Eli Russell Lynettes, the fashion defiant It Child


Two months ago, Eli Russell Lynettes moved into a house built by actor Dennis Hopper in the mid-1980s. Mr. Linnets has spent the past few years moving around until he finds a studio that feels right.

For the 32-year multi-hyphenate – we’ll start with the fashion designer, for simplicity’s sake – this was what finally felt right: a steel fort with a curved roof to resemble the crest of a wave. Heavy and fluffy on the outside, airy and tender on the inside.

In a video call, Mr Linnetts climbed a floating staircase under an impossibly high wooden ceiling, pointing out original features such as an angled glass bathtub and “the room where Dennis Hopper died”. The width was too much for our screens. Walking across the property, to the little white house where he now lives, Mr. Lynettes finds gardens blooming in the backyard.

One of his first renovation decisions was to tear up the studio floor and install wood planks from its original construction. This choice was inherently cautious and nostalgic. Mr. Linnets wants to fix on the small details, telling a good story.

At his first runway show in May last year, where he introduced a collection in collaboration with Dior, he explained: “Zips, buttons, beads, I want the color to be perfect. You can have the most expensive, beautiful glass beads, but if you don’t sew them right, they won’t tell the story you want to tell.”

If Mr. Linetz sounds like one of those filmmakers who strives to make sure every piece of props is accurate and up-to-date, that’s because he is. Director. And a screenwriter, photographer, stage designer and music producer who started out in the fashion industry in 2018. That double became a full brand, ERL, owned by Comme des Garçons and a member of the family of brands supported. Its retail arm, Dover Street Market. Last year, ERL was named the winner of the prestigious Karl Lagerfeld Award for Young Designers. The line is now carried in more than 220 stores.

For his next assignment, Mr. Linnetts takes on one of fashion’s most unique stages as a guest designer for the PT Umo menswear show. The title has been held by many fashion greats: Jean Paul Gaultier, Vivienne Westwood and Dries Van Noten in the 1990s; Virgil Abloh, Telfar Clemens and Grace Wells Bonner in recent years. His runway show is scheduled for June 15 in Florence, Italy.

However, Mr. Linnets, frankly, prefers to work on his screenplay at home in Venice, Calif. “The show is hampering my film career,” he said.

Once, during a visit to New York in 2021, I asked Mr. Linnets what he enjoyed about fashion, considering his other careers.

“Not literally,” he said in November. “I don’t know how I got here.”

He often drew dresses as a child, he admits, and later made a prom dress for a friend, then sewed costumes for an opera program to help pay for his tuition at the University of Southern California. But otherwise, Mr. Linnetts said, “I have nothing to do with fashion anymore, except as a medium directly in front of me to express the world around me.

That world is playful with Americana influences: vintage-inspired graphic tees, puffy skate shoes, flared jeans, brightly graduated sweaters, multiple variations on the hoodie.

“I feel like a Manchurian candidate,” he said. “Someone calls me every morning and says, ‘You’re going to design today,’ and my brain goes off, and I’m going to be hypnotized.

A year and a half later, he still describes fashion in the same way, it’s like a compulsive or overwhelming disease, “it’s always with you.” Can he just leave?”

But he says with a smile.

At first, when Ronnie Cook Newhouse, an influential creative director, asked for a meeting in Paris in 2016, Mr. Linnets did not know what to do.

“You get people from LA who are outside the fashion system” — and she admits to a bit of personal bias here — “and they all seem to be doing many, many, many different things. And, often, many, many, many different things very badly. Designers don’t , are non-acting actors, non-editors.

And when she met the 20-something Mr. Linnets, who says he directed Kanye West videos, composed music and worked on plays for David Mamet, “I was like, ‘Okay, here we go.’ Newhouse said.

Unless she understood, Mr. Linnets had. They do those things, and a little more, and they’re not bad at all.

He was a child actor in Los Angeles — with Disney credits including the 2000 animated film “The Emperor’s New Groove” — until his bar mitzvah, when he decided to quit acting to “focus on being Jewish.” At the temple, he met Mr. Mamet, who invited him to his television show, “The Unit.”

On the day of the visit, 15-year-old Mr. Lynettes, a costume contest was held. Mammoth made a judge’s robe out of light-blocking fabric and a wig out of cotton balls. “This is very strange,” said Mr. Linnets, “but come back tomorrow.”

When he wasn’t in school, he was assisting Mr. Mamet, including on Broadway. One of their duties was to print emails sent to Mr. Mamet, and he typed the responses.

At USC, he majored in screenwriting, minored in opera and joined a fraternity. (He had always been attracted to masculine gender norms; in high school, he struggled.) He made a short film his senior year starring Sawyer Spielberg, set in 1960s El Paso. But after graduation, his film career did not take off. Instead it turned to 3-D animation. A colleague from Kanye West (now known as Ye) showed him the art of Mr. Linnets; Mr. Linnets, who met Ye a few years ago, came to work on the cover art concepts for “The Life of Pablo.”

The relationship soured. Among other things, Mr. Linnets may be responsible for being the “creative director” of the 12 nude celebrity sculptures in Ye’s “Famous” video — Taylor Swift, Anna Wintour, Bill Cosby and at least two US presidents sleeping together. On a big bed.

In the year When Kim Kardashian returned to Instagram after the robbery in Paris in 2017, her first posts were Polaroids shot by Mr. Linetz, who encouraged her not to look at the camera: “Before the robbery, she was looking at the camera – selfies. And I thought, ‘Let’s do something where people can look at you, not ask anything from them, and let them make their own decisions about you.’

Working with couples made him realize how art and photography can influence culture. But Mr. Linnets wanted to go out on his own. Her outdoor robot-rock opera residency in Las Vegas led to opportunities to work with other performers such as Lady Gaga on visual direction and stage design.

When Ms. Newhouse asked them to meet, Mr. Lynettes didn’t have a specific project in mind—he simply wanted to work with her. She loved it.

“He was interesting,” Ms. Newhouse said of Mr. Lintz, who was both sarcastic and an old soul in one conversation. “I felt he had. something”

In 2017, she asked him to direct an ad for Comme des Garçons’ Andy Warhol fragrance. The following year, he met the brand’s president, Adrian Joffe. As his creative relationship with Ye grew rapidly, so did this. Mr. Linetz was a “wonderful type,” with “rare confidence,” Mr. Joffe said in an email.

As a daredevil — “coaxing him,” Mr. Joffe said — Mr. Linetz asked him to do something for the Los Angeles opening of Dover Street Market. “He’s never made clothes before,” Mr. Joffe said. The resulting pastel corduroy shirts sold out within a week, he said. “He’s good.”

Mr Joffe presented Mr Linnets with his own label under the Dover Street Market Paris brand development programme.

At the time, Mr. Lynettes saw the opportunity as a way to escape Harry’s last few years living next door to mega-fame. (In Lady Gaga’s oft-quoted words: “No Sleep, Bus, Club, Another Club, Another Club.”)

“I created ERL to get away from all this music industry hype,” Mr. Linetz said, looking for “something more to think about.”

For ARL, which released its first full collection in 2020, he shoots all the campaigns himself. He works almost entirely on his own. He lives quietly; He doesn’t drink or do drugs or enjoy going to parties or even leaving Venice and is happy to leave the fashion world for a newly adopted dog named Einstein.

He now sees the irony in that thinking: “It’s weird to go and create something super personal and then everybody wants to be a part of it.”

“Have you seen the movie ‘Escape From LA’?” Mr. Linetz asked in May of last year. In the 1996 campy disaster film, Kurt Russell and Peter Fonda described a scene in which they chase Steve Buscemi in a Cadillac as they float through a tsunami.

The scene was his inspiration for the Dior ERL show in Venice. The runway left the beach with two big waves that blocked the audience in half on both sides and threatened to wash away all the fashionistas.

“It’s a moody, bluesy, aggressive menace,” Mr. Linetz said, “spiritually complementing the alternating electric and metallic-colored costumes, loose silhouettes and shimmering, swirling accents.” “It’s a weird, twisted, colorful Dior Californication. Many of the logos say ‘California Couture’.

Dear Men’s artistic director Kim Jones invited Mr. Linetz to design the line because of his desire to support young talent. “We have a lot of collections a year,” he says—at least four—and working with another designer can sometimes help break the bubble.

Mr. Linnets’ first approach to Dior’s archives was novel: the young designer decided to focus on 1990, when Gianfranco Ferre, then artistic director, was closing in on genius. Mr. Lynettes chose 1990 simply because it was the year he was born.

“It reminded me of when I had my account when I was younger,” Mr Jones said. I see a lot of how I work in it – very fast, decisive, clear.

The first solo runway show for PT Uomo will be more of a show, Mr. Linetz said. He introduces Eli Russell, a new line of tailoring and evening wear – worn by surfer models from Southern California to Florence – rich textures, baggy and baroque, with more shimmering metallics.

“The end result is between the impractical and the practical, the comfortable and the unbearable,” said Mr. Linnets. “This first iteration is like dressing up. But some dresses are $15,000 to $20,000, so the dress is expensive.”

“I put a lot of emphasis on this one show because I don’t know how much I’m going to do,” he continued. After the collaboration with Dior, he had no desire to do anything else. And now he feels torn between thinking, “That’s kind of stupid” — just wanting to work on the third draft of that screenplay, about two friends starting college in the 1970s, “in search of American male friendship,” and maybe going. as well Big in Italy.

“When you do something big, suddenly you’re faced with the ridiculousness of everyone’s desire to go viral or make it crazy,” says the man who once made Kid Cudi’s wedding dress and veil.

At the same time, while modeling the taped hat he made for the show, he revealed that he intended to create a war that would “leave people speechless.” Mr. Linnets can’t help but contradict himself – or maybe because he’s caught so many. Is he the next “big star in the fashion world,” as Mr. Jones predicts, or is he just someone who came into fashion by accident, whose imagination and passion for storytelling transcends clothing?

“Every 10 minutes, ‘Why did I do this?’ I love it.” Mr. Linnets spoke about his upcoming show. “Oh, I guess someone has to do that.”


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