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The Row

Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen talk about the inspirations behind their S/S11 collection of softly structured gowns and lizard skin pieces

Having just shown their S/S11 collection, Dazed Digital had an exclusive e-chat with Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen about their infinitely desirable and luxurious brand, The Row. From the moment Natasha Poly stepped onto the Paris catwalk wrapped in a collarless, double-faced black cashmere coat, accessorised simply with narrow brown belt and flat sandals, Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen consolidated their version of classic American sportswear – an appealingly louche and quietly luxurious take on how women dress today. Taken its name from the ultimate location for tailoring, Savile Row, The Row was born three years ago out of the desire for the perfect T-shirt and evolved from a collection of flawless basics to where it stands today as one of the brightest spots in the retail universe.

With its younger line, Elizabeth & James (appropriately named after the twins’ younger siblings) and a move into menswear and sunglasses, the Olsens are slowly making incremental steps in building a credible fashion empire a million miles away from their tween company that made their multimillionaires, Dualstar. Unlike many other fledgling labels, the Olsens have been hip to the powers of the internet – first launching a luxurious, tactile e-commerce website and then recently debuting a shoppable video where you can view KT Auleta’s video of the collection while purchasing items from the catwalk. Following an intimate presentation of their SS '11 line in Paris, the girls conversed via email with Dazed about their love of the artist, Beatrix Ost and why their brand of minimalism feels so right for now.

Dazed Digital: Tell us about how you came across the work of Beatrix Ost for the Fall '10 collection?
Ashley and I were looking at this season in a way that would allow us to evolve from what we’ve been doing for The Row up until now. We were discussing eccentric woman and felt Beatrix embodied the feeling we were gravitating towards.

DD: The Fall '10 collection seemed to tap into the mood for minimalist luxe showing beautifully cut clothes in luxurious fabrics like leather and python. Would you say this encapsulates the philosophy of The Row? The Row perfectly chimes with the current mood for austere minimalism. Why do you think it feels so right for now?
Exotic skins were a natural choice because we’ve always concentrated on the body so skin on skin made sense.
Ashley: We believe there has been such a strong response to The Row because for several years there were a lot of over-designed clothes in the market. Our goal is to create understated, wearable, beautiful clothes that fit the body of every woman.

DD: You also run Elizabeth & James and just launched a menswear line for The Row and have branched out into sunglasses. Are there any other areas you would like to branch out to?
Doing things right takes time and careful planning. We look at Elizabeth and James and The Row as lifestyle brands. Currently, we want to make sure The Row’s e-commerce is a success along with our sunglasses for each brand.  We’re currently working on another category for each brand and are excited to announce when the time is right.

DD: There is a tactile feel about the website with the close-ups of the beautiful fabrics used in the collection—what were you trying to convey about the brand’s agenda with the website? How conscious were you of trying to provide an almost tangible experience for the shopper?
Fabrics have been a main focus from the beginning. We feel it’s important for the website and the e-commerce experience have a tactile quality. Sometimes there’s a disconnect between how clothes look and feel in person and how they’re presented online.

DD: The Row is one of the success stories of recent years—How would you define the philosophy behind the label?
We think about our customers first. We want to create soft and comfortable collections in every way. It’s about real life and what people will really wear. Hopefully we’re accomplishing that.