Everything You've Ever Wanted to Know About Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen's Fashion Brand, The Row

From proving critics wrong to hosting exclusive runway shows, here's how the famous sisters went from actresses to successful, high-end fashion designers.

The History of The Row

The Row/ Getty Images/ Amanda Lauro

Those who grew up in the era of peak Olsen twin fandom knew acting was just a stepping stone in the sisters’ career. Mary-Kate and Ashley’s true passion was always fashion — they've been style icons from a young age — so it wasn’t all that surprising to fans of the duo when they retired as actors and pursued a career in design. It started with a preteen collaboration with Walmart and lead to the eventual creation of their high-end fashion brand, The Row.

When was The Row established?

The Row came to fruition back in 2006, when Ashley set out to create the perfect white T-shirt. In an interview with Net-A-Porter back in 2011, Ashley explained that she and her sister saw a gap in the industry at the time; that no other brand was conceptualizing “the core, wearable part of a wardrobe” under the designer luxury category. So, the sisters set out to fill that gap by designing minimal, quality pieces, from basics to tailored goods to accessories. The Olsens were only 18 years old at the time.

The significance behind The Row as the brand's name.

While some celebrities choose to weave their already household name into that of their brand, Mary-Kate and Ashley decided against it. Intending to let the clothes speak for themselves, the sisters patented “The Row” after Saville Row, a street in London best known for its tailoring shops. 

“We didn’t want to be in front of it, we didn’t necessarily even want to let people know it was us,” Ashley told i-D in 2021. “It was really about the product, to the point where we were like: Who could we get to front this so that we don’t have to?”

The History of The Row

The Row

Where is the brand based and who is it’s parent company?

The Row was born and bred on West 22nd Street at the Dualstar headquarters in Chelsea, New York. Dualstar is an entertainment LLC once owned by both the Olsen twins and their entertainment attorney, Robert Thorne. When they turned 18, the fashion mogul’s bought out Thorne’s stake in the company, making them its sole proprietors. Since then, Dualstar has been the parent company of not only The Row, but the sisters’ other brands, including Olsenboye (created exclusively for JC Penny), Elizabeth and James, and StyleMint.

Proving themselves as luxury designers.

Because Mary-Kate and Ashley’s stardom wasn’t rooted in fashion, but, rather, sitcoms and movies geared toward a juvenile demographic, they had to earn their stripes in the industry, so-to-speak. 

In the early days of The Row, retail buyers were skeptical, and, to be fair, it’s understandable; celebrity fashion labels don’t have the best reputation in terms of quality. “People would drill us about fabric, where we’d make it,” Mary-Kate told Vogue. “The first season, customers bought it, so the stores came back. And drilled us again.”

The fashion moguls went so far as to limit their branding to a single gold chain — no label, no name, just clothing. They mulled this over, telling i-D they wondered if true quality, luxury items could sell without a monogrammed tag. “Can it sit in a store with no name and will it sell? Will people want to buy it if the products are right?” the asked. Evidently, the answer is yes. 

The Row's unconventional fashion shows.

Mary-Kate and Ashley are known for being private. They run in a small circle, and, for the most part, stay out of the tabloids. They prefer to keep their lives discreet and the same goes for their seasonal presentations. The Row held its first New York Fashion Show back in 2010 and has since kept their presentations intimate. They are often hosted at their showroom in the West Village.

“When I think about being in their shows it’s something that’s very calm, quiet, not over-exposed. They don’t have a thousand photographers backstage. There’s not even that many photographers on the runway,” model Gigi Hadid told i-D of her experience participating in The Row’s presentations. “That comes from them. They want to put out their art without feeling too exposed or too vulnerable or used for the wrong reasons.”

The History of The Row

The Row

What is The Row best known for?

We would argue that The Row isn’t best known for one specific piece, but rather for its quality and reputation of putting fit and fabric above all else. (That isn’t to say other details aren’t important, however; the designers are highly meticulous about their creations and have, on more than one occasion, proclaimed themselves perfectionists).  

The Row is also known for having a unique interpretation of everyday staples. The clothes are both basic and anything but; what sets the label apart from other brands is how it approaches and enhances simplicity, like taking a classic menswear button-down shirt and exaggerating its pointed collar or reimagining a traditional trench to be simultaneously tailored and relaxed.

The Row's clothes and accessories definitely feel like something Mary-Kate and Ashley themselves would wear. Collections typically focus on neutral colors, such as beige and black, but colorful pieces similar to those we've seen on the Olsens — such as Mary-Kate's red cardigan — do make an appearance. Items are often oversized and there are multiple, must-have coats in every mix.

Is The Row vegan-friendly?

Not entirely. The Row uses many materials that are not vegan-friendly, including wool, leather, and cashmere. However, there are some cotton-based pieces, which are vegan-friendly. 

Does The Row make menswear?

In 2018, the brand announced it would now produce menswear. The Row's first menswear collection was released for Fall 2018, although it was not the designers' first time creating clothing for this specific set of customers.

“We did one menswear capsule collection many years ago, and in 2016 launched a retail menswear capsule,” Ashley said via statement. “It was imperative that we received our customers’ feedback and to approach this collection thoughtfully at our pace.”

The menswear offerings are similar to the brand's womenswear collections, consisting of timeless staples such as sweaters, trousers, and coats.

The History of The Row

The Row

Where is The Row sold?

Currently, The Row has brick-and-mortar locations in New York, Los Angeles, and London. The brand’s collections are also available online at TheRow.com, and sold in luxury department stores, including Nordstrom, Saks Fifth Avenue, Neiman Marcus, and Bergdorf Goodman.

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