Miami Beach. I always loved to work in the fashion industry.”

The best advice you’ve ever received

“Never be scared to ask questions, and listen.”

What do you love most about your job?

“I love to create, I love to sell, and creating and selling is very important to our business. I’m very hands-on when it comes to the marketing side.”

What advice can you give to others?

“I’m successful because I’m associated with great people, and that’s something I recommend to others: Develop mentors as you grow your business.”

New York or Miami?

“No comparison – sorry, but New Yorkers always end up here anyway! I love Miami and I would never give up South Florida.”

What was your best day on the job?

“When we went public in 1993. It’s very rewarding to see a family business grow from zero. We took a company doing only $33 million in revenue 25 years ago, and grew it to close to $1 billion in sales today.”

Oskar Feldenkreis
Oskar Feldenkreis at Perry Ellis International headquarters in Miami. Photograph by Nick Garcia.

Who do you most admire?

“My parents. Being able to still work with my father is a prize that others might look at as a challenge, and sometimes it can be, but I love it and I love to work with my father. There is no better mentor, father, friend and hero than my father.”

If you could do anything else for a living, what would it be?

“I would help others and teach. I would like to help kids in school identify their passion. I try to do that now on the board of advisory at the Wharton School’s Baker Retailing Center. I love to interact with younger people, because I learn from them.”

What’s something people may not know about you?

“I have a Maltese named Sushi, because sushi is my favorite food.”

Sushi Maltese
Sushi, Oskar Feldenkreis' beloved Maltese.

What’s your greatest extravagance?

“I got into cycling about seven years ago, and it’s become a big passion for us. We’ve developed phenomenal friends, and I have a nice collection of bicycles that I never thought I would buy.”

Something you’ve had to overcome? 

“I just had a hip operation, and that’s something I never would have expected. I’m going to have a bionic hip, and all my cycling friends are worried about me being faster than them!”