It Takes Two: An Interview with The Row Designers Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen

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In four short years, Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen have established new identities as New York City’s most promising young designers with their high-end label The Row. Their ability to mutate their iconic styles into covetable looks for the season took the fashion world by storm. Their collections are often described as calm, monastic, and languid, which is an aesthetic that promises quiet luxury and refined elegance. In this exclusive interview, Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen divulge intimate details of their decision-making processes, creative processes, and the techniques they used to achieve Fall/Winter 2014’s androgynous silhouette.

Read on for our interview with the dynamic team behind The Row, and click through the gallery above to view the cozy, sumptuous knits and enveloping volumes of the brand’s Fall/Winter 2014 collection.

Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen portrait
Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen | Photo: Courtesy of The Row

What is one aspect of your Fall/Winter 2014 collection that you intentionally emphasized?
The sleeve this season is very important to the collection. You can see it’s more of a slightly curved bell shape. For us, we like to call the shape a ‘controlled bell’.

How did you create the silhouette for the collection?
This season, we worked with the idea of shapes, because they are very interesting and versatile. The fact that we used similar shapes to create 30 looks is quite unique. We were inspired by rectangles, circles, half circles, and more, because of their transformative nature.

Why did you choose to host your Fall/Winter 2014 show at The Row’s showroom instead of a more traditional venue?
We’re opening a store this summer, and we felt it was appropriate to welcome people into our home and make it super intimate. We transformed the space to feel inviting and honest.

What are you personal favorite pieces in the collection?
We love the 900-gram cashmere. It’s indescribable. It’s extraordinary cashmere, because the quality of the fabric is exceptional. It’s the quality and feel that make it incredibly beautiful.

Describe the color palette you used for the collection.
We worked with various shades of gray as well as classic The Row neutrals. We also played with mahogany, navy, black, and ivory.

If you had to sum up the aesthetic of The Row’s Fall/Winter 2014 collection, what would it be?
People keep saying the word ecclesiastical. It’s clean, sophisticated, and voluptuous. It’s also a very textured and technical collection. To us, it’s ultimate The Row.

How did you decide on the perfect soundtrack to accompany the show?
We met with Michel Gaubert and we really didn’t have a direction at all. We knew what we wanted to stay away from, but we didn’t know what we wanted. We sort of just said, “You do you.”  He came back and the first song we listened to was perfect. It fit. It was slightly remixed to make it more modern as well.

You have introduced two new styles to your handbag collection this year. Can you describe the techniques you employed to give the handbags such a fantastic finish?
The ‘Book Bag’ and the ‘Bucket Bag’ are the two new shapes this season. We used an incredibly old technique when working with skins as well. It’s a bombé technique that makes the skin rise, and very few factories around today still do it. That is why the skin looks so dimensional.

What were your inspirations and muses for the creation of this collection?
We had done a collection a few years ago using a silhouette that we didn’t end up working with, and that sort of came from these A-lined dresses and Pope-like robes. This was the very beginning of when we started designing. It was something that we started with, and throughout the process it went in a very different direction. It was a silhouette that we had been playing with for a few years. While designing this collection, the silhouette became more present.

Fur is a popular trend for the fall season. How did you incorporate it into your collection?
The fur in this collection is used as an accent rather than anything else – except for this incredible double-faced mink.

Minimalism was a strong theme on your runway. Why did you eschew decorative elements?
There isn’t any hardware. It’s all about the fabrics and being very seamless. Some garments only have one seam. We tried to think in terms of being ‘minimal’, and every garment is honest in this approach.

After hearing all of the feedback from critics and watching how the collection was received by the public, what are your thoughts on it as you reflect back?
To us, it’s about what luxury actually means. We are super proud of this collection.

While many designers employ a story to frame their collections in more artistic lights, you choose to let the clothes speak for themselves. What is behind this decision?
As much as you can play into the idea of storytelling within a collection, Fall 2014 is more mathematical. Sometimes you just create the story to have a story, and this collection on its own stands strong. It’s not referencing a time or place. It’s completely about the shapes used as well as the techniques.

The Row is available at Saks Fifth Avenue, BurJuman in Dubai.

Photos: Courtesy of The Row

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