As if we weren’t excited enough for Kim Jones‘ Dior Spring 2023 show in LA today, the designer went and revealed that the collection will be a collaboration with ERL founder and designer Eli Russell Linnetz. In anticipation, we’ve prepared a Linnetz cheat sheet so come the time of the show, you’ll be in the know.
A multi-hyphenate in every sense of the word, Linnetz has worn about every industry appropriate hat there is, from videographer, creative director, stage designer, thrifter, playwright’s assistant and 2022 LVMH Prize Finalist. But it’s the latter title that now takes up most of his time as he continues to redefine notions of California cool under his eponymous ERL label.
Here, the 31-year-old designer plays with pop-cultural graphics, flitting between the lurid and faded with ease. He takes staples of the American man – baseball shirts, boxy jackets, breezy underpants and thick denim – and turns them on their head, splattering them with mud or giving them space to run free across the body. Underscoring it all is the type of raw masculinity seen inside college gym changing rooms, revealing itself in skimpy vests or scraggly cowboy chaps – subtly winking to themes of Americana at all times.
Back to today’s Dior show. Hosted in Linnetz’s native Venice Beach, the designer duo have plundered the Dior archives to fuse exquisite French savoir-faire with a fish-eyed dive into 90s skate culture. Ahead of this meeting of minds, we dig a little deeper into Linnetz’s insane repertoire of projects to underscore just why this partnership feels so monumental.
One of Linnetz most infamous moments, at least in the public consciousness, has to be dressing A$AP Rocky at last year’s Met Gala. Fashionably late as per, the rapper stepped onto the red carpet with his baby-mother-to-be, Rihanna (herself smouldered in a poofy gothic number by Balenciaga). As the admittedly stylish foil to the undisputed Met Gala Queen, the crowd went wild as Rocky dazzled in a colourful handmade blanket-slash-cape, shrouding himself in a blur of puffy, floral splendour. The offering was sourced by Linnetz from a thrift store in Southern California, and it would only take a day for the grandchild of the cloak’s original maker to give us the details on its origins. Suffice to say, Linnetz’s bed-spread to best-dressed journey hit the America: A Fashion Lexicon theme straight on its head with deft and shapely precision.
Linnetz met Kanye West at just seventeen, and would go on to forge a creative partnership that flexed the former’s surrealist chops with out-there album artworks, live performance concepts and even family scrapbooks. For The Life of Pablo alone, Linnetz designed an insane floating stage for West’s tour underlit by hundreds of bulbs that soared over the heads of concertgoers, and also created the slew of graphic – and incredibly orange – gothic text merch that flew off the stands at each show as streetwear lovers grappled for big bomber jackets and West’s collage-printed long-sleeves.
But of all of these feats, it’s Linnetz’s creative direction for Famous that’s the most incredible. West made headlines the world over for the unnerving video, which examines 21st-century celebrity in a sprawling, bed-bound reimagining of The Last Supper. Controversy arose from the cast of nude celebrities that swamped West in the production, featuring former and current partners, in-laws, mortal enemies and even Donald Trump – all in the buff.
Not everyone gets the chance to become the Kardashian family’s personal family photographer, but then again, Eli Russell Linnetz is not everyone. Seeing as he’s a dab hand at flying stages, grailed thrift finds and, you know, robots, it would make perfect sense that Linnetz is a gifted eye behind the lens too. From Selena Gomez to Normani and Grimes, many a superstar has queued up to appear on a Linnetz photograph, or in the latter’s case, entrusted him with announcing their pregnancy. And as Linnetz is Linnetz, he manages to expand on this brilliantly twisted universe best in his self-directed lookbooks that stir with murky shadows and grainy apparitions.
West isn’t the only mega-artist who was after a piece of the Linnetz pie. After Lady Gaga’s pink-hatted pivot to cowboy pop for her record Joanne, fans were desperately excited to see where her new era would take her. But before we got the 80s-house splendour of Chromatica, the superstar would first embark on an exciting Las Vegas residency, titled Enigma. For the occasion she invented a virtual alter-ego of the same name, and invited Linnetz to creatively direct the whole shebang, teasing the collaboration in a triptych of contorted, avant-garde shots of the singer, sans colour or the artistic garb the singer is usually known for. The multi-hyphenate would then go on to design tour costumes, colossal interactive robot forms, fire-breathing stage set-ups and also shoot the promotional materials for the rest of the tour, which grossed $53,868,719 in 2019 alone.
As to how this all came together, Linnetz told SSENSE: “Gaga and I took some pictures together and she was like, “I’ve got my Vegas show coming up and this is what I think I want to do for it.” And because I’m so nuts, I was like “no” and then designed a whole stage and came up with this story and said, “This is how I would do it.” And she was like, “Okay, let’s do it.” It was a beautiful collaboration and I’m honoured she let me into her world.”
If you’ve taken a trip to Dover Street Market recently, you might have noticed a corner full of elevated thrift shop staples and cropped skatewear, all bearing a label that reads ERL, the brand launched by Linnetz back in 2018.
Unafraid of colour, texture or chunky shapes, Linnetz stylistic efforts would see him make Kim Kardashian’s kids a range of custom puffer jackets in wild gradient hues, or dress the most infamous of TikTok celebrities – Sway House – before their inevitable dissolution. Remember that killer bridal gear Kid Cudi rocked at the CFDAs? That was him too. And let us not forget how he quite literally bottled up the bliss of a sunny day at the seaside in his coconut-laced fragrance ‘Sunscreen’, made in collaboration with the innovative perfumers at Comme Des Garçons. His oeuvre is queer, sexy, cooler than cool, and potentially even LVMH Prize-winning – but you’ll just have to watch this space on that one.