There were plenty of exciting looks on the Met Gala’s red carpet, but none captured the spirit of “In America: A Lexicon of Fashion” theme quite like ASAP Rocky’s custom ERL quilt. Since colonial times, the handcraft has been an integral part of the American experience, and quilts have served as historical documents, family keepsakes, and contemporary art. Their multi-faceted place in the nation’s history was part of what drew ERL designer Eli Russell Linnetz to the concept. “There’s an intense narrative to this piece, it’s beautiful on the outside, inside it represents a world of memories,” shared Linnetz on the phone from California.
Linnetz was introduced to Rocky after receiving a message from his stylist, Matthew Henson, about a potential studio visit. Based in Long Beach, California, ERL’s serene headquarters are the opposite of your typical fashion brand office, and their meeting was appropriately low-key. “We spent a few hours just sitting and discussing life in America,” says Linnetz. “I connected with him, and when it was over, I said ‘I would love to create something for you for The Met.’ It wasn’t on the table [initially]; it grew out of that.” Soon Linnetz began sketching out ideas. “He gave me a lot of freedom in terms of what I wanted to create,” he says. “And the result is incredibly unexpected.”
For Rocky, Linnetz was a natural choice, and their collaboration felt organic from day one. “I love Eli’s aesthetic and what he does with his collections; I’m a big fan of the brand,” says Rocky. “We went to his studio in California, we pulled up, called it a vibe. I really like working with him. I think (our visions) are parallel in such similar ways so it just went without saying.”
Rocky’s look was like nothing else on the Met’s carpet with a custom silk taffeta tuxedo based on ERL’s last collection layered beneath a wearable quilt. The design played with the quilting tradition of building on the existing. After finding an antique quilt at a thrift store, Linnetz decided to use it as a base for the Met piece, working in pieces of personal resonance into the look. “I quilted on things that were important to me, from my dad’s bathrobe to my boxers,” he explains. “Then we used these amazing plaids and flannels and embroidered my family’s name all over the quilt.” The artisan behind the scenes was an expert in repurposing. “We worked with an incredible young quilter who specializes in burial and memory quilts,” says Linnetz. “There’s an irony to it that I liked, using the clothing of the deceased to create this beautiful new quilt then [in their honor] that lasts forever.
The mindful, one-of-a-kind touches were part of what made the quilt-cape pop when it was unveiled on the Met’s carpet. Rocky and Rihanna may have arrived fashionably late, but their outfits were so original they still managed to have the evening’s most talked-about looks. Most guests were decked out in black-tie, but Rocky’s patchwork piece gave the night its moment of whimsy. For his part, Rocky credits Linnetz’s work for keeping him cozy and evoking the sense of playfulness that is an essential element of American style. “I think it’s dope [and] it’s fun; I like brands that have fun,” he says. “I think he brings a fun, unique aspect to design. America has a lot of iconography, and Americans have their own way of doing things. I think his work represents what American fashion can look like.”