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

Men’s – Sublime Gardener. Dior AW22

I really loved Kim Jones‘ autumn-winter 2022 menswear collection for Dior. It might come as a surprise that Jones, who has devoted most of his Dior collections to collaborations (which sometimes feels to predictable) with artists and writers, approached his 75th anniversary homage to the house as a one-man show. “We’ve done a Birkenstock, but only because we didn’t want to do a Christian Dior gardening shoe and copy it,” the designer told Vogue. In true grande maison style, Jones erected a life-size copy of Pont Alexandre III in a tent on Place de la Concorde, just a stone’s throw from the real one (not a very sustainable approach…). The nasal might of Christian Dior spoke on the soundtrack with godlike authority as Jones’s interpretations of the couturier’s signature silhouettes bathed in his favorite “Dior gray” strolled along the bridge’s banister. It was a straight-forward exercise: from the Bar jacket to the wrap coat and the cannage, Jones worked each of the Dior icons into something that would resonate with a contemporary male customer. “It’s really complicated pattern-cutting but it looks so simple. That’s the beauty of it,” he said, pointing at one of the jackets on his board of looks. A series of Bar jackets and coats constructed like men’s blazers with white stitching that looked almost frayed had a deconstructed character to them we don’t often see at his Dior. It suited him. But mainly, it was nice to see a Dior collection that was purely Jones, somewhat similar to his debut from a couple of years ago. A collection like this may not receive the hype of last season’s Travis Scott collaboration (the release of which has been indefinitely postponed due to controversy surrounding the rapper), but in its Dior-core it will serve to enlighten new audiences in what the house historically represents. “I think young people want to learn about things,” Jones said. “The thing about Dior is it still looks modern when you see pieces from the archive. That’s probably why it’s still here, and so big.” He took his bow with milliner Stephen Jones, who is celebrating 25 years at Dior, and reworked the founder’s beret for the heads of Jones’s models.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

Men’s – Kim Meets Travis. Dior SS22

At Dior, Kim Jones has collaborated with some of the finest visual artists out there, from Peter Doig to Raymond Pettibon and Daniel Arsham. But somehow this season’s joint effort with a 29-year-old rapper from Houston made the most sense. Travis Scott is one of the most remarkable musicians in the world right now, a Gen Z idol who embodies the esoteric fashion attitude of social-media culture and who has a child with Kylie Jenner. He is the type of celebrity who sits front row at Jones’s shows. But today the hip-hop community is no longer being dictated to by fashion. They’ve shifted that paradigm, claimed their rightful influence on the industry, and got behind the wheel. Scott’s collaboration with Dior was a manifestation of that evolution: a meeting between a creator and his muse, who hadn’t quite decided who had been cast in which role. “From the stage to the music, it was never just about the clothes but about the experience,” Scott said during fittings in Jones’s Paris ateliers. “It’s how you see and hear it, how you see the music.” He was talking about the live show production—which spliced memories of Christian Dior’s childhood gardens with the cactus-heavy Texan landscape Scott grew up around—but he might as well have been painting a picture of his own fashion understanding. Gifted with an instinct for styling, Scott has a personal wardrobe as distinctive as his sound. “It’s about taste, isn’t it?” Jones told Scott. “Some people have it, some don’t. Luckily you do!” The internet will give you endless get-the-look guides on Scott and his designers of choice, from Jones to Virgil Abloh, Phoebe Philo, and the cult Japanese brands that underline said esoteric fashion culture. Going forward, style tips can all defer to this season’s Dior collection, which was a medley of those influences. Jones explained it was inspired by the artist’s own look as well as his various creative outputs. “We had some hard design sessions for a couple of months,” Scott said. “I would draw graphics and send them to him. We sat down with mad refs, breaking down where we felt like we wanted to take it.” The palette painted a picture of Houston, its pink skies, green cacti, and the browns of the earth that have become trademark colors in Scott’s wardrobe. The silhouette felt rooted in the rapper’s penchant for a slightly oversized top paired with a flared pant, skinny but not tight. Iterations on tracksuit bottoms were particularly strong, tailored to precision and studded with cowboy-like metal buttons down the side. In a nod to that same cultural heritage, Scott had interpreted John Galliano’s saddle bag for Dior as a double bag that felt more rodeo than ever. Another of the artist’s signatures: patterns that evoked the rattlesnakes and desert flowers of the Texan plains. He had cacti-fied the maison’s toile de Jouy, while the ghostly motifs that appeared on tops were his own. “They’re imaginary things that kind of pop up in my head, and I draw them by hand,” Scott said, pointing to the same motifs woven in knits. “These are knitted by hand, which is so fucking nuts. It’s crazy.
Talking about the trips he and Jones had taken to the Dior archives, Scott was clearly in heaven. “Me coming in and being able to have those in my hands…,” he paused, a smile on his face. Later, he effused about the wish-to-reality aspect of an atelier like Dior, which can literally make anything happen. “Making some of your imagination come to life, it’s kind of crazy.” His enthusiasm was visible in the collection, and that’s why it felt like such a shrewd match for Jones. Rather than applying an artist’s work to his own garments like he’s done in the past, this was the designer inviting his perhaps most influential Dior client to take an active part in the creation, from silhouette to motif and surface decoration. It was organic.

“Live” collage by Edward Kanarecki.

Men’s – Peter Doig. Dior AW21

While everybody is obsessed with Kim Jones‘ menswear at Dior… I’m still on fence with it. In overall, I love how he implements couture traditions of the maison and, at least, makes his part amusing, comparing to Maria Grazia Chiuri’s womenswear. But his autumn-winter 2021 collection just feels regular. Maybe it’s the side-effect of working on the Fendi debut? Again, Jones invited an artist to collaborate. This time, it’s the Scottish-born painter Peter Doig, whose roving background – an upbringing in Trinidad, study in London in the 1980s, success in the ’90s, a move to Canada – is exactly the stuff that brings out the fanboy in Jones: “Peter was at Central Saint Martins with Stephen Jones, and knew all the people I’m obsessed by – Leigh Bowery, Trojan, the London club kids at that time. Stephen introduced us. He really became part of the studio for the collection, and started making things, painting hats, and designing the set, which is based on the speaker stacks he’s collected.” Stephen Jones, Dior’s resident milliner confirms: “Yes, Peter was always hanging out with us fashion-y types at school. Then all of a sudden, unlike us, he went off and became a major international artist.” The line-up is full of Doig references: yellow anoraks, orange coats, and lions; paint-dabby patterns on sweaters – that’s all material replicated from Doig’s oeuvre. “His work is autobiographical. We looked at his paintings of men, of skiers, ice hockey players, and the night sky,” said Jones. “I think he was fascinated by how closely we could replicate his brushwork in textiles and knitwear.” The cheerful shots of citrus color – translated into some of Jones’s subtle merges of casual and luxurious street-wearable outerwear – are the making of the collection. Other than that (fashion-meets-art dialogues are always compelling), I wasn’t really convinced by the whole picture.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

Trippy Elegance. Dior Men Pre-Fall 2021

This time last year, Kim Jones’ many fans across the fashion and art worlds were gathered in Miami Beach. His Dior Men show was a Basel-adjacent affair, complete with a walk-through of the new Rubell Museum. Last moments of old reality. The pandemic scuttled plans to stage a show in Beijing for Jones’s latest outing, and this way sole focus was directed at the clothes. Last year, Jones revealed a colorful collaboration with Shawn Stussy, the streetwear OG. This season, he tapped Kenny Scharf, an American artist who emerged from the 1980s East Village scene, making street art alongside his friends Keith Haring and Jean-Michel Basquiat. “The fun and the energy of that time – you see young kids being excited by Kenny Scharf’s work. It’s speaking across generations,” Jones told Vogue via Zoom. Scharf’s canvases can now fetch up to six figures, but he still has street cred: via “Karbombz,” a public art project, he’s tagged upwards of 300 cars with his imaginary creatures – all for free. Scharf, whose first show was at New York’s Fiorucci boutique in 1979 and earliest fashion hookup was with Stephen Sprouse, is the perfect Jones collaborator. His work gleefully obliterates boundaries too. “I’m one of the inventors of all that,” Scharf said on a call from his L.A. studio. He raved about Jones: “He’s a listener, he’s a learner, and that shows. He went really deep into what I’m doing.” Together, the designer and the artist selected contemporary pieces and older ones to reproduce, including When the Worlds Collide, a 1984 canvas in the Whitney’s permanent collection. Scharf also designed 12 Chinese zodiac signs for the show’s knits and underpinnings, and, of course, he had free rein to reinterpret the Dior logo. “I just wanted it to be a very full-on version, using specific techniques to recreate his work in really beautiful ways, to make it even more Pop,” Jones said. In some cases, the Dior ateliers were joined by Chinese artisans who rendered Scharf paintings in delicate seed embroideries. Silhouette-wise, Jones’s instinct was to soften his distinctive tailoring and give it a more lounge-y attitude. Jackets are belted like robes and pants are easy; some of the models wear Oblique-patterned slippers. We are still locked in, after all – lets keep it stylish.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.