This Kanye West Collaborator is Making Waves With His Own Surf-Inspired Brand

Under the Radar is Highsnobiety’s weekly celebration of upcoming talent. Each week, we’re spotlighting an emerging brand that’s bringing something new to the worlds of streetwear and fashion.

Eli Russell Linnetz, the up-and-coming photographer and all-around creative who has worked with Kanye West and Lady Gaga, is merging fashion, art, and surfing with his namesake brand ERL. Although his name might not draw instant recognition among many, Linnetz’s work is engraved on contemporary pop culture through a combination of precocious artistic flair and shock factor.

To date, he has directed Kanye West’s Teyana Taylor-starring “Fade” video, had a creative hand in the rapper’s “Saint Pablo” tour stage production and merch, as well as West and Lil Pump’s SNL performance, photographed NSFW YEEZY viral campaigns (and consequently faced plagiarism accusations), and designed Lady Gaga’s Las Vegas “Enigma” stage show.

ERL came about when COMME des GARÇONS CEO and Dover Street Market co-founder Adrian Joffe asked Linnetz to design a shopping bag for Dover Street Market LA’s grand opening late last year. Linnetz, however, wanted to make a full collection, and after some deliberation, Joffe got on board. “I got carried away,” Linnetz says of his boldness.

Six weeks after receiving the call from Joffe, the collection, partly made in collaboration with Nike, was ready. It sold out immediately.

That first collection was filled with pieces in bright “summer colors” such as lavender, neons, aqua, and chartreuse, featuring playful graphics that recreated childhood scribbles on easy-to-wear jersey fabrics. The collection relied on wearability and hand-feel, reinterpreting wardrobe standards in fleece, corduroy, and cotton. “[ERL] is casual, throw-on-able,” Linnetz explains. “ERL is just an extension of what me and my friends wear every day.”

His work with two of the world’s leading music icons has undoubtedly influenced him as an artist and designer. “They both create from a place of love and intuition, unlike anyone else in the world,” he says. “With all art, there is a cultural wave, and you’re either riding it or you’re not. Actually, of all the people living in the world, I think they are the two people that have shaped our relationship with clothing as it stands now, more than anyone else.”

Linnetz’s own story starts on LA’s Venice Beach, where surf culture merges with streetwear. He draws inspiration as much from his past as a surfer as he does as a creative director and visual artist. “Venice Beach style is unspoken and instinctual,” he says. “Whether I’m designing a stage or producing an album or creating a collection, it’s all an extension of my experiences.” His plan is for ERL to make biannual collections that embody California’s easygoing culture.

Rather than making ERL into a hierarchy, Linnetz relies on his closest friends and supporters to guide him and his brand toward the future. “I’ll continue to create and let the people dictate what it becomes and how it evolves,” he says. “Nothing forced or precious — it’s a dialogue.”

That dialogue between the worlds of surfing, fashion, and art has given us an exciting new name to watch. ERL demands your attention with bright colors and cartoonish imagery, and it all goes back to the effortless, laidback approach of LA surf culture and streetwear.

Written by Madeleine Holth for

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