LOS ANGELES — Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen are trading their past as beloved child actors for a future as global businesswomen.
The 19-year-old twins are taking control of their company, Dualstar Entertainment Group, and finessing their focus on fashion, home, beauty, brand management and entertainment. In addition to emerging celebrity rivals, they face the challenge of trying to entice an older, more sophisticated consumer who has outgrown tween sizes and lost interest in entertainment starring the sisters.
"We're getting older," Mary-Kate told WWD in an exclusive interview. "We have more things to say. We want more things to accomplish in our company."
With apparel representing about 80 percent of the business, Dualstar rang up an estimated $1 billion in retail sales in almost a dozen countries in 2004. The line is sold at Asda in the U.K., El Campo in Spain, Auchan in France and The Warehouse in New Zealand, among other overseas retailers. Dualstar is preparing to launch sales in Australia. The Olsens' fragrances are in broad distribution at Kohl's, Claire's, CVS and Walgreens in the U.S.
Last January, the Olsens acquired full ownership of Dualstar and became co-presidents. Even as they take art and French classes in their second year at New York University, the Olsens are more hands-on than ever at the Culver City, Calif.-based company.
The twins have come a long way. They made their television debut on the long-running sitcom "Full House" when they were nine-months old. Dualstar was founded in 1993 with the Olsens' then-manager and lawyer, Robert Thorne. After "Full House" ended in 1995, their popularity kept growing because of the show's global syndication and their home videos. The mary-kateandashley line launched at Wal-Mart stores in the U.S. in 2001, and the Olsens soon expanded into 14 different categories, ranging from 89-cent pens to $1,615 beds.
In separate interviews with WWD, the Olsens discussed their vision for Dualstar. Among their goals are:
Developing a high-end fashion brand by investing in a different company or bringing in an outside designer.
Transforming their 30-person enterprise with offices in Culver City, New York and London into a boutique brand management firm supervising emerging labels and talent in both the fashion and entertainment worlds.
A Stella McCartney sketch of a custom dress made from protein-based silk in partnership with biotech lab Bolt Threads. The dress will be displayed at The Museum of Modern Art's upcoming design exhibition, "Items: Is Fashion Modern?"