During a lengthy interview with Ashley and Mary-Kate Olsen this summer for our September issue (on newsstands this Friday), I had a lot of time to discuss the evolution of their fashion business over the years. One of the things that impressed me most was that the designers have managed to be successful over the past decade while also maintaining their independence. And this has given them the freedom to run things exactly as they see fit, such as bringing the production of their Elizabeth and James collection in house this year, or opening a Manhattan store for The Row that is much a gallery for modern art and furniture as it is a retail space for clothes.
Another example of their ability to grow into new areas – while remaining consistent to their vision – is the expansion of their Nirvana fragrance collection this month with two new scents. The Nirvana Black and Nirvana White scents, which became huge hits for Sephora when they were introduced in 2013, will now be joined by Nirvana Bourbon and Nirvana Rose. The funny thing is that when they were choosing the ingredients for the new flavors, the Olsens say they went back to some of the same ones that attracted them in the first place.
“We are the most consistent people,” Ashley says with a laugh.
“It’s not too far off from where we were with Black and White,” says Mary-Kate. “They are in the same nostalgic world. Whereas Rose is more of a Rose de Mai essence, with a little bit of vetiver, the Bourbon has a vanilla tone to it, so it’s a smokier, richer, feeling. It was nice being able to play with color a little bit. The world is not all black and white, so the question was how do we round out this idea? These reflect the colorful, playful side of life, the imagination and the fun.”
And likewise, adding fragrances that clearly evoke color is important as they bring that sense of variety to the Elizabeth and James business, which has expanded across categories from denim to knits this season. Their entire product range is now visible as well at the new store they opened in Los Angeles at The Grove last month.
“The reason we launched with two fragrances in the first place was that we wanted women to have options,” Ashley says, “so now we’re expanding those options.”
The new scents arrived online at Sephora.com this week and will be in stores beginning Aug. 19 ($85 each for a 1.7 fl. oz. bottle).