Home / Elkin’s ‘Gothic Romance’: What To Wear While Reading Jane Eyre
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Elkin is a brand new label out of L.A.-via-Paris that has a lot of things going for it: a memorable name, a surprisingly large debut collection for Fall 2011, an admirable charity tie-in, and a very on-trend aesthetic that is worth exploring in detail.

Founded by sisters Brit and Kara Smith, Elkin is hoping to ride the underwear-as-outerwear trend with a collection of lingerie and clothing separates inspired by the moody masterpieces of 19th Century literature. The debut range, called Gothic Romance, includes strappy bras and high-waisted briefs, slinky bodies, lacey tops and robes, several sheer skirts and dresses, and even a leather-and-lace mask.

There’s lots of opportunity for role-playing, dress-up fun in this collection, but there’s a more practical reason behind it too. Here’s what the Smith girls said in a frank conversation with Live Fast magazine:

“It all started as lingerie and it just evolved,” Kara said. “Brit loves lingerie… she loves kinky shit. On my end, I used to get wasted and fall asleep in my clothes every night, so we kind of just eventually combined the two. Our line consists of pieces you could consider as lingerie statement pieces … but also stuff that I could wear out and be okay falling asleep in at the end of the night.”

Elkin (the name is a marriage of “kin” and the sisters’ inexplicable obsession with antlers) draws its style inspiration both from literary history as well as contemporary design trends — as the very architectural bra model above illustrates.

Brit and Kara are admitted bookworms, and the hangtags for each piece include a reading list of their favorite gothic novels along with a matching playlist (Nico, Nick Cave, etc.). Here’s an example of how that inspiration is brought to life in the gorgeous silk-and-lace Eyre bodysuit with its very Victorian 6-button closure:

In their website bio, the girls say they wanted to create intimate pieces “that could double as everyday apparel and bedtime fashions, pieces that were meant to be seen both in daylight and after midnight.”

Several items in their collection have more than one piece or layer, so there are a lot of mix-and-matching opportunities and a multi-purpose feel to the whole range.

Future collections, they say, will be based on different literary genres — which opens to door to quite a range of possibilities. I’m keeping my fingers crossed for a collection inspired by French existentialism.

Elkin’s bookish sensibilities can also be seen in its charitable work: for every piece sold, Elkin donates a children’s book to the H.O.P.E. campaign that supports schools in Kenya.

If you’re intrigued by Elkin, you’ll want to keep checking their website for new stockist information. Right now, you can find some pieces on and in a few L.A.-area boutiques.

Below are some images from Elkin’s evocative photo campaign, modeled by the Smith girls’ musician friend Z. Berg from the band The Like.

[Ed. Note: Links disabled; Elkin is no longer available. 10/11/13]

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