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2012 July 6

From The Daily Dan: New Girl On The Block

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Katie Ermilio Katie Ermilio
Giorgio Niro
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(NEW YORK) You’ve probably spotted her in Sag Harbor, waving from behind her Main Street home’s white picket fence. But did you know that Katie Ermilio is an ex-Voguette with ties to Grace Kelly, not to mention one of the hautest budding designers to hit the East End? BY MARIA DENARDO

Love your house!
Thank you! I’m from Philadelphia, but I’ve been coming to Sag Harbor my entire life. My parents fell in love with the village years ago when they were first married. They bought this house together and restored it when I was 14. It used to be owned by a sea captain, so it’s super eclectic. 

 

How do you spend a typical weekend?
I tend to stay close to Sag Harbor because there are so many places that I love. We always walk down to see the boats and get ice cream at Big Olaf. I love Gabby Karan’s restaurant, Tutto il Giorno. It’s one of my favorite places in the world. And, of course, I love going to Urban Zen. Plus, there are always great movies playing at the Sag Harbor Cinema. 
 

Do your neighbors know you’re an up-and-coming designer?
I’m pretty sure I’m only famous to my little sister’s friends. I never talk about myself, so the only people who would know about my career are my publicist and my assistant. I’m still very...emerging. I started my company just two years ago when I was 24, so I’m sort of becoming a woman as the collection develops.
 

What would we never find you doing in the Hamptons?
Surfing.

 

Are you really the granddaughter of Grace Kelly’s couturier?
Yes! My great grandfather founded L.R. Ermilio in 1897. He came from Genoa to Philadelphia and brought up his family in the business. My grandfather took it over and did some really important work with the Kelly family, as well as within the Philadelphia community. My father continued the business. I have a lot of responsibility carrying on this name!
 

When did you find out your grandfather was famous?
I always kind of knew. One of the biggest reasons my dad got into equestrian apparel is because my grandfather made all of Grace Kelly’s britches. But my dad and my grandfather are very humble and don’t talk about it much. Just a few months ago, my dad was telling us a story about making bow ties for the presidential campaign for Gerald Ford. I had no idea!
 

Did you always want to be a fashion designer?
Never! I wanted to be an editor, so I spent my entire college career at NYU interning everywhere. I majored in ‘visual culture’—I made it up—and my first job was in the PR department at Teen Vogue. I loved being at Condé Nast, and I’m such a fan of Amy [Astley]. I feel so cheesy saying that, but I was that girl.

 

Was there a dress code at Teen Vogue?
I mean, I was never in cutoff jean shorts...
 

What do you miss most about working in publishing?
The camaraderie! Now, I’m the boss, which takes some getting used to. My interns are shy around me, and I’m still not used to it.

 

Why did you switch to designing?
My father owns a menswear bespoke business in Pennsylvania. In college, I just started designing clothes that I wanted to wear, and he’d hang them up in his store. Men would come from suit fittings and ask him if they could buy the pieces for their wives. My dad would call and say, ‘Make sure to hop the Greyhound bus because you have a fitting with so-and-so’s wife on Saturday.’ I was an obliging daughter. I started with five clients and before long, it was 10. I had a customer before I really had product. Then I branched out into wholesale to reach a wider audience.

 

Who’s your core customer?
The one thing they have in common is that they’re all ladylike, and they all know what they like. I can design something with a 22-year-old woman in mind, and a 65-year-old will buy the dress and look beautiful. 
 

What was your dad’s best advice?
I wouldn’t be a designer had he not made me come to the store on the weekends and hand him pins during fittings. Growing up, I hated being the helper because I wanted to play with my friends all the time, but now, I’m so thankful I had that experience. 
Today, I fit my womenswear in the same way he fits a blazer.
 

What’s the most surprising aspect of your job?
Running the business side. I’m the designer, CEO, and manager. When I’m finished working on production or fitting clients, I come home and do billing. I’m doing big girl stuff, for sure.
 

Any plans for a store?
Yes, as long as I don’t have to run it on a day-to-day basis! I have the utmost respect for people who run a store and work on the sales floor. I’ve done it, and it is a challenge. It’s a job everyone should have at some point.

 

Any summer plans?
I have a lot of brides walking down the aisle before September. I’m designing wedding dresses that retail for about $1,250 with BHLDN. I also did hosiery for Fall 2012. When you go to London and Paris, there are all these little hosiery stores, but I feel like you can never really find that here. I just love a great pair of hose, don’t you?

 

What’s on your bucket list?
To create a business that long outlasts me.

 

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