After two years off the runway, Ashley and Mary-Kate Olsen brought their resort 2023 collection for The Row to Paris. They weren’t doing interviews and the brand didn’t release a statement, but when American designers have swapped New York for Paris in the past they’ve typically talked about the city’s more international audience and elevated playing field. The Olsens need little help with their profiles, so let’s assume they thought they had something new to say about their fashion. As it turned out, they did, and it speaks volumes. The line-up finds them in a more playful frame of mind than we’ve come to associate with The Row. The elegance and sophistication remain, but they also dabbled in hyperbole, in the form of extra-long sleeves and neck grazing, exaggerated 1970s collars, and explored surprising retro flourishes like pillbox hats, muffs, and top handle bags in the crooks of arms. If Jackie Kennedy and Carolyn Bessette-Kennedy joined wardrobes, this The Row collection would be it. Some looks, including an evening dress made with a chartreuse-colored wool blanket wrapped and draped from the torso, reminded you of the Japanese designers who made their own transitions to Paris in the 1980s. Is the Olsens’ minimalist phase over? Not exactly. Most of these looks were head-to-toe monochrome or black-and-white, and there were no prints or much in the way of other distractions. The silhouette was still rooted in tailoring and the shoes were low-heeled and grounding. The difference was this collection’s looseness. Not in terms of volumes, but in terms of the fun it was willing to have. See the fine cashmere sweaters that twisted in back to reveal the white poplin shirts below them, the jabots as oversize as the pointy collars they accessorized, the back-to-front coats, and those long sleeves. Graceful fashion that makes you smile feels like the right instinct for the current moment.
Collage by Edward Kanarecki.