Photographed by Bruce Weber for US Vogue
Quick – try and think of a set of pocket-sized twins whose uncompromising personal style and skyrocketing careers, first as kiddie and teen film idols and now as fashion designers, has captured the world’s attention, kick-started a multitude of trends and firmly established the Venti-sized Starbucks cup as a daily accessory you simply can’t be seen without. Oh, and it can’t be the Olsens. Yep, impossible and doesn’t this just prove how uniquely intriguing Ashley and Mary-Kate truly are?
The twin sisters have kept a low profile these past few months, focusing on their burgeoning empire and personal lives, so an in-depth interview and profile of their discreetly luxurious and recently CFDA-nominated label The Row in the April issue of US Vogue got our full attention this morning so here’s what we’ve learned.
Let’s clear one thing first, it’s ‘Smashley’ not Ashley but only if you’re Mary-Kate. Next, what were they wearing (interview outfits are rarely worth the mention but when the sisters that put ‘hobo chic’ in the fashion map are involved we want to know) – Ashley was ‘bundled up in a pilled Marc Jacobs oatmeal sweater pulled over an old black Moschino slipdress and a rusty-red shahtoosh looped around her neck’, and Mary-Kate had ‘tramped through the January snow in an oversize ribbed-leather motorcycle jacket and multiple black layers, a neon Guatemalan knitted hat perched on her head.’ Phew – we couldn’t expect anything less. And any recent purchases? Ashley is awaiting for her Balenciaga pre-Fall order and Mary-Kate has scored a ‘kind of Mick Jagger Chanel couture jacket’.
The 24-year-olds are already in charge of an empire with retail sales of $1 billion but don’t suppose these two are sipping giant cups of chai lattes at home while their teams are busy designing everything and making the decisions. Ashley founded The Row (the conspicuously anonymous name hinting at Savile Row luxury) in 2006 ‘in her drive to make a luxurious basic white T-shirt to suit many women—she meticulously tested it on all shapes and ages, 20 to 60.’ Still, the world’s press and retailers were not quite ready to accept yet another ‘celeb’ line with open arms. ‘We hired a showroom and talked buyers through,’ remembers Ashley. ‘People would drill us about fabric, where we’d make it,’ says Mary-Kate. ‘The first season, customers bought it, so the stores came back. And drilled us again.’ But they got their answers and with the label’s A/W’11 collection being widely accepted as one of the season’s best it seems The Row is well on the road to becoming an American mega-brand, Ralph Lauren-style. ‘I live in it,’ reveals Lauren Hutton, who became a friend after modelling for their look-book. ‘It just fits, chicly. You know, I look up to them.’
With enough experience behind them to scare any self-claimed business guru, 'Dualstar started when we were six. And we had a collection with Walmart at twelve’, says Mary-Kate, what’s next for the Olsens? Dressing their younger sister, and up-and-coming actress, Elizabeth for Cannes, bags as far as The Row is concerned, ‘I’m obsessed with branding,’ says Ashley, revealing that one of the label’s must-have designs (consisting of two compartments sandwiched together, textured skin on one side, suede on the other) is called – oh, yes! - The Twin, and an altogether different role for the future for Ashley, ‘I want to run a studio, I’d probably like to manage other people on their brands. It could be an artist. A young designer. It could be an existing brand.’ As exciting as their own? Might be tricky to find.
We’ve left the very best for last. When Carey Mulligan was preparing for her Great Gatsby audition (she will be Daisy in Baz Luhrmann's production) she asked Ashley and Mary-Kate for sartorial help – good call, Carey! ‘I couldn’t believe what they did when I texted in a panic about having nothing to wear for my audition for Gatsby! I was hoping they’d send me some things from The Row, but then these huge boxes arrived—Ashley’s entire collection of thirties vintage dresses.’ Petite in height but with oh-so-very-big hearts!
-- Kiki Georgiou