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Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen, the twin-sister founders of The Row, let their clothes do the talking. The former Hollywood actors turned designers have an aversion to publicity that at times can seem quite phobic: shows are small, intimate and strictly barred from the bank of photographers who typically populate the catwalk’s end. Their Instagram account showcases products and inspirations with the same spare precision that is reflected in their design (they posted an image of Gustav Klimt in his favourite floor-length artist’s smock last week. It made total sense). When I asked them about their AW16 collection, they damn near shrank away.
Yet their aesthetic — lush transseasonal slouchy basics, easy outerwear and sumptuous knits — speaks loudly. Their collections are simple, the kind of clothes a woman-in-the-know wears — and everyone else wonders where she got them from. The Row were the forerunners of that new generation of US-based modern luxury brands, including Rosetta Getty, The Elder Statesman and Gabriela Hearst, that offer stealthily chic artisanal pieces at stratospheric prices.
The sisters crouched on the carpeted floors of their headquarters to watch their AW16 collection. It contained only 30 looks: there were dreamy long cashmere coats, oversized jackets, thin knit layers, long fluid lengths and an effortlessly easy Chelsea boot with white overstitching. The trousers were mannish and wide legged, loose louche overcoats nearly skimmed the floor. A pocket bag slung across the body had a puritanical simplicity. It was all impeccably chic.
In these heady days of the “see now, buy now” market, The Row’s whisper- quiet approach eschews the current industry obsessions. Yet their steady evolution has been hugely successful. Now in its 10th year, the brand is one of the bestselling labels on several multibrand e-commerce sites and remains a key presence in the leading department stores. The sisters opened a Los Angeles store last year and will open another US store this year. They might even be persuaded to come to London. But don’t hold your breath.
“We’re building out,” explains Ashley Olsen, coffee in hand. “But we like doing things slowly and seeing how people react to things and learning from our mistakes.” Remember that fable about the hare and the tortoise? Slow might just be the winning formula.