Priorities say a lot about a person, or two people/one entity when speaking of Ashley and Mary-Kate Olsen at The Row. They run their business with two big Cs in mind: Clients and Control. Customers were the reason for moving the show from New York, where it’s usually presented, to Paris for spring, though the Olsens refused to reveal any details besides general continental geography when they announced the decision a week before New York Fashion Week. That’s called control.
“This is probably the earliest the collection has ever been done,” said Ashley at the presentation Tuesday at The Row’s Paris showroom just off the Palais Royale, dismissing the idea that the move was because of sample delays as happened back in 2011. “We wanted to do something special for our clients this season. They’re all mainly in Paris, and it’s the right time.”
Press and retailers viewed the collection during a casual three-hour open house at the showroom, where 13 of the 30-something looks were shown on models who took intermittent laps around the room overlooking a garden courtyard. The staging was elegantly understated, as the Olsens presumably reserved a grander display for the clients who were scheduled to view it on Wednesday night at the 17th-century Château de Courances, an hour outside Paris. A reporter can only imagine the atmosphere because no media was allowed at the dinner per the designers’ authoritarian position on photography, which extended to the press presentation. The Olsens insist on distributing their own in-house images, shot the morning after the press presentation, delaying illustrated coverage, Instagram not withstanding, of the clothes by more than 24 hours. Priorities.
The collection itself was beautiful, consistent with The Row’s standard of prudent luxury yet full of news: the introduction of a sunglass collaboration with Oliver Peoples, two new bag styles and shoes done for the first time in-house, a process long in the works. But most markedly different and unexpected was the open sensuality of the clothes, sexier and more romantic than ever. “We sort of opened everything up,” said Mary-Kate. “All the items have stayed the same, but we wanted some things a little shorter, we wanted some more legs and sun. It was more of a romance-in-the-garden thing.”
Flesh, a wholesale commodity the fashion industry over, was rare and fresh from the Olsens, who have been almost orthodox in their approach to modest silhouettes. Some looks relied on the power of suggestion. These included a long jacket worn off the shoulder and clutched at the breast bone in the model’s hand, and a divine three-piece black duchesse top comprised of a strapless, gently poufed bodice and two separate blouson sleeves. Other styles freely bared the body while still projecting an air of discretion. An ivory jacket, generously cut and relaxed in fit, was worn undone over a scant triangle bra; a gauzy sheer dress floated in gentle pleats over a bra top and miniskirt, and a black slipdress came precisely chopped well above midthigh. Chic, short and to the point, the dress seemed to indicate that The Row is flirting with a younger customer.