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DALLAS — Journalists had been warned off interviewing Ashley Olsen during her appearance Thursday at Forty Five Ten here to promote her designer collection, The Row.
But the diminutive 21-year-old celebrity, who often surprises people with her down-to-earth demeanor, approached anyway.
“It’s been great,” Ashley Olsen said of the label she produces with her twin, Mary-Kate, via their Los Angeles conglomerate, Dualstar Entertainment Group. “It’s been a lot of work, but fun.”
So much work, in fact, that Olsen said she’s on hiatus from her liberal arts studies at New York University to focus on The Row.
Attired in The Row’s cashmere tunic and black leather leggings, Balenciaga boots and a little makeup, Olsen said the collection germinated during her sophomore year with a simple T-shirt. That led to the first collection of 18 knits for spring 2007, which has since blossomed into 110 looks for fall 2008 — including fur outerwear.
“What it always comes down to is simple, clean lines and beautiful fabrics,” Olsen said. “The whole collection is based on fit and quality.”
Fall bookings so far total $2.5 million wholesale, said Rae Miles, who joined The Row in November as commercial director. The Row is sold to 25 top specialty stores in the U.S. and a total of 72 worldwide, she noted.
Forty Five Ten owners Brian Bolke and Shelley Musselman threw a casual, three-hour party for Olsen at the store with a whimsical spread of Champagne, quiche and sprigs of red licorice. Olsen appeared promptly at 4 p.m. and was a low-key but constant presence, even lingering 30 minutes beyond the appointed duration before retiring to the Mansion on Turtle Creek for a steak dinner.
Olsen’s taste for streamlined silhouettes in cozy fabrics has struck a chord.
“It’s done amazing,” said Bolke, as he was setting up for the event. “For our customers, who appreciate beautiful clothing, this is their go-to basic. We never mark it down.”
Unlike Elizabeth and James, the twins’ contemporary label, and the moderately priced mary-kateandashley brand, The Row is not licensed.
The Olsen twins put their heads together on the design, but Ashley has taken the lead role at The Row while her sister continues acting, noted Miles. “Ashley is there full time, every day,” Miles said. “She’s in all the fittings, picking all the fabrics and making the final decisions.”
Everything is made in the U.S., with the exception of the cashmere knits, in order to keep tight control, Olsen noted.
With the twins’ marketing clout, the possibility of developing The Row into a megabrand is very real. After all, the eight-year-old mary-kateandashley label is on everything from lip gloss to shag rugs.
“In due time,” Olsen said calmly. “I don’t want to expand too far too fast….I just take it one day at a time. There is endless opportunity, and I want to make the right choices. I don’t see why it can’t grow further and further.”
As for Olsen’s first trip to Dallas, the event was “really successful,” Miles said Monday.
“We sold a lot of the more special pieces, which was great,” Miles reported, citing the $4,500 natural kangaroo coat and a $4,000 seamed black leather poncho with raw edges. “We really had a good time. Ashley was surprised. The women were really chic. A lot of them had such great style. And we didn’t expect there to be so many women like that.”