Chasing The RowJune 2, 2008
Most people know Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen’s story. Famous for their entire lives, they started acting as infants on Full House and continued with straight-to-video movies, TV shows, cosmetics and a clothing line. At eighteen, the two took complete control of their company Dualstar, and the rest is history.
I first became intrigued by Mary-Kate and Ashley in 2004 when each of them began creeping out of their somewhat private lives, showcasing an effortless, individual style that carried their status from young fashionistas to fashion icons. Everyone, including me, wondered where they were shopping, what they were wearing and what they got at Starbucks. Yet, nobody could figure it out. At 21, Mary-Kate and Ashley are grounded; they’ve actually earned their own money, established themselves as businesswomen and resisted overexposure, opting for normal lives (if the world will let them).
After a few years at NYU, the two are doing their own thing. Ashley is currently focusing on fashion while Mary-Kate is balancing both fashion and acting. They’ve introduced two clothing lines; a high-end line called The Row and a more contemporary collection called Elizabeth and James. Though the latter features more wallet-friendly pieces sold at Neiman Marcus, The Row is a muted, more sophisticated collection that boasts simple and expensive basics. The super-soft fabrics and French seams make the collection even more desirable.
When comparing Elizabeth and James to their upscale brand, the Olsens are much more involved in The Row, running and funding it themselves in order to have complete control. In a recent issue of Nylon magazine, Mary-Kate called Elizabeth and James a “licensing deal” and although involved, she emphasized how important The Row is to she and her sister.
The line is what many people would call too simple. Most wouldn’t pay the $200+ for their signature t-shirts. When I visited a fashion website, a reader commented on The Row, saying, “Too plain and too expensive! $600 for a cardigan?! I’d rather spend my money on something else than spend it on something designed by MK&A!” People either love or hate it.
Aside from the t-shirts, the collection is comprised of oversized lamb-fur coats, a banded skirt, a modal tank top, pant-like leggings, a tuxedo jacket and more – available at 29 exclusive locations, yet impossible to find online or anywhere else. I managed to score a t-shirt after days of googling, phone calls and patience. Jeffrey, an Atlanta boutique, was the only store in my area that carried The Row. Even so, it took days of research. So why is it impossible to find?
Mary-Kate told Women’s Wear Daily why. “We want to control its image and each piece and each collection.” She continued, “The Row is very separate from everything we’ve done so far.” It has been said that Mary-Kate and Ashley are careful not to associate themselves with the line and do not want The Row to be just another celebrity line. So far, it isn’t.
Ally Hilfiger was featured on the website Who What Wear Daily in a beautiful green pencil skirt. It was identified by a reader as The Row, though nobody was sure. Despite the mere speculation, the Olsens have a way of being both hidden and noticed, which has brought them true success.barbara-cannon