The Row‘s intensely refined autumn-winter 2023 read-to-wear collection matched the couture ambience of the last week. Mary-Kate Olsen and Ashley Olsen didn’t show in Paris, but dropping a new collection in such specific time-frame speaks for itself. The craft, the tailoring, the materials, the silhouettes. The ultra-luxurious and elegantly-understated vision of the The Row woman (and man) is absolutely haute. The new season offering sees the Olsens’ timeless regulars (masculine boxy suits, cashmere coats with shawl-like capes, over-sized crisp cotton shirts – very Lydia Tár!) combined with an ease of flowing shapes (see the floor-sweeping black skirt styled with a boyish blazer) and chic, Armani-like narrowings at the waist. The colors are all about earthy neutrals – another The Row favorite. Trends come and go, but The Row is a peaceful harbor of eternal fineness.
Collage by Edward Kanarecki. Don’t forget to follow Design & Culture by Ed on Instagram!
While we quickly forgot most of the valuable lessons we told ourselves the pandemic had taught us, it does seem to have affected one aspect of our lives: our approach to clothes shopping. Somehow our choices now feel less fussy, less complicated, more essential. Granted, essentialism has always coursed through the veins of The Row. This season, Ashley and Mary-Kate Olsen took it to sublime heights. Shot in the streets of Paris and presented in the Galerie Seguin, their spring-summer 2023 collection portrayed the daily lives of their customers and the way we adapt to changing scenarios throughout the day. Whether it’s different levels of formality – office hours, lunch dates, evening events – or the inside-vs.-outside temperature differences we all increasingly have to deal with in a climate change reality, the clothes we actually wear now have to imbued with certain functions and assets to actually work in our everyday lives. That fact informed a collection of more-than-meets-the-eye garments founded in considered fabric choices and functional design. Putting lightness at the forefront, the Olsens structured suits and dresses in luxurious, breathable linens, while linen trench coats came with fabric coatings that made them feel outerwear-y without defeating the purpose. A number of pieces were instilled with day-to-night folding techniques, allowing the wearer to transform their level of formality. The train of a jute dress, for instance, could be folded into the dress itself and buttoned or let out for the full dramatic effect, the hoods of coats were detachable, and the sleeves of a black dress could be unhooked by way of tiny closures. As an ironic nod to the wardrobe issues we all deal with in the heat, a leather skirt was adorned with creases as a form of texture.
The idea of essentialism also informed the Olsens’ level of details and decoration, or rather lack thereof. Everything was made as minimal as possible but without compromising the sense of drama that made this collection a fashion proposition. They cut away necklines to create plunge shapes, disguised hems and pockets, and removed zips and buttons. In menswear, they gave super-light unlined suiting the structure you usually only get from lining through the kind of fabrication that makes The Row worth its price tag, and proposed the kind of luxe oversized shirts and loose-fitting knits that made you want to invest in a new wardrobe for a changed climate. Heavenly…
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.
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.
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.