For Kim Jones, a collaboration with ERL represents two worlds colliding: “You have french high fashion on one hand, and an archetypal American universe on the other,” he tells Hypebeast. “California Couture” is how those worlds interpret Dior.”
The new collection blends the two brands together into a vibrant and appetizing cocktail, with
Jones has developed a real knack for collaborations – headlined by Louis Vuitton and Supreme’s era-defining link-up back in 2017. The designer has continued to pursue that boundary-blurring model with his work at Dior. KAWS, Raymond Pettibon, 1017 ALYX 9SM, Yoon Ahn, Hajime Sorayama, Daniel Arsham, Shawn Stussy, Birkenstock and Denim Tears all experienced the Jones treatment. But this partnership with ERL seems like Kim Jones’ most harmonious collaboration to date.
House icons like the Saddle Bag are reinterpreted in a “Light Blue Dior Oblique Mirage” water-repellent technical fabric, updating the classic accessory with a Californian breeze. Likewise, the archives are dug up to reveal ’90s and Y2K references — a gold-toned metal chain belt, a dual-branded intarsia knit funnel neck cycling jersey, LuckyDior R1I round sunglasses in shades of lilac and gold, and the puffy Kumo Cannage satin B9S sneakers designed by ERL for Dior all channel a distinct sense of nostalgia, steeped in both the House and ERL’s iconography.
Those sneakers, notably the “Fucshia” and “Black” colorways, are particularly important. Only 470 pairs of each have been made, while the suede iterations are limited to 888 pairs each. By doing so, Dior and ERL subvert the codes it draws inspiration from; where skateboarding sneakers are often a dime a dozen, these sneakers are ones to be cherished alongside other stand-outs like the brooches, newspaper print two-pieces, and tailoring essentials.
Elsewhere, California’s surf culture is represented by waves that decorate a number of pieces. Bermuda shorts and a heathered cotton fleece hoodie work the curvaceous lines into their structure, while mohair in purple and white appears like a splash of sea foam on another sweater.
To celebrate the launch of the new Dior x ERL collaboration, Hypebeast spoke to Kim Jones and Eli Russell Linnetz to find out more about how the vibrant collection came to life.
Hypebeast: Firstly, Kim, what has fuelled your collaborative process since you have worked at Dior?
Kim Jones: It’s an opportunity to work with people you admire, you like, or who may be friends. I think you learn different things, working with different people. That only strengthens fashion, in a way.
What does “California Couture” mean to both of you – and how have you explored this together?
KJ: “California Couture” was the idea of two worlds coming together – the world of french high fashion on one hand, and an archetypal American universe on the other – and how those worlds interpret Dior.
ERL: The whole project began with the knitwear and the sweaters, so the “California Couture” piece really embodies the whole spirit of the project. The spirit of Venice Beach, California is absolutely present in the collection and reflected in every piece. I was telling the story of my hometown and I wanted to make sure I was getting it right – that the collection was communicating the essence of my experiences.
How does Christian Dior’s history of vintage American glamor influence the collection?
KJ: The “codes of the house” come through, but via a different route. The bar jacket, the suit, the pink and the gray are all there. But it’s amped up – much like California. It’s the Hollywood pink of Dior. Dior gray, the cannage, and the pink are all amped up.
ERL: Dior represents all of our abilities as humans to create beauty and perfection. As someone who loves costumes and storytelling, going through the archives was one of my favorite parts of the process. Kim gave me complete freedom in the archives which were incredible.
Eli was born in 1991. Why was this a pivotal year for the inspiration behind the collection, and what did you learn from it?
KJ: We chose 1991 as a starting point: the year of Eli’s birth, and Gianfranco Ferré’s period as dior’s artistic director. So that was a fresh and fruitful exploration of this period archive.
ERL: I chose the year I was born as a starting point 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 which was very different from what I was exploring with ERL at the time. His work in the archive was relatively untouched which was intriguing to me and he also never studied fashion formally which resonated with me – my background is in screenwriting and stage design.
Why was now the time to come together?
KJ: I have been at Dior for more than four years – although it does feel much longer – and it just felt like the right time to do something like this, particularly after the Winter 2022 show. On the surface, they look like very different collections, but they are both really about a certain kind of cross-generational conversation in fashion, of an idea of legacy and the meaning of Dior.
ERL: The project was so organic and authentic. Kim has such a deep understanding of the artistic process and how to let something live free and grow – while maintaining the codes of the house. It’s not just me and Kim in the room – it’s all of those who came before and the honor they upheld. It was a really beautiful surrender of two houses coming together and letting intuition guide us. The work was never forced and we never questioned each other – it was pure joy – and I’m so grateful for the opportunity to have worked with Kim.
How did you design a collection that captures both brands so well?
KJ: We have worked with lots of different people on our collections, but this time I wanted to work with someone in a different way. I wanted somebody to see Dior from a different angle. Not only do I really like Eli Russell Linnetz’s work, but working with a younger designer on Dior and seeing things from his perspective felt incredibly inspiring. It was both familiar and revelatory, reaffirming why we both dreamed about working in fashion in the first place.
ERL: Kim and I are two artists who have mutual respect for each other’s work and he really gave me so much freedom. I tell stories through the clothes I am making. He was so generous and really gave me a platform where together we could share ideas and create with our intuition. No second guessing at all. It was very freeing, and Kim and Dior have so many resources to tell a much larger narrative and explore techniques and concepts I haven’t been able to explore on my own.
And what do you hope the collection will do not just for both brands, but for the consumer too?
KJ: I really hope there will be a huge excitement for the launch of this collection!
ERL: My hopes for the collection are that it will connect with people and introduce them to the world that I am creating – exploring my memories and fantasies of the past and of the future.
Dior x ERL Spring 2023 can be seen in the gallery above and purchased online, at Dior boutiques, and via Dover Street Market London now.