American Dream. ERL SS22

ERL is on everyone’s lips. Although Justin Bieber and Dua Lipa wear it on the daily, and Chloë-the-queen-of-style-Sevigny shared her love for the new collection on her Insta-stories yesterday, it still feels somewhat niche and off-the-radar. It’s not available in every store yet, so there’s a feeling of appeal-driving deficit. Eli Russell Linnetz’s name causes conversations – and you hear a spectrum of feelings, from delight and reluctance to excitement and skepticism. One thing’s sure: ERL is thriving, and it’s just the start. The California-based brand, now in its fourth full season with Dover Street Market Paris, is not just clothing – it’s everything. A way of being, of putting an ab-skimming tee with tatty, low-slung vaguely Hollister-ish jeans, sure, but also a method for re-assessing your life and your style. Theatricality, time, and obsession are important tenets of ERL-ism, emphasis on obsession – these are some maniacally pored over garments. “Cross-dimensional hitchhiking, making the way to California” and “a romantic blowing in the wind journey across all parts of America” were two ways Linnetz described his spring 2022 mood. He’s taken his surfer boys and plopped them in a pickup truck, scanning through the hayfields and mountainsides of mid-America, with pit stops at prom and football matches along the way. The ERL dude’s got a new passenger too: Linnetz is launching womenswear, and it’s an equally manic trip through the codes of casual American style. Tiered do-si-do skirts in acid trip colors clash with girlish cotton tops and school picture day knitwear, dotted with embroidered flowers. Most of the collection is shared across the genders, giant shearling pieces and wide wale cords offering something humble, while radioactive tuxedos and Fogal tights printed with archival Rudi Gernreich patterns looking aggressively kitsch. Linnetz photographed the pieces himself, in his Venice Beach studio, on street-cast models. Earnest-faced, obvious hunks and wallflowers who skew young, almost disturbingly prepubescent. Can a real guy ever look as good in an orange V-front cable knit polo sweater? Can a real woman capture the kookiness of a half-blazer half, floral top? ERL is tapping into the American Dream of a new generation: to become the character you say you are.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

Somebody In California Loves You. Raquel Allegra AW21

Looking at her autumn-winter 2021 collection, it’s visible that Raquel Allegra has been spending most of lockdown in her garden – it’s the attitude, easiness and colours that say it all. You can even glimpse it in her look-book, filled with lush trees, towering leafy plants, succulents, and flowers growing every which way. Allegra has always strived to feel in communion with her surroundings, but the pandemic awakened a new urgency to bring this more fully into her work. “Human nature: We are of nature, not separate,” she wrote in a letter about the collection. Her artful clothes were a comfort to women stuck at home this year, but it’s easy to imagine wearing them out in nature too, whether you’re gardening in one of her tie-dyed jumpsuits or spending a week in the woods with a duffel of jersey separates and zero cell service. For autumn, she paid closer attention to how her clothes may unintentionally impact those surroundings – namely after they’re already in your closet. Going forward, nearly all of her garment tags will read “machine washable,” not “dry-clean only,” in an effort to avoid the toxic chemicals involved in the dry-cleaning process. Not many brands consider that. Now, her customer can choose her own detergent, ideally a nontoxic one. Allegra said the shift was just as much about streamlining our lives; dry-cleaning is simply a hassle, and it often inspires us to wear our favorite things less often than we’d like. Allegra’s clothes are ultrasoft, but they aren’t meant to be precious; she wants you to wear them every day, wash them when you need to, and repeat. The collection had a great balance of “masculine” and “feminine” details and silhouettes, with hoodies and mannish trousers on one end and sleek, sensual tank dresses on the other. A clever ruffled kerchief lent a bit of Victorian charm knotted over sweatshirts and blazers. And after the year we’ve had, who isn’t craving a little color? Allegra’s new season colour palette is super inspiring, from the shades of lilac to zesty yellow. The t-shirt with “Somebody in California loves you” is another favourite. Topanga coolness!

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

Soothing Grooviness. The Elder Statesman AW21

If The Elder Statesman was a music album, to me, it would be Lana Del Rey’s latest Chemtrails Over The Country Club. It’s laid-back, it’s care-free, it’s soothing. Greg Chait‘s California-based company makes the trippiest luxurious knitwear out there, and with every season, he manages to expand his world in a natural, considered way. The pre-fall 2021 collection was photographed on a troupe of homesteaders and pot farmers in Northern California, and the autumn-winter 2021 line-up at Biosphere 2 – an environmental simulation in Arizona. In both contexts, Chait’s sun-drenched, signature style is key: clothing engineered for durability, warmth, and optimum vibes. For the latter collection, Mordechai Rubinstein, the photographer and hippie dandy, offered his eye for a swirling tie-dye collaboration. There is a new crochet program in which studio scraps are knotted into trousers and hoodies, each one unique and groovy. The brand’s new fabric, a cotton-cashmere herringbone, was cut into button-downs and casual pants, which were hand-dyed in a lot behind the studio. The inside of the herringbone is electric with color and the exterior faded, a result of the fabric blend. Chait describes it as sort of a happy accident; cashmere takes dye well, cotton doesn’t. Going through the entire collection you get the sense that Chait and company are having a great time, trying to stay smart, small, and sustainable. And it pays off!

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

Fantasy. Sophie Buhai SS21

Sophie Buhai is one of my favourite, contemporary labels specialising in jewellery. The L.A. talent is rewriting the rules of luxury with her handmade, softly sculptural, sterling silver and gold vermeil blings. Her spring-summer 2021 collections delivers all her signatures with some gorgeous updates. From freshwater pearls to sensual curves and bulbous shapes (think earrings resembling water droplets), those pieces are here to last forever. Find it alongside new statement ear and hand pieces, inspired by time spent in the garden, featuring metal renditions of the vines from the designer’s favourite spot. Those pieces – which are actual wearable art – make me think of Claude Lalanne’s delightful works (the artist especially known for her collaboration with Yves Saint Laurent – ‘Les Robes Lalanne’ and bodily adornments from the 1969 haute couture collection). In her signature, intricate electroplating process, objects like leaves, twigs, petals, berries and other organic materials are completely transformed into copper. But back to Buhai. The “Fantasy Collection” is now available for pre-order on her site. I recommend taking a look at it…

Photos courtesy of Sophie Buhai’s website.

Team Work. The Elder Statesman Resort 2021

It’s interesting how two brands, of different scales and formats, emphasized the topic of team work in times of confinement. At Gucci, the resort 2021 collection reveal was an entire, 12-hour long social media event, where Alessandro Michele’s design team, no longer anonymous, modelled the clothes they have designed for not only the look-book, but the advertising campaign. At the same time, we’ve got The Elder Statesman from Los Angeles, where Greg Chait, the founder of the tie-dyed cashmere heaven, presented the collection on his team. But here, it wasn’t just about the studio designers. The whole The Elder Statesman family was here, wearing their garments in context of their work at the brand (from crotcheting to dyeing) and personal passions (farming!). The family aspect was even more clear once you take a glance at the clothes. The pen-and-ink artwork prints come from Greg’s grandmother, Thelma Chait, a prolific artist not acknowledged in her day. Chait and his cousin unearthed a storeroom full of Thelma’s drawings, books, and writings last year, with the designer planning on using them as a foundation for a collection since. The messages of unity, humanity, and love in her illustrations would feel right for any time – she produced much of her art in the groovy and turbulent ’60s and ’70s – but they weave into this collection for 2021 like a soothing balm. Her stick figure of a human, arms circled about its head like a halo, appears on a sweater, as a button, and as a brooch, while her rainbow pen strokes are interpreted as a tie-dye. A map shows fields, cities, deserts, and forests in a sacred geometric pattern on the back of a cardigan worn with ombré cashmere sweats. Making these pieces feel all the more beautiful is the way they were put together and photographed. Knitting, Chait told Vogue, was permissible during California’s lockdowns as a form of manufacturing at home. He and his team drove around Southern California delivering yarns, looms, and ideas for weeks. Already close, the team found a new camaraderie, he explained, and so it was obvious that Thelma’s collection should be represented on the people who made it. Benjamin, a senior knitter, opens the look book in a cashmere sweater with orange trimming, his loom in hand. Chait described him as “a legend,” and went on discussing the importance – both corporately and personally – of each of his colleagues. China, the brand’s VP of sales, models a matching knit set inspired by Thelma’s line. Ariel, the head of dyeing, poses in an ombré of her own design alongside buckets of dye and her dog. Jo, who did the collection’s hand-crocheted flowers, is shown in a gingham shirt-jacket mid-stitch. Chris, a sales associate from the West Hollywood store, wears a jacket made of the new “Cloud” fabric, a paper-thin 100% organic cotton. For the first time, Chait’s own daughter, Dorothy Sue, appears in the collection in a rainbow set made from a Japanese fabric that is 93% cotton and 7% cashmere. No offense Gucci, but my heart is utterly stolen by The Elder Statesman.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.