When ASAP Rocky asked Eli Russell Linnetz if he could visit the young designer’s studio, Mr. Linnetz was somewhat reluctant. His space is “very private,” he said, tucked away in Venice Beach, Calif., isolated from the fashion world.
But the New York rapper showed genuine interest in the label, ERL — and he was “the sweetest, most charismatic person,” Mr. Linnetz said, which the designer found refreshing. He had spent a few years in the music industry, directing music videos for Kanye West and creating sets for Lady Gaga, before leaving so that he “could go and create something like authentic,” he said. Now he’s considered one of fashion’s next big things.
When it came to the Met Gala, ASAP Rocky knew right away that he wanted to wear a giant quilt from ERL’s spring 2022 collection. In the look book for that collection, it’s worn by a woman like a giant shawl, enveloping and forming a train around her.
“He was, like, ‘I want that,’” Mr. Linnetz said.
For the Met Gala, Mr. Linnetz designed a custom version using scraps of fabric and antique quilts sewn back together, including a few personal effects, like his dad’s bathrobe. He commissioned a quilter in North Carolina, Zak Foster, who specializes in memory quilts — that is, quilts made from someone’s old clothing, often for families in mourning.
“I was intrigued by that concept, as something very American,” he said. “I didn’t think much about the theme other than that, just because I feel like everything I do is closely related to Americana.” Mr. Linnetz will have one of his pieces, a recreation of an antique baseball uniform, displayed in the Met exhibition.
Mr. Linnetz recognizes the Met Gala as a big moment for his small label, and speaking on Zoom about a week before the event, he was still working on being comfortable with that.
“I dreamed about dressing someone, but I was kind of torn,” he said. “I felt like maybe it’s nice to just keep your head down and work and focus and not get caught up in that. I created ERL to get away from all this music industry celebrity kind of stuff.”
Several Met Gala guests ended up asking to be dressed by ERL, Mr. Linnetz said, but in the end he wanted to “focus on someone that I actually am like friends with, and believe in, and is just a nice person.”