Our Youth. ERL SS23

Eli Russell Linnetz is more than a designer – he’s a a storyteller. For his ERL collections he creates mini-narratives. This season’s stars an architect looking back on his youth. In the look book pictures, which Linnetz casts and shoots himself, there’s a dad and three boys – “mom’s left and it’s just the guys”- surfer and skater kids from the neighborhood, and a love interest. They wear a mix of Venice-Beach-cool essentials like tie-dye tees, peasant dresses, grungy flannels, and corduroy flares airbrushed at the hems with beach scenes. Then there are the ERL staples—waffle-weave long johns, star-dyed denim, striped mohair sweaters, tube socks. The comic strip pants and matching bedspread that open this slideshow will be as collectible as the vintage 1950s comic book he lifted them from. A collage print of surfers at sunset turns an otherwise basic slip dress into an object of interest. And the clash-up of neon camouflage puffers, shirts, and skate pants is hard to resist. There’s a lot of potential for ERL and Linnetz, a creative who has his feet planted both in Hollywood and the fashion business. His collaboration with Dior’s Kim Jones last spring established his name in the industry even further. Linnetz’s next step? Directing his first feature-length film. When he gets around to making that project, he’ll naturally be designing its costumes too. Expect the unexpected.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.
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Land Of Dreams. Ralph Lauren SS23

Sometimes, we just want something stable and lasting in the world where everything changes so instantly and abruptly. That’s Ralph Lauren‘s allure, which seems to be going through a sort of renaissance in the last couple of seasons. Over the years, Lauren has shown us his New York – a show in Central Park, the café society show presented at his uptown store, the swanky supper club he erected near Wall Street and last season’s soignee affair at MoMA. While there’s no denying he’s a New Yorker through and through, nothing gets the creative juices flowing quite like a case of wanderlust. And so the designer looked farther afield for spring-summer 2023. Specifically to Southern California – shockingly, the first time he’s shown here. He could have gone anywhere he pleased, but Lauren landed on an unexpected choice – the Huntington Library, a museum and botanical garden just northeast of Los Angeles proper, founded in 1919 by an industrialist family that made their fortunes in railroads and real estate. It was against the museum’s Mediterranean Revival style facade that Lauren presented his vision to his Hollywood pals – Jennifer Lopez and Ben Affleck, Diane Keaton, Laura Dern, John Legend, to name but a few. The cushioned loungers and twilight cocktail hour set the tone – this was California casual, done the Ralph way. “California has always been a land of dreams and contradictions – rugged coasts and red carpets,” he said in his show notes. You could sense that those contrasts fascinate him. “For the first time ever,” he continued, “I bring my dream of living here, sharing my worlds in an experience that celebrates a way of life I have always believed in – a mix of grit and glamour, energy and inspiration.” In his six-decades-long career, there’s nothing in the American psyche that Lauren hasn’t addressed in some way. And yet, the West and its mythos, has been particularly transfixing. So it’s not surprising that he found ways to wring out new insights from archetypes and codes that he’s explored before.

The show opened with a trim, wheat-colored suit worn with an oversized cowboy hat, a Western belt, and antique-style jewelry. The effect was confident and assured – a mix of the urbane and rugged, of masculine and feminine. Floral-pattern bias-cut prairie dresses fluttering atop cowboy boots followed, adding a demure touch, while fringed knits became oversized cardigans or wrap skirts, imparting gravitas. Men, meanwhile, wore dusky denim suits, evoking the hardscrabble dignity of Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath, or, alternately, looked like suave frontiersmen of classic Hollywood westerns, the models tipping their hats and winking at audience members as they strutted by. The show shifted through different modes, first came looks in an easy key: breezy pleated pants worn with louche white button-ups, preppy sweaters tied around the neck, tennis shorts paired with a creamy brown turtleneck, a shimmering gold safari suit, all imbued with a sense of offhanded elegance. Next, it moved into a more eclectic, youthful beat: madras patchwork mixed with tailoring, athletic gear mixed with prep, polo shirts atop ball gowns or maillots worn with billowing nylon floor length skirts. Lauren seemed to be shaking off the formality of the East Coast, embracing the outdoorsy lifestyle of Los Angeles. It was a looser, freer collection, one that was a snapshot of the breadth and variety of the American style idiom (the wonderful casting of various ages and ethnicities helped tell that story beautifully). Instead of the normal final walk, the enormous cast came out and lined the stairs as Lauren, smiling, took his bow.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.
Don’t forget to follow Design & Culture by Ed on Instagram!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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