On Thursday, Ashley and Mary-Kate Olsen held their first presentation for their five-year-old contemporary collection Elizabeth and James. The business appears to have done just fine without a slot on the fashion week schedule. The collection is in 700 doors; includes shoes, done in partnership with Steve Madden, and sunglasses; has a fragrance in the works, and plans to launch handbags for fall 2013. So why show now? “It just felt like the right time,” said Mary-Kate. Or perhaps because the clothes looked in peak condition.
Both the production quality and the aesthetic, which the Olsens described as an ongoing play between masculine tailoring and feminine élan, have evolved with polish and considerable range. “It’s a full wardrobe,” said Ashley. “We have a huge age range and crossover with The Row customer.” The palette was collegiate with burgundy, navy, black and green, and there were twists on plaids, such as a ruched pencil skirt worn with a marled, cable-knit and cropped ivory peacoat with a fur collar. While much could be described as classic, the designers paid equal mind to what they consider trend-appropriate — a smart move at the contemporary level — including great parkas, layering pieces and a brocade peplum top that, Ashley said, “felt very now.”