Thursday, June 1, 2023

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    Guess Is Ready for Some Californication

    The hits just keep coming for designer-cum-creative director Eli Russell Linnetz of the brand ERL. The last 12 months has been a stream of good news: he outfitted A$AP Rocky for the Met Gala in a red carpet-stopping outfit that was … a repurposed quilt (sustainable!); walked hand-in-hand at the CFDA Awards with Kid Cudi, whom he dressed in a wedding gown(!!); released a sunscreen-y fragrance that made us all want to hit the closest beach; and most recently shot a cover for GQ’s first-ever global sports issue.

    Now Linnetz is starting off 2022 strong with the announcement that he’s been tapped by Guess USA as a collaborator. Per a press release, his role will be to help “re-envision” the brand through his keen eyes, working across photography, branding, and using the brand’s archive to create a “highly curated collection” of clothes, out later this year.

    This partnership makes sense for two immediate reasons. First off, Guess has long trafficked in an aesthetic built around sex and sensuality—just think of those famous ads starring Anna Nicole Smith, Claudia Schiffer or, more recently, a then-newbie model by the name of Gigi Hadid. Its imagery has always been almost campy in its depiction of desire, and Linnetz, as both a designer and image-maker, picked up where they left off. The “come hither” vibe in his lookbooks recall those controversial Calvin Klein ads of many moons ago, while the garments themselves—long johns, sports jerseys, body-hugging thermals pulled up like crop tops—suggest some naughty locker room shenanigans. Sexy!

    The other connection is California. Guess USA has proudly built its reputation around being from the Golden State and Linnetz, who is based in the haute boho hamlet of Venice, creates clothes that channel the casual eroticism of beachside living. While his new partner has built its reputation capitalizing on the sun and sand clichés of SoCal, Linnetz has found a subtler, and in its way, more modern, look. Which is why he’s the perfect person to bring the brand into the modern era.

    No better way to express all this than with the single cheeky (heh) image Guess and Linnetz released with the announcement—a woman, shot from behind, wearing just a leather jacket emblazoned with the Guess USA logo right above her exposed buttocks. It’s sexy! It’s coy! Best of all, it’s funny!

    All of this is part of the energizing macro trend of legacy brands bringing in fresh creatives to help breathe new life into them—Willy Chavarria and Heron Preston at Calvin Klein and Brendon Babenzian for J.Crew immediately come to mind. Which means the upstarts are already becoming part of the establishment, which is an exciting prospect to think of. 2022 is going to be the year to see how all this refreshes beloved brands we all thought we knew. Exciting times!

    As for this new team-up, we’re sort of kept guessing (sorry) on what the actual clothes will look like. Nicolai Marciano, son of Guess founder Paul and head of brand partnerships, said this in the release: “Inspired by the American Iconography of early GUESS campaigns, the collection is filled with pieces you would find at artisanal roadside boutiques in America. Distressed leathers, faded denim, sun bleached furs, and hardware cracking with paint.” In other words: clothes that are basically designed to be taken off.

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