Ferociously exclusive, by image and design, Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen’s label The Row showed today in New York. In keeping with the organic aesthetic of their women’s label, an intimate group of guests viewed autumn winter 2019 from log bench stools while sipping on coffee from hand-cut earthenware, a welcome antidote to the minus two degree weather outside.
Although their beginnings now have little baring on their current success, one can’t help but still be overwhelmingly impressed by the two women originally famous for TV movie specials, teen merchandise and that sitcom. As many actors who are the product of early-age fame, Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen began to shed their starlet skin when the teen-years ended. Regularly papped circa 2004 in waifish, bohemian (or “dustbin chic” as they were once referred) threads, they favoured clothing that swamped their small frames usually accessorised by a grandé Starbucks and endless ciggies. Their new anti-style often drew negative press, after all it was a swift and extreme departure from their Hallmark, cookies-and-cream persona of the years prior. But behind the scenes, this revised, evolved image was marking the beginnings of their very own fashion house.
Since its outset in 2006, The Row has always been intriguingly elusive. Possibly intentionally but also probably a by-product of the girls’ personality and the fact that their impressive wealth (in 2008 Forbes listed the women as having a combined net worth of US$300million) enabled them to create an immediately aspirational label. In fact, so dedicated were they to their career transition, they didn’t give their first interview until two years after the brand’s launch.
Design for The Row has always centred around challenging the traditional concept of ‘fitting’. Before they spent their days in ateliers, and while still primarily New York gossip fodder, Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen’s oversized coats, bags, tees and skirts drew fashionable attention. Their layered street couture, in trappings of bohemia and minimalism, always played on the skill of proportion, creating illusion around their teeny five-foot-tall frames. Perhaps it was a natural progression, then, that the former “Michelles” from 90s sitcom Full House were to be eventually exuded into the high fashion stratosphere.
These days a lot of parallels (and not in a non-unique way) are drawn between The Row and the “old” Phoebe Philo Céline. In fact, when uproar over Hedi Slimane’s appointment began, many devoted Céline fans fled to The Row as the saviour of their modern, minimalist aesthetic. It’s without a doubt The Row has, in turn, received a few more customers as a result. Today the twins, now 32, presented a collection that will please their loyal base just as much as any freshly adopted ‘Philophile’. Suiting, dresses and outerwear that drew simplistic, modern silhouettes were presented in wardrobe-fusing muted tones. High, wide neck-lines returned to sit under un-collared, un-detailed jackets. Tunics were long, languid and chic while sleeves and trousers sat wide, but not overly so. This was a collection that could be shown any year, well-made garb to keep forever. And given the label’s namesake is that of famed tailoring street in London, Savile Row, it’s assurance that this exquisitely accoutred woman will always be at their heart.
There is something deeply comforting and relaxing about The Row. Perhaps its the cool, slow pace that comes from a label not urged on by fad nor inspired by whimsy. Something Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen no doubt relish in, following such a drenching in pop culture in their former years. In fact, if you spent the next decade accumulating pieces from The Row, you would be rewarded with a covetable, cohesive wardrobe devoid of time or trend.