How Kim Jones & ERL Crafted California Cool For Dior’s SS23 Collection

Wavier than the shores of Venice Beach, Dior Men’s Artistic Director Kim Jones, and multi-hyphenate creative Eli Russell Linnetz discuss how they brought California to the 8th arrondissement of Paris with the house’s newest collaborative collection.

This story appears in the pages of VMAN 49: The Fall/Winter 2022 issue—now available for purchase!

Skater kids, muscle beach aficionados, and a rainbow-like array of multicolored establishments that echo the vibrant California energy of a western, cultural oasis–this is Venice Beach. One might ask “What the hell would Dior be doing there?”, a question on every industry insider’s mind when first told that the historic French fashion house would be showing its new men’s spring/summer 2023 collection on the sandy beaches of the coastal neighborhood–but that is exactly what Dior Men’s Artistic Director, Kim Jones wanted. Unsurprisingly, this wouldn’t be the first time Dior has ventured out, physically and creatively, outside of the atelier’s confines in Paris–or the last time. Enter Eli Russell Linetz, otherwise known by his famed acronym, ERL–the multi-faceted artist and recent LVMH Prize finalist who has guest designed an entire men’s ready-to-wear collection alongside Jones. As the two creatives discuss the start-to-finish timeline of the collection, which sees a blend of streetwear staples and modern tailoring elevated with the maison’s level of excellence in craftsmanship that awakens a spirit of “California Couture”, a mixed explosion of true west coast codes with a Parisian style mindset introduces a new vision of what truly transpires when worlds collide: a house reimagined.

Eli Russell Linnetz: Kim, do you recall how this project first came to be?

Kim Jones: [It was all] because of a conversation I had with my team. We loved what you were doing and we thought it would be wonderful to work with a younger designer. I have been at Dior for four years, and although it does feel much longer, it just felt like the right time to do something like this–particularly after the last show and collection, Winter 2022. On the surface, they look like very different collections, but they are both really about a certain kind of cross-generational conversation in fashion–an idea of legacy and the meaning of Dior. How did you first react to being asked to guest design this collection? You know, you’re one of the first guest designers in Dior’s history.

ERL: It may sound odd, but I have to admit, I was hesitant at first. ERL was created in a bubble so far removed from the industry of fashion, I wasn’t sure if the collision of the two worlds would translate. But, once you and I really began to talk, I knew it was the right decision. We’re two artists who have mutual respect for each other’s work and you really gave me so much freedom. You and Dior have so many resources, I really was able to tell a much larger narrative and explore techniques and concepts I haven’t been able to explore on my own.

All clothing and accessories Dior Men (Guest-Designed by ERL) // On face Dior Beauty Dior Backstage Flash Perfector Concealer in #9N Neutral

KJ: We gave you access to go through the Dior archives and work with the atelier–what did you end up finding that stuck with you the most when creating this collection? 

ERL: My work is so theatrical, a lot of people were surprised I didn’t go straight to the [John] Galliano pieces in the archive. You gave me complete freedom, which was incredible.

KJ: Were there any eras from Dior’s history that you found most intriguing?

All clothing, shoes, and accessories Dior Men (Guest-Designed by ERL)

ERL: I actually started with the year I was born, which was the era of Gianfranco Ferré. I was shocked by the complexity and intricacy of his designs–so sculptural and architectural. So different from the other designers of that same time, his work was so maximalist. His work in the archive was relatively untouched, which was intriguing to me. He also never studied fashion formally, which resonated with me as my background is in screenwriting and stage design.

KJ: That was a fresh and fruitful exploration of the archive. Then, there is a backwards and forwards between Venice and Paris throughout the collection. You know, the whole idea of this collection was a coming together of two worlds–a french high fashion one and an archetypal American one. You quite literally work with the idea of American archetypes at ERL, and how those worlds interpret Dior at the same time.

All clothing and accessories Dior Men (Guest-Designed by ERL) // On hair Bumble and bumble. Curl Anti-Humidity Gel Oil / On lips Dior Beauty Dior Addict Lip Glow in #000 Universal Clear

ERL: You know, at first, I really made an effort to rattle off the things that truly made something feel like California, but I quickly realized it was in my blood. So deep that no matter which direction or road we took, it was reflected in each piece–I think Venice will be proud. I was excited to have Sonia [Reese-Davis] there–the granddaughter of Arthur Reese. Arthur was the co-founder of Venice Beach in 1905. He was the first artistic director, as well as being in charge of the entire look and feel of everything that went on here. She said her grandfather would have been proud.

KJ: What did it feel like being back in Venice Beach since you’ve grown up there?

All clothing, shoes, and accessories Dior Men (Guest-Designed by ERL) // On hair Bumble and bumble. Curl Defining Cream / On Skin Dior Beauty Dior Backstage Face & Body Powder-No-Powder in #2N Neutral

ERL: The show was actually a block from my home so I never really left. Venice Beach is a place for crazy people–the pioneers who risked everything to venture west. I [also] think the spontaneity of Venice Beach is absolutely present in the collection. When you’re telling the story of your hometown, you wanna make sure you’re getting it right–that it’s communicating the essence of your experiences.

KJ: Did you have any nostalgic feelings or memories arise throughout this whole process?

ERL: At my core, I’m a sculptor and a storyteller. I tell stories through the clothes I’m making. My memories are in every piece I make. There is a piece of Venice at every moment in the collection.

All clothing and accessories Dior Men (Guest-Designed by ERL) // On face Dior Beauty Capture Dreamskin Cushion foundation in #020 Light Beige

KJ: Working with someone [like you] is a fascinating exercise because each person has a particular universe and creative path that is specific to [them]. Doing things together makes me think differently, differently with each new season. I [definitely] want to continue in this direction of surprising people, and making collections very sophisticated, very couture, very Dior, and very desirable.

ERL: You are so generous and really gave me a platform where together we could share ideas and create with our intuition. No second-guessing, just pure creation–it felt free.

The Dior Men Spring 2023 Collection (Guest Designed by ERL) will be available in January 2023

Kevin Ponce is VMAN’s Digital & Beauty Editor.

This story appears in the pages of VMAN 49: The Fall/Winter 2022 issue—now available for purchase!

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