Designer Eli Russell Linnetz Is Obsessed With Shearling Coats

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Eli Russell Linnetz
Eli Russell LinnetzPhotography by Maripol

In the new issue of AnOther Magazine, the designer behind ERL talks about his childhood love of shearling coats, and how it informs his designs today

This story is taken from the Spring/Summer 2024 issue of AnOther Magazine:

“When I was a kid, my family all had matching shearling coats. We would get new ones every year as we grew up, bought from the same farm in California. I have a collection from when I was younger until now. They’re a wonderfully luxurious, dense yellow shearling with a vintage, golden, Seventies warmth. They don’t have labels – pure perfection. We’d wear them everywhere, even on the beach with just a bathing suit. There’s always a connection to my childhood in my designs, and whenever a collection is without shearling it feels like something is missing. It has a softness and cosiness that cuts through the harshest of ideas — in one of my collections there was a guy in a full body cast but we lined his leg slings with shearling, so that even amid that severity there’s this innocent purity. It’s like a collage – adding another dimension. 

“I’ve made trousers and bags from shearling, but when I make shearling coats I hate them as soon as they come out. I tried to track down the supplier of my family’s coats, but the farm had closed, so remaking them is even more of an obsession now. There’s a coat I’ve been working on for two years – it’s my longest project, to develop this special California shearling. I don’t know if I’m being overly sentimental, perhaps my brain is stuck in childhood and I’m in a fugue state, trying to relive the past. Maybe it’s morbid but I like that when I get older I’ll shrink and I will start moving back down through the sizes of my old coats.” 

Having grown up in California, Eli Russell Linnetz has harnessed inspiration from the barefoot, dress-to-feelgood energy that laps the shores of his native Venice Beach. Once a child actor, he assisted the playwright David Mamet at 15 before studying screenwriting and opera at the University of Southern California. Later he worked on stage design for Lady Gaga and directed music videos for Kanye West, as well as an advertisement for Comme des Garçons’ Andy Warhol fragrance, which caught the attention of Rei Kawakubo and Adrian Joffe. He launched his fashion label, ERL, in 2018, supported by Comme des Garçons’ incubator programme and its retail arm, Dover Street Market. Now 33, Linnetz hasn’t shaken off his world-building practice, operating as a fashion auteur: designing the clothes, photographing campaigns and undertaking their styling and casting. Tapping into an optimistic vision of Hollywood and sporty Americana, Linnetz’s deification of the 20th-century US identity threads through his idealist, so-called California couture. In 2022 he made his runway debut in Los Angeles in collaboration with Dior, before bringing his effervescent blend of youth and masculinity to Florence as guest designer of the Pitti Uomo menswear fair last year, both outings embodying a bright-eyed American dream. 

Production co-ordinator: Lino Meoli. Post-production: Samy’s Camera

This story features in the Spring/Summer 2024 issue of AnOther Magazine, which is on sale internationally now. Order here