For their Los Angeles-based brand called Elkin,designing sisters Kara and Brit Smith compose a different reading andmusic list as inspiration for each of their collections. Their springlineup is influenced by the American frontier, as portrayed by CormacMcCarthy’s “All the Pretty Horses,” bordello histories and Tammy Wynettetunes.

“We were always dressing up when we were little, we werealways reading books,” said Kara Smith, who worked at Geren Ford andLightning Bolt before launching Elkin for spring 2011 with her youngersibling, who had designed jewelry at Jennifer Meyer. “That’s whatdressing up felt like for us: we were characters.” Add to that BritSmith’s fascination with French lingerie and Kara’s tales of waking upin party clothes from the night before, and a fashion brand was born.Their proclivity for quirky combos also led to the name of theircompany. After spotting an imposing elk in a taxidermy shop, theydecided to blend the word “elk” with “kin,” in honor of their bloodties.

For their spring lineup, a white sheer silk maxidress wasinspired by a frontier prostitute’s nightgown, and a wool swing jacketwith brass buttons, the sisters say, would have been something worn by asuit-loving female brothel owner. If she had a sassy side, Mary IngallsWilder might have cottoned to the minidresses with prim collars andpouf sleeves, highwaisted suede shorts and prairie flower-printedminiskirts.

Retailing for between $150 and $650, the line is soldat Madison, Satine and TenOverSix. — Khanh T.L. Tran


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