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.
Finally, a Fendi collection by Kim Jones I genuinely love. Fendi’s best asset, as Jones knows, is the Fendi women themselves, mother and daughter Silvia Venturini and Delfina Delettrez. In Delfina and her younger sister Leonetta, Jones has ideal muses. “What they wear is what Silvia wore when she was younger, and she’s very cool and they’re very cool; seeing how it’s generational is very inspiring. They’re obsessed by clothes and details, having those women around you when you’re working is a real joy.” Backstage of the autumn-winter 2022 fashion show, Jones explained that the genesis of his new offering was seeing Delfina in the Rome office wearing a blouse of Silvia’s from a 1986 Fendi collection by Karl Lagerfeld, when he was in his Memphis phase. “I took it off her back and put it on the research rail,” he said. Jones recolored the print and collapsed the more obviously 1980s proportions of that show’s tailoring into separates, some in menswear fabrics, others in denim. Then, because he was after lightness, he combined those references with a callback to another Lagerfeld-designed Fendi collection for spring 2000, one with a delicacy in direct opposition to the blousy proportions of the 1986 show. Naturally, Jones updated these looks too, starting by layering them over matching flutter-edged underpinnings. Jones is in many ways like Lagerfeld, an enthusiastic collector with a capacious mind for references, and he’s bringing all that to bear on Fendi. The job before him is at least in part to woo a new generation to the label; Lagerfeld, though he never lost touch with the young, was in his position for 54 years. Nominating that spring 2000 collection for a re-see couldn’t be a coincidence, what with that era being newly relevant to people who didn’t experience it the first time. But Jones has done it with finesse, avoiding any of the retro allusions seen on so many other runways.
For his third Fendi haute couture collection, Kim Jones clashed the past with the future. This season, Jones continued his evening-centric approach, proposing a series of gowns he said illustrated the craftsmanship and techniques he can’t show in his ready-to-wear for Fendi. Like previous collections, Rome played muse: “It has so many layers to it. It’s such an ancient city,” he said. “We’re always thinking of the past, present, and future of it. The idea of different times and that very spiritual side of Rome, which becomes almost celestial; almost spacey.” Space, astrology, and heaven have been themes in this season’s couture and men’s collections. No doubt mildly inspired by last year’s billionaire space race, they mainly represent the great escape. The pandemic’s part in that scenario is pocket psychology. Jones, who said he had been re-reading Dune and a book on Star Wars by George Lucas, approached the theme with a Hollywood zest that recalled a number of sci-fi films centered around the age-old conversation between the ancient and the futuristic. Mirroring that dialogue in the time-transcendence embodied by Rome, Jones mixed the city’s structures with futuristic imagery and applied it to eveningwear. Renditions of the statues outside Fendi’s monumental Palazzo della Civiltà Italiana headquarters hand-painted on velvet dresses and a sheared mink cape looked like the statues in Prometheus or the landscapes in the scenes in The Planet of the Apes. Elsewhere, he applied the contours of a Roman fountain to a white dress and “filled it with mink,” while the radiant opening and closing dresses seemed to morph the lines of the peplos – the oldest dress in history – with a sci-fi structure. The collection was Jones’s first haute couture show for Fendi with a live audience. As a showcase of the skill of the house’s Roman atelier and a theater of ballroom fashion, it was a proper ending to a marvelous couture season.
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.
Kim Jones’s spring-summer 2022 collection for Fendi was a line-up of classically-flavored silhouettes and color progressions played against an irresistible decorative sample of archive Antonio López illustrations. The models glided out from backstage down a runway whose arches echoed the house’s Roman home, the Palazzo della Civiltà. The big reveal of this collection, the decoration, rotated around the vintage Fendi logo drafted by López during his period of collaboration with Karl Lagerfeld. Said Jones of López: “He was a big, big fashion influencer for a lot of people, but is not so talked about. He had this relationship with Karl and with Fendi, and he helped shape so many strong visions of women, because he loved them: that feels very authentic and topical.”The illustrations drawn from the López estate’s archive originated, Jones said, as the 1960s transitioned into the 1970s. Here his work was introduced via oversized brushstrokes, then zeroed-in upon via one particular drawing, a rouge-lipped profile of Jane Forth that was abstracted into the pattern that contoured four vivid intarsia and jacquard looks. Color became more impactfully calorific as further illustrations of wavy-haired and cherry-lipped rainbow-framed women were worked into kaftans, a fringed tapestry-woven Baguette, intarsia leather thigh-highs and silks. Plexiglass jewelry by DelfinaDelletrez was shaped in gold-edged transparent lily leaves, another López signature. Many looks remained illustration free, yet even without the figurative signposting, these outfits echoed the aesthetic of the period in which López was working. Just like Jones’ debut collection last March, this was… a proper-looking collection. Quite dangerously, Kim leads Fendi to that type of predictably classy, beige-y, luxury Italian brand category, which Lagerfeld avoided at all costs.