Essays

Mary Kate and Ashley: The Accomplished Duo

There is something about a set of twins that makes them infinitely more interesting than regular people. For one, they would never struggle to think of a fun fact about themselves at a group job interview – “I have a twin” always breaks the ice. Secondly, having a twin must be even better than being merely siblings. You would share a bond that can only be achieved by being twins because you are together, and have been together, right from the beginning all the way until the end. Twins are often grouped together for life, which can be tiresome for many but if you’re as business-savvy and as passionate as the Olsen twins, you will reap all the rewards.

Mary Kate and Ashley have been in show business since they were less than a year old and have only grown since then. They started out acting in Full House, sharing a role at just 9 months old, and now, 27 years later, they are at the forefront of fashion. What makes Mary Kate and Ashley different from other child stars is the fact that they created an empire, or their management did, at a time when most other children their age were playing board games and learning basic arithmetic.
Dualstar, their production company which released their movies and television specials, was founded in 1993, when the twins were just 7 years old. Between 1993 and 2004, the Olsens starred in 13 feature films (all of which I watched as a child), 3 television programmes and 2 other video series. During this time they also released a wide range of products to target the pre-teen and teen market including video games, dolls, clothes, home decoration, furniture: practically anything you can think of, they did.

Although the empire that they built was a pretty mean feat to achieve, I’d say they have achieved something even greater than that now. The twins have completely reinvented themselves, so much so that they are almost unrecognisable from who they used to be. They have come to embody American luxury fashion, becoming complete icons in the process of it. I’d say that Mary Kate was the breakout fashion figure of the two, purely because her boho-chic look in the mid 2000s which became hugely fashionable all over the world (helped by Kate Moss, Sienna Miller, Nicole Richie and Rachel Zoe of course). Now, with their hugely successful fashion line The Row, the Olsen twins have proven themselves as a force to be reckoned with in the industry.

From various collections of the past few years

From various collections of the past few years

Now let me clarify one thing, I do not agree with celebrity designers. Those who are already famous that decide to dabble in fashion for a bit of fun on the side without having a true passion for it are a real annoyance to many. They usually have zero formal training, no experience and just the celebrity status to get on by. The Olsen twins, however, have surpassed the celebrity designer stage. The Row has recently celebrated its 10 year anniversary and receives rave reviews almost every season, along with admirable coverage in fashion magazines not just in America but around the world. The Row has established itself as one of the great American brands of the past decade and one that will, hopefully, be around for decades to come.

I think what has made the Olsen twins’ experience in fashion different is that they have stuck it out. This is not just a side-project for them but actually their main and only focus. They no longer think of themselves as actors, their production company has been dormant since 2004, and are fashion people through and through. That is not to say that they didn’t face critics when the first started out, because of course they did. Fashion is a notoriously elitist industry and unless you have worked your way up and paid your dues, you won’t be respected. As the Olsens were celebrities, actors nonetheless, they were faced with hurdles from the start. Yes they had the finance behind them to create something special, but if the fashion press are against you it can be difficult. But they have done something commendable in sticking it out for so long and creating such a good output. They have truly proven themselves in the industry.

Their line, The Row, started out with them trying to create the perfect white t-shirt and has since expanded into something of couture-like proportions. Although technically still ready to wear, the construction and thought that goes into the line is impeccable. Famed for the simplicity yet complex details (a bit of an oxymoron, I get it), The Row produces garments that can be a staple in wardrobes. Mary Kate and Ashley have almost created uniforms for themselves, as that’s what their line really is. They create what they would wear. A key feature of The Row is the neutral colour palette that is used season after season. The straightforwardness of it is so important to the success of the range. And believe me, it is definitely a commercial success. Sold in over 145 stores worldwide (Harvey Nichols in London, Saks in New York to name a couple), the label generates sales of tens of millions each per year. It is also a critical success: collections are lauded by the press and they have received real critical acclaim in the form of awards from the CFDA (Womenswear Designer of the Year 2012, Accessories Designer of the Year 2014). Basically, what I am saying is that there is no stopping Mary Kate & Ashley.

Another factor that separate s The Row from other celebrity lines is the fact that they have positioned themselves firmly in the luxury segment. Price-wise, they could rival Hermes. At $39000 for an alligator skin backpack, their prices aren’t for those who are just dabbling in the high end market. People buy their items, and pay such high prices for them, because they are so good. Well researched, designed and constructed, the pieces are classics that could last for years and become wardrobe staples. You have to remember that the first collection the twins created consisted of just 7 pieces. The effort and singular attention that goes into every individual piece designed along with the hands-on work by the Olsen twins makes the price tag worthy and almost justified. So whilst I am unlikely to be able to afford anything by The Row, I can always dream. The Olsens have gone beyond what anybody could’ve imagined when they set out to become fashion designers. One can only hope that The Row‘s place in the history of American fashion is realised.

Ashley carrying the $39000 backpack

Ashley carrying the $39000 backpack

FURTHER READING

An interview with the duo in Elle magazine this month.

A Wall Street Journal online article.

If The Row is out of your price range, like me, the twins also have a second, more contemporary line called Elizabeth & James. Prices start at around £50 and go up to the late hundreds.

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