Dior x ERL Venice Beach show was a colorful spectacle — and a missed opportunity
On May 19, luxury giant Dior staged a show to showcase its recent men’s Spring 2023 collection, guest-designed by Venice Beach-native Eli Russell Linnetz of ERL. Together, the two brands sent an incredibly nostalgic and saccharine collection down Venice’s iconic street, turning it into a runway for the night. Here’s how it all went down — from the perspective of an outsider looking in.
Venice, a well-trodden tourist ground, doesn’t feel like itself today. The stretch from Windward Avenue to Speedway, always a congested artery, has gone through a transformation. Everything is awash in cobalt blue; the gray asphalt is painted blue and recast into a runway. Local businesses that flank the street are, for the most part, covered by blue walls that crest up like giant, rogue waves. Even the Venice sign, which serves as a gateway to the walkway, has company. Under these iconic letters, another iconic word — Dior, in bold and elegant typeface, and next to it, ERL.
Nothing quite symbolizes Venice quite like the sign that spells out the city’s name. Strung across Windward Avenue at Pacific, it’s a sight quintessential to this spit of land, and one that thousands and thousands of locals and tourists come here to see and pose in front of. So, it made sense that when Dior’s Kim Jones teamed up with Eli Russell Linnetz of ERL, a brand born out of Venice Beach, to guest design the new capsule collection, that it would be unveiled right here.
It’s been over a month since media outlets announced Dior’s coming to Los Angeles. Both the location, and details about the collaboration (or the fact that it would be one at all) was kept under wraps. But just two days before the show, the signs went up. Posts were shared, and social media stories reposted. In neon fonts, the location, Venice Beach, appeared. But where?
Here, of course. Right here in the heart of town, barricades block passersby from slipping through. As the blocked off section of the road fills up with the who’s who of the fashion and entertainment world, a curious crowd begins to gather behind me. We’re all trying to sneak a peek, of course, a task made challenging by the avalanche of security personnel and police officers keeping onlookers behind the not-so-proverbial red line. Out the tiny hostel windows, which peer over the show, a few heads jut in and out like a game of whack-a-mole. Some, perhaps bothered by the loud blast of music, never come back out.
A 90’s nostalgia trip
If there’s something you won’t ever see on a Dior runway, it’s a hoodie. But it’s familiar territory for Linnetz. After all, basic garments are the bread and butter of his brand, which is informed by California’s infallibly cool vibes. Linnetz, who’s also an artist, photographer, director, and stage designer, has a knack for creating simple clothes that speak, that really tell tales. Which is exactly why Dior gave the LVMH prize finalist the podium. Which is also how a hoodie made its way to a Dior runway.
Of course, it’s Dior-style, which translates to a gray hoodie with silver tinsel trim. Or another: a yin-and-yang swirl of off-white and silver, thrown on top of a white button-down and paired with loose, ivory pants and bulky sneakers. Shoelaces are left untied, in the sort of way that was cool in the 90s. But the look might be one of the few muted fits on the runway-slash-street. The rest? A cacophony of color, unbuttoned and unleashed.
Linnetz did his research on the decade, which also happens to be when he was born. With a go-ahead from Jones, Linnetz dug into the Dior archive, and particularly, the work that came out of Gianfranco Ferré’s tenure at the luxury house. Ferre’s maximalist resolve and California’s skater-type culture informed the foundation of the collection, rendered in Linnetz’s unmistakable, signature style and palette. Slouchy and oversized in all manner of robin’s-egg blues, dusty pinks and mints.
Spring has sprung on the Dior x ERL runway! There are pastel-colored tinsel sweaters and satin suits. Tuxedo pants boast a crystal stripe down the outseam. Baggy stone-washed denim shorts, and a down-filled jacket in a swirl of infirmary green and lavender perfectly encapsulates the vibe. And the crown jewel: an enormous opera cape dreamed up with a patchwork of plaid and sports jerseys. It’s styled with a scarf and red pants worn with the waistband dropped to the hips, showing the top of underwear.
And perhaps just as noteworthy as the silhouettes: the accessories. Namely, the mini saddle bags — one of Dior’s most prominent leather goods and a cult favorite — worn as belt bags and chokers. (One standout look features a fuzzy saddle bag slung across his chest, almost-perfectly camouflaged with a same-tone tinsel sweater.) Chunky gold chains double as belts, and fuzzy bucket hats define much of the headwear.
As the models all walk through the atmospheric fog in the final, dramatic climax of the show, I can’t help but think: how fun. It’s truly a celebration of the decade and the spring season, and it feels both nostalgic and new. Linnetz’s prowess is put on full display, and for a moment there, all else is forgotten.
A destination show?
The telltale earthy, woodsy aroma of cannabis wafts in and out of my nostrils’ reach. More than two hours in, and my hair is catching the forceful humidity of the ocean, picking up some heft. Maybe it’s time to leave. The show is over, after all; inside the blue bubble (truly, it is a bubble in more ways than one), the after-party is starting.
As my excitement fizzles, and moments from the show begin surfacing on social media, a few thoughts come to mind. Perhaps most loudly: Where is Venice Beach’s true colors, its eclectic and bohemian verve? There’s nothing more exciting than celebrating a place and its community through clothes — especially through destination shows that are meant to highlight, well, the destination.
Last year, when Gucci staged its “Love Parade” show in the heart of Hollywood, it made the setting a veritable star in the production. You could clearly see the sidewalk studded with bronze stars, marquee signs, the businesses that call that stretch of the city home. And lest we forget, a pedestrian alley was left open for the public, allowing non-invitees to watch.
And that’s why my friends and I were so excited about Dior’s show in the free-spirited Venice Beach — which has personality in spades. But in the midst of all the blue, all the props and the staging, the iconic beach town’s character felt diluted. Not showcasing the very community the collection drew inspiration from felt like a missed opportunity.
There were other mishaps that cropped up. During the show, a frustrated onlooker sent a water balloon splashing down near the VIP attendees. Not a particularly welcoming sign. Next to me, a security guard hurled a culturally insensitive comment at our new friends from Japan while pushing the crowd even further back out of view. At some point, some unknown threat sent security personnel in a frenzy. What’s going on?
But then of course, as I rewatch the show and refocus on the garments, I feel a sense of joy again. I zero in on the details, and take in what was missed in the distance. And in doing so, I can’t help but appreciate what Linnetz and Jones brought to the “runway” — painted or not.
Photography by Mari Makatsaria and Kristin Vartan of keepingitkrischic.com