English country garden. The scrolls of Japanese painter Ito Jakuchu. A bit of American folk. Minimalism. Lots of silks.
Those were the catchwords Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen offered prior to their showing of The Row on Monday morning at The Carlyle. As it turns out, the designers invoked the first three cryptically, and gorgeously so. Theirs is a very specific take on minimalism, with a quiet grandeur and authority that values elegance over edge. Whether they know it or not, the Olsens are the aesthetic descendants of Zoran and Ronaldus Shamask.
For spring, they seem to have imagined their modernist vision transported to “Downton Abbey,” and came away with clothes both hyper-functional and overtly romantic. The collection featured unfussy fabrics and endless layering, usually in tonal combinations of varying textures and weights (inspired by Jakuchu’s scrolls). The mood was set by the voluminous trench-dress-pants look that opened the show. Pants grounded almost every look, but delicately, in light-as-air fabrics — silk poplin, georgette, pleated satin. These came under coats and jackets, shirtdresses and slips, all cut with graceful motion and ease in mind — an ease that did not stop at the ankle; everything was shown with flat sandals. Nor did it stop after dark. The long navy silk and linen dress with passementerie trim proved that stunning needn’t scream.