The Row: The Exceptional is the Rule
Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen have carved out a unique niche for themselves in the fashion industry. The twins are exacting and crystal clear about what they want and what they think a very select group of wealthy women desire — understated and refined designs of exceptional quality. Garments that exist in the rarified air above trends, fast fashion or everyday attire. Instead, pieces from The Row reside outside of sartorial time. They do not age. They do not become obsolete our out of touch. They do no relinquish their evergreen grace for anything. And that is why they have become some of the most “major” designs of the modern age.
A version of this exclusive interview first appeared in the pages of the 13th issue of ODDA Magazine.
Can you talk about how the luxe minimal nature of The Row‘s aesthetic came about… is it just an extension of your own personal tastes, did you see space in the market for this style?
Mary-Kate Olsen: The Row was inspired by quality and fit. What we wanted to wear, but was not available in the market at the time. The concept that quality product can sell even without a logo.
Ashley Olsen: The Row started with the idea of the perfect t-shirt. We saw a need in the market for essential pieces that were the perfect fit and of the highest quality.
You have a “store” in LA and one in NYC… but I put the word store in quotes because both spaces feel less like boutiques and more like homes. Why did you take this approach to presenting your oeuvre?
MKO: Architecture is another passion of ours. Our spaces dictate our stores, the stores don’t dictate the spaces.
AO: We wanted to take the opportunity to present The Row to our customers in the way that we had envisioned. It was never just about shopping, but the experience you have within the world of The Row.
You have opened your world to include other brands in the store… what was the thinking behind that… with even the artwork on the walls for sale.
MKO: We have a strong appreciation for all forms of art. It was part of the narrative, thus we felt strongly about incorporating these elements into the spaces.
Can you talk about how you work together. Do each of you have a part of the business that you excel at or enjoy the most?
AO: We both do everything together.
MKO: There is a balance – a ying and yang relationship.
What was the thinking behind the decision to support high-end fashion manufacturing in the US?
AO: Localization is very important to us. The
craft to create quality pieces exists in the United States. With this, you also have efficiency. –
MKO: Overseeing and nurturing the samples until we deliver the garments gives us more control over fit and quality.
With so many talented top tier brands now showing in Paris (and I know you have presented in France in the past) is it still important for you to continue to present your work in the United States?
MKO: It’s important for The Row to be true to our clients and customers. We show internationally when it’s the right time.
AO: When we present our collections, we show within a context that makes sense for that season and for our clients, wherever that location may be at the time.\
What would you say sets your brand apart… there is a sort of stealth understated elegance to it?
MKO: Consistency. We don’t look to trends. We don’t believe we are trendy. We do what we do and constantly look ahead.
AO: We are owner operated and have a very consistent mindset when designing. We practice restraint.
You now have ready-to-wear, eyewear, handbags and footwear. Are there any other lines you would like to develop?
MKO: All in a matter of time. Doing collaborations with other brands is a big trend in fashion right now.
Is that something you would like to explore…and if so… what brand would you like to creatively team up with?
AO: We have partnered with other brands in the past and will do so again in the future when it makes sense.
Can you tell me a story about a time when you saw someone wearing one of your designs out in the street. What was that experience like?
AO: During our second market in Paris, I saw a woman wearing the leather leggings outside of a restaurant. It’s always a very humbling feeling. There are many options for women, so I never take it for granted.
MKO: Every time I see someone in the brand, whether it was 10 years ago or today, it makes me smile.
Random question… what is your favorite fabric?
MKO: Hard to answer. When fabrics are treated well there are many fabrics that are considered favorites.
AO: It’s hard to pick one.
Besides making covetable clothing do you both have any other hidden talents that you excel at?
MKO: It’s hard to excel if you can only do something part time.
AO: What she said.
Jessica Michault is the Senior Vice President of industry relations at GPS Radar by Launchmetrics. She is also the editor-at-large for ODDA magazine and contributes to publications like the New York Times, the Business of Fashion, Vogue, Harper's Bazaar and Mixte magazine.
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