ERLification. Dior Men Resort 2023

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.

NET-A-PORTER Limited

Past-Present-Future Goddesses. Louis Vuitton Resort 2023

It’s been a while since I truly enjoyed a Louis Vuitton collection by Nicolas Ghesquière. Something clicked again for me. The collection was a powerful ode to goddesses – of the past, present and future. The resort 2023 line-up – presented in La Jolla, California – was a wonderful reminder of how forever-forward this Parisian designer is.

His two post-pandemic Paris shows and the one shown in USA, form a sort of trilogy, starting in the 19th century, making a pitstop in the ’90s of his own post-adolescence, and zooming off into a utopian future. At all three Ghesquière has set out to break down dress codes and build up complex silhouettes. And here’s another Vuitton epic: Ghesquière has made a tradition of staging his cruise shows at architectural marvels. John Lautner’s Bob Hope House in Palm Spring, Oscar Niemeyer’s Niteroi Museum in Rio de Janeiro, I. M. Pei’s Miho Museum outside Kyoto, and now the Louis Kahn-designed Salk Institute in La Jolla. Kahn’s masterpiece, its monumentality is matched by its humanity, but Ghesquière was as switched on by its setting as by its Brutalist concrete. “The guest of honor for the show is the sun,” he said poetically. “The elements are invited.” This was a collection about playing with those elements. He chose metallic fabrics and embellishments that reflected the setting sun, some as glassy as mirrors, and other materials that offered protection from it, wrapping long swathes of linen, for example, around the head and across the body. Other pieces lifted design details from water sports; the airbrushed colors of half tops and boxy short skirts apparently came from jet skis. Ghesquière is a designer whose collections are minutely pored over and studied, and some of these gestures looked like callbacks to earlier seasons, only amplified, maximal where he used to be minimal and streamlined. The show began and ended with a bang. The opening dresses, one more voluminous than the next, were cut from robust jacquards (he compared them to molten lava) that looked like they really could’ve repelled enemy fire. The effect was almost stately, but for the soft-soled sneakers they padded out on. At the finish came a trio of jackets with enormous sculpted collars as shiny as armor perched above tinsel sleeves. These were extraordinary: imaginative and otherworldy. Ghesquière was firing on all creative cylinders here, creating a positive feedback loop. You left wanting to be one of his Amazon superheroine goddesses.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

NET-A-PORTER Limited

Ballet-Core. Rodarte AW22

Going for an all-pastel colour palette might be lethal. But the Rodarte sisters manage to keep the saccharine sweetness not that naive in their autumn-winter 2022 collection. The ultra-feminine line-up is heavily inspired by ballet and ballerinas’ ensembles, and it makes so much sense: Kate and Laura Mulleavy created Natalie Portman’s costumes for Darren Aronofsky’s terrific Black Swan back in 2010. But right now, there’s nothing evil about the Rodarte Swan Queens. Over 2020 and 2021, their innate sense of woman-ness has led the Los Angeles-based designers to swing their pendulum into collections about optimism, comfort, sweetness, sparkle, and motion. What they’ve landed on here is equilibrium. In pastel imagery by Daria Kobayashi Rich, with set design by Tina Pappas and Adam Siegel and floral design by Joseph Free, the Mulleavys have found the happiest, tenderest of marriages between the tiered cascades of blush tulle worn by Lili Reinhart, the crisp pink suiting donned by Janicza Bravo, the patterned tea dress on Natasha Lyonne, and the jeans and legwarmers on Laura Love. “The fantasy of what we want to do and create is the number one driving force,” demurs Kate, but when the Rodarte fantasy intersects so potently with reality as it does here, the designers’ honestness can feel more relevant than ever. In between, they make pit stops in bright fuchsia and teal, resurrecting their famous grunge-y spiderweb knits from autumn-winter 2008. “They are practical in a sense that they mold to your body and impractical in the most amazing way,” says Kate of the signature knits. The original versions – mini tube dresses and long cardigans – are back to the sure joy of many fans, but the sisters aren’t just playing to archive-mania. They’ve also made bustiers and capes in the knit, the latter worn by Lana Condor in a blue look trimmed in feathers. “The cape,” Kate says, “is practical and whimsical.” And sometimes you need fashion to be just that, equal parts a slip dress and a fantasia. It’s that kind magic that makes so many celebrities show up for a Rodarte photoshoot: the girls who get it, get it.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

NET-A-PORTER Limited

Vibrant Vibes. The Elder Statesman AW22

Happy Easter! Here’s a beautiful treat: The Elder Statesman‘s vibrant autumn-winter 2022 look-book. This season, Los Angeles-based label’s creative director, Bailey Hunter, rang up her friends in Jamaica and gave them the keys to the castle. In collaboration with Savannah Baker, the collection’s photos and film were shot around Portland, Jamaica, and include jacquards and intarsias created by Baker’s niece, the British-Jamaican artist Kione Grandison. Good vibes abound. With each year, founder Greg Chait reports business going better and better and better, and with each season the brand opens the door to new ideas and techniques. Coats are made from an Italian woven hand whipstitched in Los Angeles. Post-consumer recycled-cashmere button-downs are hand dyed in the brand’s expansive L.A. H.Q. A new corduroy program, made from Italian cashmere, brings the label beyond sweaters and into one-of-a-kind tie-dye separates. Elsewhere the dyes have no ties at all – and there is experimentation in new ways to create print and texture on the sweaters. Even the abstracted checkerboard patterns and amoeba-like dyes – both executed in previous seasons – feel new and exciting. And that’s a big statement for a mostly knitwear brand.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

NET-A-PORTER Limited

This Is Us. ERL AW22

ERL‘s collection look-books always have that unique, beautifully disturbing, theatrical quality. Browsing through the autumn-winter 2022 line-up, one might have an impression of watching a coming of age school play – which went full art-house. Eli Russell Linnetz’s propensity to confound and inspire is what makes him an engaging designer to watch. He crafts entire worlds for even the simplest garments and images, attaching stories to even mundane items. The forthright, yet whimsical clothing he makes goes against mainstream understandings of jeans, tees, puffers, and prim plaid dresses. Basic garments are often stripped of their magic, divorced from beauty, and reduced to mere stuff. In championing “normal clothes,” Linnetz continues the great American design tradition of Calvin, Ralph, and Dapper Dan – making the ordinary extraordinary. Linnetz signatures, like worn-in denim, printed tees, and pastoral skirts were all here, alongside new pieces like a camouflage patchwork puffer, knits in ombré patterns, crisp little cardigans, and star jacquard denim in tonal blue and the colors of the American flag. A collaboration with Salomon’s snowboarding imprint brought kooky color-ways to the collection. Plaid flannel shirts were styled to evoke Victorian bustles, shirts were strewn with pins that riff on Vietnam War protest paraphernalia, and the quilt Linnetz upcycled for ASAP Rocky at the 2021 Met Gala was reinterpreted as bulky, blocky puffer jackets. All together the collection contained many wantable, wearable things, each representing a thread of ERL’s story.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

NET-A-PORTER Limited