The ERL showroom at Dover Street Market’s 3537 space in Paris was buzzy with activity on Sunday afternoon. In Venice Beach, where Eli Russell Linnetz lives, the sun had not yet risen, but the designer was bright-eyed on a Zoom call, giving the impression that he doesn’t need sleep. Linnetz, who is 32, has built quite an enterprise, and he’s a hands-on guy, photographing the zines that accompany his collections himself. He belongs to a long line of narrative builders in fashion, though his clothes have a real-world appeal that other designers of this ilk don’t always achieve.
His story this season at ERL follows a family that strikes it rich after traveling the Oregon trail, then falls into dysfunction and deterioration across the generations. The zine, which Linnetz titled Greed: The American Gold Rush, opens with “pioneer chic” dresses in drab checks and a red bandana print and ends with a Wall Street descendent living through the housing crisis of the 2020s in a football jersey with a homemade bomb strapped to his chest, planning his own demise.
It’s a dystopian view of the American dream, reinforced by the use of imagery from the film Easy Rider—tagline: “A man went looking for America. And couldn’t find it anywhere.” But the collection isn’t as dark as the tale Linnetz tells with his photos. Though there are T-shirts printed with the words “Rent Me,” he wears his generation’s pessimism lightly. He’s too fascinated with the major and minor arcana of American life—from the stars and stripes of the flag on down to swap meet sourced vintage prints and the 1970s phenomenon that was iron-on T-shirts—to be truly negative in his outlook.
A click through the images will tell you that this is actually Linnetz’s most upbeat collection yet, and not just because he devoted a chapter to the psychedelia of the 1970s, with flower children printed parkas and snowpants, and airbrushed T-shirts in cotton that feels likes it’s been loved and lived-in for years. He had fun with his Wall Street-wear too, collaging classic menswear plaids with surfboard illustrations by the legendary surfer Gerry Lopez on jackets and coats. The back of the coat is DIY’d with one of the 50-odd iron-ons in the lineup. Linnetz pointed to his experience collaborating with Kim Jones at Dior Men for his push into tailoring, and said there will be more of it in upcoming seasons. The coat is a collectible in the making that future Eli Russell Linnetzes will sift for in the aftermath if America eventually does implode.