To some, Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen are just another pair of celebrities-turned-fashion designers who are the figureheads behind a clothing line of questionable quality. However, naysayers should probably get their facts straight: The twins were just nominated for their first CFDA Award (the Swarovski Award for Womenswear) for The Row, they’ve just introduced a line of luxe sunglasses made from crocodile and leather and they’re about to launch a line of handbags that will likely make any fashion lover weak in the knees.
As you can probably imagine, the mini-moguls had a very hard time getting taken seriously when they first branched out into high-end fashion design, even though their classic styles are now critically-acclaimed for their fit and cuts. In a profile on the Olsens from Vogue.com, the sisters say buyers were skeptical about The Row when it started back in 2006. We hired a showroom and talked buyers through, recalled Ashley. People would drill us about fabric, where wed make it, said Mary-Kate. The first season, customers bought it, so the stores came back. And drilled us again.
Fast forward to today, and the girls’ company, Dualstarwhich includes The Row, Elizabeth & James and Olsenboyehas now seen sales of over $1 billion, and retailers can barely keep their costly (but impeccably tailored) creations in stock.
The way they learned about fashion design is also interesting, since neither of the Olsen twins attended fashion school. Dualstar started when we were six. And we had a collection with Walmart at twelve, which was the upper tier of the tween market. It was before celebrity designers, said Ashley. And we were really designing it, added Mary-Kate. It would be jeans, a bit bohemian, or with a little blazer. It was really fashion-forward. They also credit the wardrobe departments of their television shows for teaching them the fundamentals of tailoring and dressmaking during fittings.
So what’s next for the girls who sit around their office “petting” luxurious fabrics like python, goatskin and fur and meticulously obsessing over proportions and fit all day? Your guess is as good as mine, because, as Mary-Kate puts it, “The thing about us is we think big. Huge.
Photo: Bruce Weber for Vogue