Adam Denenberg

Photo: George Elder

Michael Maccari, B.A.’85

A Good Fit

By Sarah Ammerman, B.A.’01

Perry Ellis International Creative Director Michael Maccari has made the most of his University at Albany education. Originally a math major with minors in business and fine art, “I wanted something more versatile, so I switched to English,” he remembers. “My art was always very realistic and precise, a lot of line drawings and graphic work; you could say it was mathematical. I had enough art credits to go in that direction, but I thought that a solid liberal-arts major, with more post-college schooling, could lead me in various directions.”  

After graduating from UAlbany, Maccari worked as a manager and sales representative in a photo-retouching studio, gaining valuable experience that would direct him towards his future career. He continued his education at the Fashion Institute of Technology, where he took a production class that made him realize he could have a career designing menswear. Maccari recalls: “Menswear was relatable for me, and given my mathematical background and pragmatic nature, it was a good fit. I was wearing Perry Ellis at the time, and a family friend worked alongside Perry. I was intrigued by the nature of the work; fabric research; and naturally, the application of sketching to something three-dimensional.”

As Maccari continued to explore his interest in fashion design, he built a slightly unconventional portfolio. “I sketched on various project envelopes coming to and from clients, literally stopping in the street to draw when something inspired me. This became my portfolio for the menswear design school: varied bits of ripped paper organized neatly in a book. The department chairman loved it, and I knew immediately I was on my way,” Maccari says.

Tweet from Birkenstock

Photo: Kat Irlin

David Kahan shows off yellow Birkenstock sandles

Photo: George Elder

Michael Maccari is pictured at his office, left, and at the Fall 2015 Perry Ellis Fashion Show in New York City.

Looking back at his time at UAlbany, Maccari says he wouldn’t change any part of his education. “Every piece contributes to the big picture,” he explains. “The mathematical start relates to the precision of menswear very directly, in terms of fit and proportion of details. The English background helps with the research each season, dreaming and writing about the ‘story.’ The fine-art foundation may be obvious, but finding your means of expression can only come after exploring various mediums. I had amazing fine-art instructors who pushed me to explore more deeply the work I was naturally drawn to. It provided focus, as well as exposure to similar artists and mentors.”

For those working toward their professional goals, Maccari shares this advice: “Explore your options fully, and don’t stop digging until you find and refine your passions. There can be many, and that’s a very good thing, but focus is important to understanding what really drives you. 

“My work is never 9-to-5. It’s a never-ending process, and one I enjoy immensely. Because of that, I often don’t consider it work.”

Before landing at Perry Ellis International in December 2013, Maccari worked for a variety of designers, including A/X Armani Exchange, Polo Ralph Lauren, Calvin Klein, and J. Crew.


Next: Suzanne Murphy, B.A.'87