It’s fitting that The Row has become a byword for workwear. By the age of 18, twin sisters Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen had thriving acting careers, having starred in the American comedy Full House since they were nine months old. They launched their first clothing line at the age of 12, and spent their teens wearing cut-to-size Chanel and Marc Jacobs for their sitcom So Little Time. While most of us were planning gap years, they were taking control of Dualstar, the multi-million-dollar company they founded when they were just six, to handle multiple merchandise lines and direct-to-video films loved by tweens the world over. As such, they spent their formative years surrounded by women in the upper echelons of business, while becoming ground-breaking businesswomen themselves. They may lack formal design training, but they have enough hands-on experience to put many of their qualified contemporaries to shame. Proof? They were the second-most-Googled fashion designers of 2016.
Named after London’s Savile Row, The Row began life as a quest to design the perfect T-shirt. That snowballed into a seven-piece collection that included stretch-leather leggings and a cashmere-wool tank dress; plush versions of basic pieces that could be added to any outfit for a sense of low-key luxe. Now, it’s the go-to for refined elegance. Tailoring is key, and there are no look-at-me details or eye-catching embellishments; these are quiet clothes that speak volumes.
It’s a new type of power dressing, a type that aims to nourish the wearer’s requirements, as opposed to meeting the perceived requirements of the outside world. ‘We want our clients to feel comfortable and confident in any circumstance, so we always question what that is and keep that in mind,’ says Ashley from The Row’s New York studio. ‘The autumn collection wasn’t about work wear, or feminism, or power dressing. The idea of strong and fine tailoring has always been a part of The Row’s DNA.’
But don’t get them wrong, they’re not eschewing the wave of activism that swept the AW17 catwalks. Rather, they support it in their consistency. ‘Everyone copes with today’s world differently,’ says Mary-Kate. ‘Power dressing may have been popularised in the Eighties, but women were working long and hard before then – and dressed the part.’