There’s an interview with Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen in the Vogue Germany (November issue) and I bought it today and translated the interview. However, please keep in mind that the original interview was in English, then translated into German, and now I translated it back into English again. Which means - the wording isn’t Mary-Kate and Ashley’s, the whole interview would probably sound a lot different in English and feel very different, too. You always lose something when translating things - and this was translated twice, so yeah. Please keep that in mind. Maybe there’s things I understood differently than they were actually meant because of translation issues. But I hope it’s not too wrong and that they’ll publish the original interview sooner or later :) Anyway, here we go:
(before the interview, there was a little paragraph introducing them, the usual info on their career and stuff)
Your story is absolutely unique – and very American. You managed to get out of the entertainment business to become fashion designers with a globally successful fashion label. Where did the idea come from?
A: We knew we wanted a change when we turned 18. We wanted to move to New York – which was a big change for us California Girls already.
MK: Already as kids, teens and young adults we were working hard and learned a lot about the business. However, learning about the creation of brands was much more important. Back then, we were a brand ourselves, the mary-kate-and-ashley-brand. During our childhood, we were in the spotlight non-stop, that we wanted to move out of it.
Not being the object but creating the object?
What were the first steps you did when doing this was possible?
A: An education was important to us, and to our parents as well. We both attended Gallatin School of New York University when we moved to New York. I studied architecture and psychology, Mary-Kate photography and creative writing. But I got the feeling that something was missing. After all, we’d always been working. And fashion had always been important to me. We were used to spending hours in the fitting room to fit our costumes. On Full House, we changed our costumes almost 30 times per episode. We had to cut down clothes by Marc Jacobs, Chanel, and other designers to fit our size. That was a lot of fun.
MK: For us, fashion was about telling stories.
A: Fashion has to do with characters, it was part of the characters we portrayed. In college, I suddenly had the idea about a project: the perfect t-shirt. I guess I was bored. We bought fabric, looked for a factory, created a pattern, but I soon realized we didn’t have the right machines. So I went to California, looked for machines for lingerie, and we began spending the weekends in LA to work in our clothing factories.
MK: At Gallatin School, you can create your own schedule. During our second year, we tried scheduling our classes on Tuesday and Wednesday, or Wednesday and Thursday, to have more time for our creative works in LA.
And eventually you…
(MK and A both at the same time) finished our basic collection!
A: For us, it was a project of passion. The main thought was, to create clothes for ourselves and see, if others would enjoy that, too.
When was that?
A: We started in 2004.
MK: The first collection was then released in 2005…
A: ..for the 2006 season, in which we still were at NYU.
MK: The Row wasn’t a business calculation. We were asking ourselves whether something would sell well, even though if it wasn’t connected to a big label, as long as it had great quality, good fitting and real integrity.
Looks like you both were able to manage both your creative talent as well as the business management. A rare combination. When did you become business women?
MK: It’s an advantage to look at the things from both perspectives. Ashley and I possess that trait, I think. And we talk to each other all the time. I don’t know if we’ve ever not been business women. But we’ve become better business women, I think, and I hope we’ll continue to improve. Just like our collections will develop. We learn constantly.
The first basic collection for The Row was in great demand. Shops like Maxfield in LA or Barneys in New York and LA ordered it instantly. What was part of that collection?
A: Mainly basics – T-Shirts, blazers, skirts. We didn’t have much back then, but people bought it. In the following season, we presented our collection in Paris. We rented an apartment, set up a showroom, and sold everything. This time, we sold it to buyers among the top twenty stores and boutiques.
MK: Some of them didn’t want to buy everything though, probably doubting our power of endurance. And some asked us about each and every cloth and pinprick.
Ever since, you have gained so many fans that you have an own Flagshipstore now. Even one in Los Angeles at Melrose Place. That must feel like returning home.
A: When I heard that this building was available, I jumped right on the plane. I didn’t want anyone to take it from us. Eventually, we took the whole house to set it up in its original state.
MK: We love architecture and we love art. This building is really close to us and means a lot to us. Starting with the rosemary that is growing on the roof, to the olive trees and the beautiful pool in the middle, the window fronts, the inner courtyard, the clothes, the jewelry, the furniture, the accessories – it all tells a story.
Do you plan on opening more stores?
MK: The concept in Los Angeles will stay unique. Every store will be matched to the city it is in, as well as the unique business rooms. New York will feel like New York. Berlin like Berlin…
Let’s go back again: you could have become what you always wanted to become. You also had enough money to do whatever you wanted to do. Why fashion?
A: I was trying to find out what I was good at.
MK: It was the same with me.
A: But you were still reading scripts and working as an actress.
MK: Yeah, I still did, just like you.
A: Right, I did read scripts, too.
MK: I think, I had the feeling like we had to continue doing this. But then I realized I hated it because you didn’t have control…
A: over the final product. You start sweating thinking about it.
M: The thought that something looks good on paper, but not having any control over it, freaks me out.
Control is something you instantly notice with The Row – how much thought was put into the clothes and how well they are done. You can feel that the people working behind The Row really care about every detail and want to keep the promise about quality. This is also the case with Elizabeth & James, the name based on your siblings (the Olsens are furthermore the designers of Olsenboye, a fashion line for teenagers which is sold at JCPenney). But there is another interpretation that could explain your need for control. In your early years, you already experienced what it was like to have an identity forced onto you – that doesn’t have anything in common with your own identity. Did you maybe choose fashion for that reason, too, because it was a way to express yourself – and giving others, your customers, the freedom being themselves?
MK: Exactly, that’s why we’re doing it.
A: We love being with our customers. We love meeting the women wearing our clothes. We notice pretty much every time that the clothes feel like their second skin and that’s what matters to us.
Your fashion is very ‘discrete’.
A: I think it’s about the smaller picture. You don’t have to tell the whole world what you’re wearing. You can be much more discrete. Consistency and reliability are most important to Mary-Kate and myself – in business and in private life, too. To be consistent and staying true to oneself.
MK: Quality is important to us, fabrics are important. It’s important, how and where our clothes are produced. We both are petite. But no matter if you are petite or not, what kind of body you have and how old you are: what you’re wearing should be timeless. You shouldn’t feel like the clothes are wearing you. They should feel normal and natural.
You were talking about consistency, how much it matters to you. You can see that in the color scheme, you use quite often. Neutral nuances. But you can also see that in your use of certain fabrics – cashmere, cotton, linen, silk. And the way you handle proportions.
A: I think our height has sensitized us for proportions.
Apparently, you are entirely different people, but you seem to have a strong bonding and mutual understanding of the other.
A: It’s always been difficult to explain to others how our teamwork works. I always know exactly what Mary-Kate is thinking.
MK: We balance each other quite naturally in our lives. When I’m stressed, she is calm. We don’t do that consciously, it just happens.
A: We trust each other that much, that we react in the same way. There’s this much understanding between us that we eventually always have the same feelings regarding things and situations.
Your story is special because it is so American but your fashion label The Row doesn’t have limits. On the one hand it is very European, on the other very American, but it even has something Oriental to it – it is luxury, yet almost spiritual.
MK: I think we always want to be an “anonymous” brand. People wearing The Row have a feeling of discovering the brand.
You mean, it is your customer’s clothes, not Mary-Kate and Ashley’s? What else is remarkable about it?
A: Men find our things sexy, too. I get compliments from men almost more often than from women.
By Bruce Weber for Vogue Germany
God how I love this
A look can’t get more on point than this
Ash attending Hammer Museum’s Gala, wearing blazer by The Row
i wish i had a sister to be my best friend like this