California Couture

Paris meets LA in Dior and ERL’s SS23 collaboration

Photography Gaëtan Bernède

It is a Thursday evening in Venice Beach when the Dior x ERL Spring 23 collection is shown, and a nylon wave is rolling, languid and cerulean, down Windward Avenue, towards the ocean. In the crest of the wave, the audience watches models walk down its parted centre: hot-pink shorts, bare chests, fur saddlebags, logo tube socks pulled far up above untied skate shoes. Suspended above them the Venice sign glitters in the twilight, the words ‘ERL’ and ‘DIOR’ strung underneath.

Emblazoned in green and orange glitter on the fronts of slouchy polo-necks, ‘California Couture’ acts as both a title and mission statement for the collection. It’s Paris-meets-LA, Dior-grey satin suits teamed with crystal brooches and embroidered sweatshirts, quilted jackets slung over pearl-encrusted knits. There’s a playfulness here, a winking irreverence that nevertheless pays sincere tribute to the history of Dior. This desire to push boundaries is in keeping with Kim Jones’ tenure as artistic director of Dior Men’s, with previous collections taking inspiration from references as eclectic as the Beat poets, Travis Scott and Parisian statues. Jones talks about how, for this collection, he “wanted to work with someone in a different way; I wanted somebody to see Dior from a different angle.”

In this light, a collaboration with Eli Russell Linnetz, creative director of ERL, feels entirely natural. Born and raised amongst the surfers, skaters and starlets of Venice Beach, Linnetz’s chameleon-like ability to turn his hand to anything he desires – assisting David Mamet on Broadway, directing the music videos for Kanye West’s ‘Famous’ and ‘Fade’, designing the set for Lady Gaga’s Enigma tour, or voicing a character in The Emperor’s New Groove – makes him the perfect choice to embody Jones’ vision of a Dior Men’s that fuses old and new, high art and pop culture, street fashion and couture. Linnetz describes how he and Jones began by exploring the 1991 Dior archive, the year of his birth. As he puts it, “this was during Gianfranco Ferré’s period as artistic director and was a part of the history of Dior that felt completely fresh for both Kim and me.” It’s here that the collection’s maximalism originates: “a coming together of chaos and perfectionism. There’s a collision of moments in time and history throughout the collection, of cross-generational and spatial meetings in time.”

The result is a synthesis of downtown Venice Beach spontaneity and 8th arrondissement refinery, an all-American dream of Paris: surf-inspired shorts, lived-in knits and loose, silky fabrics in the colours of a beach sunset – pale pink, dusky blue, and an intense, heart stopping fuchsia. Yet all the facets that make something unmistakably, quintessentially Dior – an unparalleled flair for tailoring, the iconic Cannage motif – are there, rendered this time in satin and leather quilting, in flowing pastel suits and padded skate shoes. It is, as Jones says, “both familiar and revelatory; reaffirming why we both dreamed about working in fashion in the first place.”

Photography Gaëtan Bernède

Styling Karlmond Tang

Model Feranmi Ajetomobi at Wilhelmina and Ed Killingbeck at Premier

Grooming Charlie Cullen

Casting Marqee Miller

Photography assistant Eduardo Guida

This article is taken from Port issue 31. To continue reading, buy the issue or subscribe here