You could see the crest of a 30-foot blue nylon wave from several blocks away on Pacific Avenue in Venice Beach, part of the impressive ocean-themed runway set design that was constructed for Dior Men’s show last night. With Californian designer Eli Russell Linnetz of ERL signed on as the house’s latest guest designer, it made sense that creative director Kim Jones would choose to show the capsule collection against the backdrop of this well known Los Angeles beachfront. “I grew up in Venice Beach, I came to this street all the time,” said Linnetz speaking at a preview before the show. “This was basically my backyard.” Linnetz’s story is straight out of Hollywood. A film student turned designer, he cut his teeth in Kanye West’s artistic studio, directing videos for the likes of Teyana Taylor. Since launching his ERL brand in 2018, his fanbase has swelled year on year and includes the likes of A$AP Rocky and Hailey Bieber. He’s also one of several bright young finalists up for this year’s LVMH Prize. “We have lots of people in common,” said Jones, explaining that the pair were introduced by mutual friends and started the conversation over DM about a year ago. When Jones arrived at ERL HQ in Venice Beach to work on the capsule, their creative chemistry was almost instant. “I was 99% excited at the idea, 1% scared that I would lose myself, just because Kim has such a strong vision of the world and his collections are so refined and striking. My world is so much more chaotic,” said Linnetz. “But the second Kim came to the studio, it felt easy, seamless.”
The pair used Linnetz’s date of birth, 1991, as a jumping off point for the collection, mining the Dior archives for clothes created that year. “I think people would assume that I would be more into the Galliano archive because it’s so theatrical, but actually through my research I become more interested in diving into something that hadn’t been touched before,” said Linnetz. They landed on the maximalist elegance of Gianfranco Ferré’s designs for the French House, the kind of opulent tailoring you might have seen sauntering down Rodeo Drive at the time. Cue the opening look, a gently padded silk satin suit in Dior’s signature dove gray created with the lining twisted inside out and worn with wide-legged pants puddling over chunky skater sneakers. It was a sweet marriage of Parisian executive realness and SoCal cool, or what you might call “California Couture,” a slogan that appeared on at least a few cozy turtleneck sweaters. Several of ERL’s quirky design flourishes were filtered through a sophisticated lens. There were baggy skater boy shorts galore, only done for evening with an eye-catching beaded trim. Clearly Linnetz and Jones had a lot of fun dreaming up the accessories. According to Linnetz, the pillbox hats worn backwards with beaded veils were a cheeky nod to Jackie O. Strung on a heavy duty gold chain and worn across the body, the tiny tinsel saddle bags were a very elevated take on the classic skater keychain wallet that are bound to be a hit with Dior Men’s streetwise fashion guys alongside those ingenious sneakers. The yin-yang motif Linnetz is known for got a look in too and was rendered in an intricate embellished wave on a gray marl hoodie. “It’s interesting to see how Kim works because he really approaches everything like a film director,” said Linnetz. “And that’s very familiar to me.” In a sense the bigger picture here felt decidedly fresh, an example of what can happen when two creative minds from seemingly different ends of the fashion spectrum – and different sides of the world – come together to exchange ideas and find common ground. In the new fashion landscape, playing it safe hardly feels modern. Exchanging ideas in a freewheeling way is the new wave.
Collage by Edward Kanarecki.