ERL Sunscreen, the Newest Comme des Garçons Fragrance, Conjures the Scents of Summer
California sun, ’50s ephemera, and Beach Blanket Bingo: these sources of summery nostalgia have found their way into ERL Sunscreen, the newest fragrance from Comme des Garçons. The scent, created in collaboration with the Venice Beach-based label ERL, is the product of years of painstaking craftsmanship that perfectly encapsulates summer’s timeless washed out glow: a heatwave broken by a cool sea breeze and a hint of chlorine in the air. ERL is the brainchild of Eli Russell Linnetz, the multi-hyphenate mind behind the immersive set design on Lady Gaga’s iconic Enigma tour, the stage production on Kanye West’s Life of Pablo tour, and countless other feats. In 2018, Linnetz set his sights on fashion design—his earliest collections, designed in collaboration with the artist Jordan Wolfson and Nike, sold out in the blink of an eye. It wasn’t long before the psychedelic renegade outlook embodied in ERL’s designs caught the eye of the Comme des Garçons team, who tapped the designer two years ago to begin work on ERL Sunscreen.
A few days ago, Linnetz caught up with our Creative Director Mel Ottenberg while barefoot in his Venice studio to discuss the feeling of being an outsider crafting a season-defining fragrance an iconic brand, the sharks off of Rhode Island, and the magic of “a good chemical smell.”
MEL OTTENBERG: Eli?
ELI RUSSELL LINNETZ: How are you?
OTTENBERG: I’m good. Are you in Venice Beach?
LINNETZ: Is this the interview, or are we just talking first?
OTTENBERG: No. This is being recorded, babe.
LINNETZ: So I can’t tell you things now before the interview?
OTTENBERG: No. It’s already started.
LINNETZ: Oh, god.
OTTENBERG: Did you want to tell me things that you didn’t want other people to know?
OTTENBERG: Please don’t forget them, and call me after this. We’re going to do this really fast so we can get to the dirty stuff that we don’t want other people hearing. Okay. Hey, Eli. Are you in Venice? What are you looking at right now? Is it weird, or is it great?
LINNETZ: Oh, god. I’m barefoot in my studio in Venice.
OTTENBERG: Oh. Cute, cute, cute. We’re talking today because you made a fragrance with Comme des Garçons.
LINNETZ: It’s insane.
OTTENBERG: It is insane. I think you told me a year ago, but I forgot.
LINNETZ: Yeah. It’s been two years.
OTTENBERG: I’m holding it in my hand. The bottle’s incredible. I’m obsessed with the packaging. What is this styrofoam packaging that the bottle comes in? Is this made out of bouy material from the 60’s, or something?
OTTENBERG: Did you see that there were sharks in the water in Rhode Island today, and they had to get the surfers and swimmers out for safety?
LINNETZ: I love that.
OTTENBERG: It’s hot. I don’t think anyone got eaten up.
LINNETZ: Thank god.
OTTENBERG: What is the fragrance called?
LINNETZ: It’s called Sunscreen.
OTTENBERG: Oh my god. I love the smell of sunscreen. Does this smell like sunscreen to you?
LINNETZ: It’s sunscreen adjacent.
OTTENBERG: What are the notes of this fragrance, Eli?
LINNETZ: Solar accord, coconut, peach, lily of the valley.
OTTENBERG: I had a Grindr trade over the other day, and we were smelling Sunscreen and trying to guess the notes. We did guess the coconut. I was educating him on the history of Comme des Garçons fragrances.
LINNETZ: Everything seemed to happen so organically. It’s funny because I started creating the fragrance before my clothing line.
OTTENBERG: Oh, wow.
LINNETZ: I really just wanted to get it right, so it’s taken ages, but I think it’s worth it. Everything’s been so organic, I take it for granted. But last night I was staring at Sunscreen on the website next to all the other Comme des Garçons fragrances.
OTTENBERG: Oh, wow.
LINNETZ: The total set.
OTTENBERG: Yeah, it’s really intense. There’s a really good chemical smell to this. Very Comme.
LINNETZ: That’s the chlorine.
OTTENBERG: Oh. Hot. Chlorine’s hot. Yeah. That sounds bad if you don’t know about Comme des Garçons fragrances, but anyways, I was telling my Grindr date about the gasoline notes in Odeur 53, and how Odeur 53 to me is the scent of my late 90’s.
LINNETZ: Yeah. The scent is supposed to smell like a distant summer, the memory of a summer’s day at the beach. We based it on the scent of heat, rising from the sand, sweat on the body, chlorine at a public pool.
OTTENBERG: Cool. Nature.
LINNETZ: Yeah. Everything all at once.
OTTENBERG: Oh. Wow. Do you have a muse? Do you have someone in mind? Are you thinking of someone when you think of Sunscreen?
LINNETZ: I think of you.
OTTENBERG: Oh my god. I’m so flattered. I need to wear SPF 50 because I am white as a sheet, but I don’t. Thank you, Eli. Anyway, what’s Venice Beach like these days? We went to the boardwalk last summer, and everything looked like some insane Hannah Montana x Mad Max remix with a $20 wardrobe budget.
LINNETZ: Venice is out of control.
OTTENBERG: Crazier than last summer?
LINNETZ: Oh. Yesterday morning at 8:00 AM, some woman was slashed by her husband on the beach.
OTTENBERG: Oh my god. How terrible.
LINNETZ: When I went out to get coffee this morning, some woman was fingering herself outside my place. I’m just so awed.
OTTENBERG: I can’t wait to come back and take a walk with you.
LINNETZ: Bring that slasher spray.
OTTENBERG: Is the Britney Spears x Mad Max vibe still going strong at the beach? TikTok mask, hallucinogenic freak-out vibes? Are you feeling inspired by it?
LINNETZ: Yeah. Bohemian hallucination. I actually didn’t think about it, but maybe that’s why the new season of ERL is much grungier.
OTTENBERG: The Venice fashions are really extreme. All the rich people are gone. Abbot Kinney is a ghost town. There are really new vibes.
LINNETZ: It’s incredible now. It’s funny, I was going to say, “I like to create in a bubble.” Literally, the fragrance comes in a bubble.
OTTENBERG: It does.
LINNETZ: I was talking to someone today, and they said they held it, and they’re like, “This is so 50’s.”
OTTENBERG: This is so 50’s. I’m going to keep this forever because I’m in love with it. It just looks like Beach Blanket Bingo.
LINNETZ: Someone told me it reminded them of being on a pier with their family, looking over the edge and seeing this thing floating in the water.
OTTENBERG: What was it like working with Comme des Garçons on a fragrance?
LINNETZ: It’s incredible. I got to work with Christian, who’s created all the fragrances for Comme des Garçons for the past 25 years. It’s taken two years. It’s gone through so many different iterations of the scent, and the storyline, and the narrative of the character who would be wearing this fragrance. I just felt really supported. The first six months we worked without words. We wanted to abstractly create the scent with just imagery. We wanted to get the first fragrance without any meetings. Something super abstract. But by the end, I just felt like it was getting too far away from Venice beach. That’s why I gave it the name Sunscreen, because I needed something very literal to counter the abstraction of the fragrance.
LINNETZ: I wanted the packaging to feel so askew from the word sunscreen, to create this uncomfortable dissonance. It feels so off, yet intriguing, and just cool to have in your house.
OTTENBERG: Well, it really is a truly delicious-looking bottle. I’m staring at it. It’s gorgeous. Really hot. Okay, I’ve got to go to dinner now, but I literally sprayed this on me 45 times while we were talking. I’ll be getting some feedback at dinner.
LINNETZ: Let me know what they say.
OTTENBERG: I’ll be asking for notes. Wait, is it “hints,” or “notes?”
OTTENBERG: Notes. Okay. Hot. Well, congratulations. I love it, I will be wearing it, and I am into it.
LINNETZ: All right. Love you. Bye.
OTTENBERG: Love you too. Bye.
ERL Sunscreen retails for $115 ($100 for limited edition inflatable packaging) and launches at Comme des Garçons and Dover Street Market shops worldwide, as well as select wholesale clients.