It’s a sunny afternoon in May, and the fashion designer Eli Russell Linnetz is sitting in a hotel ballroom in Santa Monica, California. Linnetz runs his brand, ERL, from a studio a few miles away in his hometown of Venice Beach, where he works with a team of two employees, one of whom is his sister. Today, he’s surrounded by half a dozen French staffers from Christian Dior, who are awaiting further direction. Wearing a vintage slime-green Ocean Pacific shirt, camo cargo pants, and goggle eyeglass frames, Linnetz looks a bit like the kooky intern who should be steaming a rack of shimmering suit jackets nearby. But owing to an act of creative audacity by Dior Men artistic director Kim Jones, who is tapping away on his phone nearby, Linnetz is instead commanding the room.
Linnetz, 31, isn’t your typical fashion school alumnus on the way up. A former opera singer and child actor – he voiced Tipo in the millennial touchstone The Emperor’s New Groove – who studied screenwriting at college, Linnetz spent most of his 20s as a buzzy creative director and photographer for the likes of Kanye West and Lady Gaga. He launched ERL in 2018 at the urging of Comme des Garçons and Dover Street Market president Adrian Joffe, who saw in Linnetz a quintessentially modern talent. With the backing of Dover Street’s young designer incubator, ERL’s nostalgia-soaked reinterpretations of Californian jock staples such as jorts and football jerseys quickly took off. And ultimately led to his being tapped to guest design the Dior Men spring 2023 collection.
The call that sealed the partnership lasted less than a minute, according to Linnetz. “I feel like a lot of people, with the success of ERL, have said, ‘Oh, we should work together,’ but that’s gone nowhere,” he says. “We’d be having conversations for two years. And with Kim, we had one 45-second conversation and he made up his mind.”
“I don’t like to mull things over too much,” Jones adds. “I don’t need to have a long conversation about something. I kind of just do it.”
Still, Linnetz is aware of the momentousness of the occasion that’s brought him into Dior’s elaborate operation. “Dior’s never had a guest designer in their history, so it’s actually insane,” Linnetz says as he shows off a board with the final looks styled on models. One wears a thick purple turtleneck embroidered with the phrase “California Couture,” another, a crisp grey suit with the lining flipped inside-out. In a first for Dior, two hoodies would grace the runway too. Based on ERL designs worn by the likes of Justin Bieber and Kendall Jenner, they are covered in waves of silver sequins and will cost over £4,000 when the collection hits stores in January, says Linnetz. “I feel like a lot of people try to tap into skate culture because it’s relevant. But this is actually just what I wear every day. Even the skater chain,” he says, holding up an enormous gold chain studded with “Christian Dior” charms that’s clamped to his cargos. “They’re just abstracted luxurious versions of stuff that I already wear.” (Linnetz’s success as a designer hasn’t slowed down his photography practice; he shot Jacob Elordi for the September cover of GQ.)
The partnership may be somewhat radical in the history of the Maison, but it’s just another day at the office for Jones, who has made collaboration a cornerstone of his tenure at Dior. His debut show, spring 2019, included a partnership with the pop artist KAWS, and from there Jones constructed collections around the work of Raymond Pettibon, Daniel Arsham, Kenny Scharf, Peter Doig, and other blue-chip artists. He’s also released collaborations with Rimowa, Birkenstock, Travis Scott, and Air Jordan Brand, the latter of which resulted in arguably the most highly anticipated trainer drop in human history. “From our perspective, Dior has been an unequivocal roaring success since Kim took over,” says Sam Lobban, the senior vice president of designer and new concepts at Nordstrom, which hosted a pop-up shop selling exclusive Dior x KAWS pieces and runway looks from Jones’s first show for the house. Dior doesn’t disclose sales numbers, but Lobban witnessed the potency of Jones’s vision firsthand: every single piece Nordstrom stocked flew off the shelves.
- Fendi Opens Renovated Boutique in Las Vegas Crystals
- Can a transparent purse cut through the deep polarization in L.A. bag culture?
- Lafayette 148 Sets Up Shop in Houston
- Too big for a chihuahua and a disaster in revolving doors... but mega bags will be HUGE
- Kylie Jenner is gifted a rare $100k three-tone Hermès Birkin from mum Kris for her 25th birthday