Friendly Advice: ELSE Designer Ela Onur on How to Buy and Give Lingerie

If you’re into lingerie, you’ve probably heard of the Turkish cult-favorite ELSE. If you’re not into lingerie, you might change your mind once you experience the soft, supportive and absurdly sexy designs of Ela Onur—founder of ELSE and heir to several generations of successful lingerie know-how. (Her family has been in the business for ages.)

We caught up with Ela in Paris to talk about her design inspirations, the secret to feeling confident all day long and how to buy exquisite statement pieces for yourself or that special someone.

ELSE lingerie

ELSE Baroque Underwire Tank Bra and Bikini 

You were born into the lingerie business. Tell us about your family of lingerie designers and craftsmen. 

I was involved in my family’s business before I started up ELSE. I worked in the production and export department, where I developed the technical skills that are the foundation of the work I do today. My husband recently joined the company as the CEO, which feels like a huge vote of confidence! Looking forward, we’ll see how the family legacy will grow.

How do you go about making lingerie that is also comfortable?

We start with exceptional materials! Our lace is both soft and strong, and our accessories (elastics, wires, hook-and-eye closures, etc.) meet the highest standards. For our soft bras, we use a special technique that provides support even without an underwire. We imagine ELSE women wearing our lingerie in comfort throughout the whole day, not just for special occasions.

Your laces are very intricate yet contemporary. Where do you come up with your designs? 

When I’m designing, I’m inspired by the modern and graphical laces that ELSE is known for. We’re always excited to reshape classical silhouettes into modern designs. We use a lot of textural play and cutouts to give that modern edge in an effortless way. Everything is handmade in our own atelier in Istanbul.

ELSE lingerieELSE Lace Thong Bodysuit

What advice do you have for someone shopping for lingerie for herself?

First, get fitted to learn your bra size. Your bra needs to be comfortable. Once you have the fit, be adventurous—check out styles and brands you haven’t tried before. The shopping experience should be fun!

What advice do you have for someone shopping for lingerie for someone else?

Consider what she would want to wear, rather than what you want to see her in. It’s important that the lingerie fit her shape and be a reflection of her style. Of course, some pleasure, excitement and fun should be there for special moments.

How is lingerie related to confidence?

Lingerie is the first garment you put on your skin and it sets the foundation for everything else. If you feel confident and special in your lingerie, you will have that feeling throughout your day, no matter what else you wear.

How do your designs contribute to a confidence boost?

In each collection, we try to design at least one underwire option and one soft-cup option to make sure we have a bra for every woman, no matter what her body type or size is.

Ela Onur, ELSE lingerie

 ELSE founder Ela Onur

What design trends are you really excited about in modern lingerie now?

It’s exciting to see lingerie silhouettes become sportier and more minimal. Technical, sustainable and soft fabrics, plus clean-cut finishes and effortless details, have replaced heavy embroidery. I love designing bras and bodysuits that can be used as essential layering pieces for every day.

You are in Paris for the lingerie show. What are you seeing and showing on the runway?

Our Paris show organizers selected a strapless bodysuit from the new Petunia collection (in the color “Petroleum”). During the show I saw a lot of open-knit fabrics used in lingerie, activewear and swimwear—which was great, as we have been using those fabrics for years now. It’s so rewarding to see what we have done in the past becoming a new trend in the industry.

SHOP: ELSE lingerie

—Amy Morgan

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