Everybody wants some ERL. I’ve heard Eli Russell Linnetz’s name in more conversations this month than that of any other designer. Some people are fans, others are customers, still more speak of the young Cali designer with a pang of jealousy. He’s become the man of the moment because of his capacity to world build. ERL, now in its fourth full season with Dover Street Market Paris, is not just clothing—it’s everything. A way of being, of putting an ab-skimming tee with tatty, low-slung vaguely Hollister-ish jeans, sure, but also a method for re-assessing your life and your style. Theatricality, time, and obsession are important tenets of ERL-ism, emphasis on obsession—these are some maniacally pored over garments.
On top of all that, Linnetz is the quintessential American salesman. The more you talk to him, the more you wish he was going door-to door-with a trunk full of stuff like Chuck Taylor did. Maybe he will one day…but for now he’s leaving the road tripping for his narratives.
“Cross-dimensional hitchhiking, making the way to California” and “a romantic blowing in the wind journey across all parts of America” were two ways Linnetz described his spring 2022 mood. He’s taken his surfer boys and plopped them in a pickup truck, scanning through the hayfields and mountainsides of mid-America, with pit stops at prom and football matches along the way. The ERL dude’s got a new passenger too: Linnetz is launching womenswear, and it’s an equally manic trip through the codes of casual American style. Tiered do-si-do skirts in acid trip colors clash with girlish cotton tops and school picture day knitwear, dotted with embroidered flowers. Most of the collection is shared across the genders, giant shearling pieces and wide wale cords offering something humble, while radioactive tuxedos and Fogal tights printed with archival Rudi Gernreich patterns looking aggressively kitsch.
Linnetz photographed the pieces himself, in his Venice Beach studio, on models that could double as My So Called Life stand-ins. Earnest-faced, obvious hunks and wallflowers who skew young, almost prepubescent; they look like characters from a pull-out poster in Tiger Beat. One downside of Linnetz’s almost too effective storytelling is that his clothing, captured so up close and intimate, can start to seem as fictional as the yarns he spins. Could a real guy ever look as good in an orange V-front cable knit polo sweater? Could a real woman capture the kookiness of a half-blazer half, floral top? Linnetz’s many famous fans have in fact proven the realness of his past collections, Dua Lipa, Justin Bieber, and Kendall Jenner, among them. Maybe he’s tapping into the American Dream of a new generation: to become the character you say you are. Or maybe that’s been the dream all along.