Else in Santa Monica.
By Marah Eakin
Images by Tim Aukshunas
Lingerie has always been a part of Ela Onur’s life. The Los Angeles-born designer spent her formative years in Turkey where, starting in her teens, she pitched in at her family’s textile plant. There, she helped make and design lingerie accessories, crafting clasps, straps, and underwire for companies like Victoria’s Secret and Marks & Spencer.
After a stint at Lehigh College in Pennsylvania, where she studied finance, Onur went back to Istanbul, followed her passion and began to learn more about the technical aspects of designing bras. She studied how to best craft a bra for fit and support, focusing on elastics, fabric choices, and comfort.
Eventually, all that work led to Onur creating her own lingerie line, Else. After a year or so of crafting the capsule collection, she brought her brand to the states, opening a pop-up at Platform in Culver City. Now, Else has two storefronts—one in Santa Monica and one in Los Angeles.
Born out of Onur’s belief that customers were looking for “something else” in the world of undergarments, her line is centered around the idea that lingerie and loungewear should be both comfortable and beautiful. That they can be high tech, lightweight and durable, and made of materials that are also sustainable. Each Else piece comes out of the brand’s Istanbul atelier, where Onur employs local women who ethically and meticulously craft each garment with luxury and sustainability in mind.
The result is airy, ethereal lingerie, aligning perfectly with Onur’s vision of a California consumer. “How we dress in LA is reflected so much in our lingerie,” she says. “Everyone in LA can leave their house, be out all day, and even go on a date in the same outfit and will just be OK. It’s a kind of effortless dressing.” They want something timeless, that “you can take from day to night.”
“The first thing [you] put on your skin sets the foundation,” continues Onur about the importance of undergarments and lingerie. “It’s like a hidden power suit, and if you feel good about yourself—empowered—it allows you to feel that way no matter what you wear on top. It’s a very personal item that creates a more profound connection than any other garment. “
Else is centered around the idea that lingerie and loungewear should be both comfortable and beautiful.
Located on Montana Ave. in Santa Monica, Else’s west side boutique is fully stocked with all of the brand’s lingerie, loungewear, swimwear, and even some other accessories like Turkish throws and luxe candles. “We really strongly believe in quality retail spaces, and Montana has a neighborhood vibe as well as a really nice sense of community,” says Onur. “Over the past year, a lot of new things are happening there, and we’re getting a more family oriented clientele from the area, like moms and daughters shopping together. We also get a lot of people who are just visiting L.A. and it’s great that they can take home something from our store that feels local, special, and handmade.”
Onur splits her time between Istanbul and Los Angeles, and says much of the inspiration for Else comes from the dichotomy of her own life, or how easy breezy California style mixes with the hustle and bustle of the Turkish capital’s streets. “Istanbul is very chaotic and it’s where Eastern and Western cultures meet together, but spending time in LA gives me a different vibe and understanding that makes my designs more laid back, tranquil, and serene,” she says. “Also, I’ve become a mom recently, so that has also changed my priorities. Now it’s about the multifunctionality of anything I do, like if I’m going to wear a set of pajamas I also want them to be chic enough to run my errands in.”
Onur says lingerie saw a huge spike in bralette and “soft bra” sales during the early days of COVID, when a trend toward comfort revealed itself. Now, trends have started to move toward slightly more adventurous garments. “I think people are really excited to go back to buying something that is a little bit more special, so they’re more drawn to color and lace,” she explains. Neutrals will always have their place. But, says Onur, people are beginning to “invest in pieces that are going to make them feel really good about themselves, too. They’re more adventurous, so they want a body suit or they want something in a print.”
The truth is, in this day and age, consumers don’t have to sacrifice on quality and comfort. They can have both. The modern woman, says Onur, is “wearing multiple hats, but she appreciates quality and design and wants to invest in a good bra.”