To call Eli Russell Linnetz fashion designer (special guest at Pitti Uomo 104 with his ERL) is at least reductive, as this 32-year-old Californian man is a multifaceted creative of many virtues. He also enjoys directing (he directed for Kanye West, Shawn Mendes and Tyga), photography (he shot for brands – Yeezy, Skims – and magazines as Interview, GQ or Vogue), music production and more, collaborating with titans of today’s show business such as the aforesaid Ye, Lady Gaga, Kim Kardashian, Kid Cudi.
With the brand that bears his initials, he has conveyed the vibe and laid-back style typical of the city where he was born and raised, Los Angeles, especially Venice Beach neighborhood, with its melting pot of ethnicities, cultures and human types, from graffiti artists to surfers in their sun-faded shorts and skateboarders in their baggy outfits, paving his way into the fashion system (the label is distributed by Dover Street Market, the elite fashion wonderland), until the media explosion thanks to his collaboration with Dior.
Just a year ago, he co-designed the Men Resort 2023 collection California Couture, a short circuit between the extreme sophistication of the Parisian label and the hedonistic imagery of the West Coast, with its upturned suits, sugary tones alternated by flashes of saturated color, rich embroideries of pearls and sequins.
Afterwards, he won the Karl Lagerfeld Prize during the 2022 LVMH Prize and is now joining the international reference event for menswear, where he’s bringing a special installation with a Hollywood taste.
Nothing unusual for someone who always starts “from the story, even before knowing what the collection will look like”.
“ERL is casual, unpretentious and playful”
You are the guest designer of the 104th edition of Pitti Uomo, where you will show your collection on June 14. How do you feel about starring in the international menswear showcase on the eve of such an important event?
It is a great honor to be showing at Pitti Uomo – to be showing in Florence, the birthplace of the Renaissance and magic is something to dream of.
What can we expect from the spring/summer 2024 collection you will present in Florence? Can you reveal something in advance?
I went to school for screenwriting at University of Southern California (USC) so before I even know what a collection will look like, it always starts with story. I came up with the theme of make believe – there are so many elements that are tied to cinema which is a world of pure make believe from building of sets to costume design to composing music so incorporating every element of a film you possibly can imagine into a show was super important to me.
You founded ERL five years ago. What are the most significant milestones for the brand to date and those to be achieved in the future?
A few come to mind – winning the Karl Lagerfeld Prize with LVMH was a great honor. Collaborating with Kim Jones and guest designing a collection for Dior was really significant to me. Dressing ASAP Rocky for the Met Gala that he attended with Rihanna was also special and opening our first ERL store in Kyoto, Japan.
How would you describe the ERL aesthetic? What are the peculiarities of the brand that makes it unique?
ERL is casual, unpretentious and playful. There is such a range of products and characters. It can be worn in so many different types of situations depending on the person and how they wear their clothes.
“All my work always is provocative – but provocative can be used in several ways”
Last year you co-designed the Dior Men Resort 2023 ‘California Couture’ collection, the first ever guest designer in the history of the glorious Parisian fashion house. What are your thoughts about it now, what stood out the most from that experience?
The entire process was completely effortless and guided by intuition and trust. Kim Jones truly has such an amazing team of people he works with – sometimes we would create in silence – there were no words needed for what we were creating. The work was never forced and we never questioned each other – it was pure joy and I’m so grateful for the opportunity to have worked with him.
The label of fashion designer definitely fits you since you are also a photographer, director, producer and set designer. All these activities led you to collaborate with show business giants and major brands in the publishing industry. What is the common denominator that holds together all these different facets of your creativity?
All my work always is provocative – but provocative can be used in several ways. It’s provocative in a playful way that challenges the viewer or makes them see something everyday in a new way.
“ERL is ever growing and evolving as I myself grow and evolve”
Menswear has never been more dynamic. According to recent studies, it is growing at a greater average annual rate than womenswear, plus the pandemic has further messed up the cards with the casualization dictated by lockdowns, then with the general return to an old-fashioned, rigorous and measured elegance. As the founder and creative director of one of the “hottest” brands, you enjoy a privileged perspective on men’s fashion. What is your opinion about it?
With fashion in general, for me, I don’t look at trends or approach fashion in a traditional way. I approach my collections as a costume designer, playing dress up and exploring new characters, in my imagination.
How do you see ERL in 10 years?
ERL is ever growing and evolving as I myself grow and evolve.
Opening image: Eli Russell Linnetz, ERL founder and creative director
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