The latest The Row collection is so, so good. Even with office life curtailed and many industries extending their work-from-home policies well into the new year, the Olsen sisters are loyal to their impeccable tailoring. This season’s proportions are vaguely mannish: oversized and boxy or cut with a slouch, an attitude that’s accentuated by the sneakers that they pair with everything from a belted leather trench to a three-piece pantsuit. The big novelty this season is Ashley and Mary-Kate Olsen‘s palette – the offering is awash with color. The look book opens with just a peek – their new trainers are green on the bottom – but come the end, that green turns up on a cardigan jacket and fine-gauge sweaters, and it mingles with equally vibrant shades of orange and purple. They use these brights like the minimalists they are, by avoiding prints and patterns in favor of big blocks of color, layering an orange turtleneck under a white button-down under a purple V-neck under a tan three-button coat, or assembling a long, lean silhouette from a gray ribbed tank on top of a red crewneck and white turtleneck, all of them paired with an ankle-length black skirt. There are also more muted shades of navy, bordeaux, and forest green, for clients not ready to embrace the more extroverted colors. A couple of other notable developments: picking up the gesture from their last collection that saw them swaddling a model’s head with a sweater, they twisted and wrapped fabric at the waist and hips and tossed extravagant scarves over the shoulders of coats, moves that added interest and personality to their looks. There was also a touch of embellishment: enamel discs decorate the hem of a duster coat, and a pair of skirts are naively tiled almost like a mosaic. But it’s colorful sportswear that is this collection’s key message: It’s the one that could make women rejigger their back-to-work wardrobes when offices finally reopen.
This is one of these The Row collections that are just… perfect. And extremely relevant. Ashley and Mary-Kate Olsen have never been the type to discuss the deeper meaning of their collections, and they’re not about to start now, but the opening look of their pre-fall 2022 offering definitely meets the turbulence of our current moment. It’s a grain de poudre jacket worn backwards, its single button fastened mid-spine and its lapels framing the shoulder blades. “Adaptability” is definitely one of their running themes here. Other tailored jackets can be worn inside-out, and on the accessories front there are reversible tote bags and cotton voile “protectors” for leather styles. After a season of more oversized, relaxed shapes, the waist has come back into focus for the Olsens. Their elongated and slightly nipped jackets cut an elegant line, and many of the looks are accessorized with leather belts featuring useful add-ons for cell phones and ear buds. Elsewhere, there are generous, pillowing volumes, as in the red nylon cellophane top and skirt of look two, which are cut with bubble hems to accentuate their material’s airy lightness. Extending a newfound interest in color, they showed metallic viscose knit separates in bright lilac or red worn layered and even wrapped around the head like scarves, and a trench in a crimped aqua tulle, shown with a matching bag. They also embraced humor. A couple of shrunken T-shirts (paired with excellent boned-waist trousers) are scribbled with children’s drawings; officially they’re part of The Row’s kid’s line, but they’ll be sold in women’s sizes too. The final look is the other side of that reversed jacket. It’s a back-to-front world, but The Row can help you hold it together.
Ashley and Mary-Kate Olsen are holding their course, even though most of the designers this season move towards a hedonist mode. Skimp is not in The Row’s vocabulary, and it isn’t likely to be in the future. None of us have been untouched by the pandemic, though, so how has the experience of lockdown changed the Olsens’ design POV and what does The Row’s take on re-emergence style look like? Something unexpected emerged most vividly midway through the lineup in the form of separates for women and men in shades of red and blue, the brightest colors ever to find their way into a collection from the Olsens, who prefer to work with neutrals and classic black and white. There were also the arty details here and there, like the delicate thread belt that accented the drawstring waist of a pair of casual pants or the fringed raw-edges of a fully knit skirt made with three different yarns. A few pieces were hand-painted, a nod, maybe, to the artists and art collectors that number among their clients. The accessories offering has expanded and there was a notable element of fun, as seen in the tiny card cases and coin purses suspended from belts and in the stretchy ankle boots that looked like a cross between scuba socks and wrestler shoes. Overall, the proportions are roomy and the silhouettes are layered – luxe comfort is the key. The Row fans will fall in love with a pair of pressed khakis whose low-slung, flared profile recalled the ’90s, and a jumpsuit with a tank top upper half that was the barest of all the looks assembled here. Pre- or post-pandemic, perfect essentials never go out of style.
Seeing both The Row womenswear and menswear in one collection makes so much sense. Ashley and Mary-Kate Olsens‘ autumn-winter 2021 collection is like the full picture of their luxe minimalism world, now shared by her and him. The designers decided to modify their showing schedule, skipping New York Fashion Week altogether and showing in January and June. One of the reasons is logistics and sustainability. Both the women’s and men’s collections are rooted in minimal tailoring and they share materials across them; these include the double-felted wool of outerwear, wool flannel for suits, and a textural knit that they call fur cashmere, all of them subtly luxurious. Of course, the collection is delightful – and feels like detoxicating palette cleanse after all the couture fantasy we’ve experienced last week. Their autumn suiting is strong across both genders. The women’s jackets come with removable shoulder pads, as does a mock-neck, midi-length cashmere dress. Alongside the tailoring, they showed wrapped shapes, emphasizing comfort and warmth. A male model looks practically cocooned in a three-piece fur cashmere set. Amid the oversized proportions and the swaddled forms, a button-down with short three-quarter-length sleeves worn with washed linen wool pants that taper at the ankles stands out. On the accessories front sturdy burnished-leather rain boots in a range of lengths look like top sellers in the making. They’ve also added a nylon tote to their handbag offering. Comfort and practicality have become important talking points in the last year as the pandemic has impacted the industry in so many ways. The Olsens are taking on those conversations – and the one about collection timing, too – but they’re doing so in their usual elegant, refined way.
“We try to be thoughtful. It’s everything for every day. There aren’t really tricks,” said Mary-Kate Olsen during The Row‘s pre-fall 2020 presentation in Paris. She and her sister, Ashley, keep on impressing the industry with their sublime, refined, minimalist, yet soft take on everyday classics. There’s an American tradition behind this: The Row stands on the shoulders of what Donna Karan did for second-wave feminist aspirers to boardrooms in the 1980s, and what Calvin Klein contributed to New York minimalism in the 1990s. Add quality that will last for years and years to come, and here’s The Row that keeps on pushing envelope in terms of the luxurious simplicity. The pre-fall line-up is filled with well-cut peacoats and silk robes, as well as business-ready offering: perfect midi pencil skirt with a matching a shirt in the same fabric or fluid trousers and a double-breasted jacket in the creamiest shade of ecru. Delightful.