There should be a word for when art is a product of its surroundings. For ERL’s cooly chaotic clothing feels like a visual regurgitation of its home, Venice Beach, Los Angeles — from the knits sporting gradient sunset hues, to the vibrant ice cream-like Swirl Hoodies.
In true City of Angels style, the four-year-old brand’s fame kicked off after its founder Eli Russell Linnetz dressed music artist A$AP Rocky in his viral patchwork quilt cape for the Met Gala 2021. Though that wasn’t the first time Linnetz worked with stars, having directed Kanye West’s Fade (173 million views) and Famous (55 million views) music videos in 2016.
Following the Met Gala internet sensation, the designer was nominated as the CFDA American Emerging Designer of the Year, and was listed as a finalist for the 2022 LVMH Karl Lagerfeld Prize.
Now stocked in China’s innovative multi-brand store ENG Concept, the design disruptor is connecting with its Chinese fanbase via an eerie art installation at the Shanghai retail space. Currently on display at ENG Shanghai, the very human-like models and hospital bed installation are an extension of the L.A. brand’s Fall 2022 lookbook.
Below, we asked Linnetz all about his debut art installation in the mainland, and how much collaboration means to ERL.
What do you hope to achieve through retail collaborations such as your one with ENG Concept in China?
Everything I do is very personal and authentic. I have never imagined collaborating with a retailer — it seems so distant from something I would ever do. But when I started realizing the opportunity to create these sculptures and expressed myself artistically, it seemed like a great opportunity.
Is collaboration an important part of ERL’s strategy?
No, it’s not. Everything is very personal. Sometimes, if an opportunity feels organic like Dior, or working with A$AP Rocky or Justin Bieber — which were both born out of friendships — it has to feel natural or else I don’t go out of my way to seek it.
Has your work in music inspired your fashion and vice versa? What similarities do you find working in fashion and music?
I think that the cycle of music is so quick. But also, there are hits that have lasted decades. So I think both of those elements are in my work: in the now, but also in the long term.
Did your Dior collection influence your popularity in the Chinese market?
Absolutely. It exposed ERL to more people in the Chinese market and it was great to be able to meet and connect with people who like ERL and have been supportive of the brand.
Is there anything about your trajectory as a fashion designer that you didn’t expect?
I never expected people to ever purchase my clothes or participate in the world that I am creating. It came as a surprise but was born out of something truly authentic.
What made you want to work with ENG?
ENG was great to work with because they had a real willingness to support the full vision without compromise.