The Sisters Behind Elkin Invite Us Into Their Cool L.A. Crib

The Mulleavys, the Olsens, and the Millers have all proven that when it comes to fashion, sometimes the best business partners are blood-related. But the siblings behind L.A.-based Elkin weren't always on the sister-act path: Kara was going to follow in her grandfather's footsteps as a fine artist, while Brit dabbled in film and jewelry design. All it took was a bit of turbulence (and maybe a few cocktails) to scare these sisters straight.
Now, the duo is dressing Hollywood's PYTs and the cast of Girls. Their signature Lolita sensibility is ever-present in their edgy, but feminine silhouettes. Think ethereal dresses paired with combat boots, or sci-fi shapes matched with subdued hues. You get the idea — these girls know how to nail an L.A. look.
But their envy-inducing aesthetic doesn't end at Elkin, the pair invited us into their Echo Park design studio, A.K.A. "The Elkin Cave", which was filled to the brim with good vibes and loads of inspiration. Scroll through our slideshow and you'll understand why we never wanted to leave!
1 of 15
How did the idea to start a line together come about?
Kara: "We've always done everything together, and we've always had a similar sense of style and creative energy. I had worked under a bunch of different fashion designers, and Brit was working in film and jewelry design. We were on a plane to NYC, enjoying some cocktails, and talking about the pipe dream of eventually working together. Well, the plane experienced a ton of difficulties, became a sheer fright ride — we for sure thought we were going down. We were screaming, writing promise letters that if we survived we'd start our own clothing line immediately. Of course, it was only mild turbulence, but we couldn't go back on our promise. We quit our jobs and started at full speed!"

On Brit: Elkin Leather Jacket, Marni Shoes
On Kara: Elkin Blazer, Vintage Dress, Vintage Boots

Photographed by Molly Cranna
2 of 15
Where did the name Elkin come from? Brit: "We were in an amazing taxidermy place in L.A. and saw a really strong, but delicate, stuffed elk and we couldn't get it out of our heads. We're kin, so we combined the two words hoping the strength and beauty and overall fragility would come alive in our clothes."

Photographed by Molly Cranna
3 of 15
What are your favorite pieces from this season’s collection?
Brit: "Our Mattie Button-Down Blouse. I wear it with everything, it's the best. Another favorite is our Long Brothel Dress."

Kara: "I lovey loooove love our Long Brothel Dress – it's the best staple. Also, our Pearl Jacket kills it."

Photographed by Molly Cranna
4 of 15
Kara, what is your favorite museum in L.A.?
Kara: "I love the Autry Museum, it's always been a favorite for me. I have an odd resentment toward museums right now, because the last time Brit and I were at the Natural History Museum I lost my left front tooth (long story, but great party). I have also been known to frequent Ripley's Believe It or Not! Museum on Hollywood Boulevard."

Vintage Men's Shirt, Elkin Dress

Photographed by Molly Cranna
5 of 15
Brit, how have both cinema and ballet influenced your design aesthetic?
Brit: "I always found that I paid attention to the costumes of films and dance productions, and how attitude is reflected through garments. The graceful movement of ballerinas, the femininity and minimalism of the classic ballet uniform, or the dramatic film and dance production costumes — they all make you feel like a different character. That's what I love about fashion — dressing up and being able to feel like so many different things in so many different outfits. I love how romantic and feminine ballet is, but also the discipline and rigor of it adds a layer of masculinity."

Photographed by Molly Cranna
6 of 15
How does living in L.A. shape your design aesthetic? Are there any landmarks or historic sites that inspire you?
Brit: "L.A. is so effortlessly cool, earthy, and natural but it's filled with glamourous, rad girls who have eternally youthful spirits. There's an ease and grace about L.A. that always plays into our design aesthetic. In L.A. you have the beach, the mountains, and everything in between."

Kara: "The L.A. landmarks that inspire both of us are our grandparents' house in the Los Feliz Hills where you can see The Observatory, Hollywood sign, and look out over all of L.A., Echo Park Lake where we used to ride paddle boats as kids, Huntington Gardens in Pasadena, Bob Baker Marionettes Puppet Show where we had our birthday parties as kids, and the downtown flower market."

On Kara: Vintage Men's Shirt, Elkin Dress
On Brit: Elkin Dress

Photographed by Molly Cranna
7 of 15
Kara, how has fine art influenced your designs?
Kara: "I was an artist before I even knew that I wanted to use design as a medium. Our grandfather was an artist, and I grew up sitting in the back corner of his studio just watching him work for hours. He would always tell me to leave, so I would have to hide. It influenced me so much and I ended up using paint and charcoal as a visual backbone to tell a story. Now, I work with different textiles but I'm still trying to tell a story. My high school art teacher who gave me a D+ can suck it!"

Photographed by Molly Cranna
8 of 15
Brit, how does Paris fashion differ from L.A. fashion? And how did living in Paris influence your design for Elkin?
Brit: "L.A. has a much more diverse and casual aesthetic — I see more of a messy, laid back, wear anything sort of girl. Paris has a much more refined aesthetic. The women are so put together and chic. Though I do love my beachy tattooed Parisienne babes that linger in St. Germain!"

Elkin Button-Down Blouse, Vintage Dress, Vintage Boots

Photographed by Molly Cranna
9 of 15
How did the playlists you included in the lookbooks influence the lines?
Kara: "We create the playlist before we design the collection, so it sets the mood for the collection. Music really influences how we approach the design process, what we hear helps translate into what we end up creating."

Photographed by Molly Cranna
10 of 15
Brit, your bio mentions you fell in love with lingerie in Paris. What are your favorite lingerie stores or brands in Paris and L.A.?
Brit: "Fifi Chachnil in Paris is a dream – they have such feminine, timeless pieces. I go to Le Bra Lingerie in L.A. for the darker, more avant-garde lingerie. And I go to Tavin in Echo Park for the most romantic Victorian nightgowns."

Photographed by Molly Cranna
11 of 15
How did your different artistic backgrounds converge in the designs for Elkin?
Brit: "Kara has such amazing, grandiose, abstract ideas that stem from her fine arts background. She's incredible at drawing, color schemes, fabric choices, and overall knowledge of textiles. She comes from a really artistic place with fashion."

Kara: "Brit's a genius. And her personal style always inspires me."

On Brit: Elkin Sweater, Vintage Children's Dress
On Kara: Mayle Dress

Photographed by Molly Cranna
12 of 15
Are there any trends you’re following right now?
Brit: "I try not to follow fashion trends, I just stick to what I like and feel good in. Wait, is the 'feminine androgynous little girl' look trending right now? Because I always follow that look. I guess I am following the juicing trend right now, though!"

Kara: "We're following the trend of obsessing over Girls. Our friend (and fellow Elkin babe) Zosia Mamet is the jam."

Elkin Sweater, Vintage Children's Dress

Photographed by Molly Cranna
13 of 15
Who are your style icons?
Brit: "We have a compilation of film characters and artists that all meld together to create one huge style icon for us. Sissy Spacek in Badlands, Brooke Shields in Pretty Baby, the girls of Picnic at Hanging Rock, the dreamy women in 3 Women, Ewa Aulin in Candy, Jean Seberg in every movie, Blouse and Tallulah from Bugsy Malone, Miss Hannigan from Annie, the ladies of Hemingway novels. And I personally love Maya Deren."

Kara: "And anyone in a motorcyle gang in the '60s."

On Brit: Elkin Button-Down Blouse, Vintage Dress, Vintage Boots
On Kara: Elkin Dress, Vintage T-Shirt, Vintage Boots

Photographed by Molly Cranna
14 of 15
What are some of your favorite literary works, either from the genres your collections are inspired by, or from other genres?
Brit: "I love '20s American literature, it's my favorite. Hemingway, Faulkner, T. S. Eliot, and James Joyce, for example. I especially love the expat writers of the '20s who centered their novels around being young, traveling, eating well, drinking well, and running around making love. The whole running rampant/forever young thing is really appealing to me. I think it stems from my wish to remain childlike."

Kara: "I have new favorites every week, but the works I'm most nostalic for are the books we read when we were young. I vividly remember being inspired by what I visualized the characters wearing, and the clothing made every story so much bigger to me. I loved Steinbeck novels mainly because the dreary, dusty settings forced the characters clothes to stand out more than anything else. I went through a phase when I was 12 after reading A Tree Grows In Brooklyn where I would dress like I couldn't afford a loaf of bread! I guess I love Depression attire, it's so chic!"

Photographed by Molly Cranna
15 of 15
What advice would you give to up-and-coming fashion designers?
Kara: "Always have a really cute vintage bar in your office, fully stocked with booze, especially if you work with a sibling!"

Brit: "Listen to music while you work."

On Brit: Elkin Sweater, Vintage Children's Dress, Vintage Boots
On Kara: Mayle Dress, Vintage Sandals

Photographed by Molly Cranna