Balm To The Soul. The Row Pre-Fall 2023

Seeing The Row in the middle of Paris Fashion Week schedule is like having an exquisite, delightful, and very expensive dessert – say, a Cedric Grolet pastry. The refinement and serenity of Ashley and Mary Kate Olsens’ clothes, and of their pre-fall 2023 show, was a visual balm to the soul. An ivory duchesse satin evening dress, with a gently inflated aeration of volume at the back, any hauteur swept away by how the fabric has been made to look frayed and creased, like it was just pulled out of a trunk and thrown on with a what-the-hell shrug. A timeless LBD with gently sculpted hips. A crochet slip worn over a gauzy longer slip. These garments are to die for. The Row’s latest take on serenity doesn’t equal perfection, and a good thing too, something that the Olsens played up with some styling touches, like the wrinkled hose, or a mesh tube dress squished over a white cotton shirt whose hems went floorwards. A little bit of mess to cut the precision is always good. Or you might register it as you see a loose cut black blazer walk by, with the surprise of the armholes cleverly opened so you can slide your arms out and wear it more like a vest, with a matching pair of natty Bermuda shorts. The use of sleeves was a recurring motif here; as a gestural flourish, holding a dress in place at the back, looking like an Obi sash, for instance. Much has been made of the Olsens’ propensity for beautiful fabrics for even more beautifully made clothes, and it’s true on both counts. But there’s something else going on here: A little bit of dissonance, a touch of playfulness, shading and toning their exquisite clothes. Showing in Paris definitely suits them – remember their last show? Pre-fall 2023 felt like a beautiful continuation of that story.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.
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