IT STARTED WITH ONE PIECE OF FABRIC, A SINGLE FRENCH BACK SEAM, AND THE IDEA TO CONSTRUCT THE PERFECT T-SHIRT. IN LINE WITH THEIR PEERS, ALEXANDER WANG FOR ONE, WHO HAVE PINNED DOWN THE MARKET FOR LUXURY BASICS, MARY-KATE AND ASHLEY OLSEN HAVE EVOKED A LEVEL OF REFINEMENT LABEL WITH THEIR LABEL THE ROW. EXTENDING CLEAN LINES, THE FINEST FABRICS, AND ABUNDANT DRAPE FROM EACH COLLECTION HAS SET THEIR SYNERGETIC DESIGN VENTURE INTO STEADY MOTION.
The Row was born with the Olsen sisters’ relocation from their Los Angeles home ground to New York granting them some much needed breathing room from L.A.’s relentless press. They enrolled at NYU and took up internships, Ashley with designer Zac Posen, Mary-Kate with photographer Annie Leibovitz. They missed working and wanted to apply themselves to build something of their own, a wholly owned brand which they could carefully craft into their vision of distinctive design. The Row, its name taken from the fine craft and tailoring of London’s Saville Row, launched in 2007 as a seven piece collection of luxury basics constructed from the finest fabrics. The Row’s steady momentum has recently earned the designers their second CFDA Womenswear Designer of the Year Award, distinctly positioning them alongside their co-nominees Proenza Schouler and Marc Jacobs.
THE ROW’S BICOASTAL LINES
At the forefront of their vision, The Row keeps their customer in the highest regard. The brand’s loyal compatriots include Lauren Hutton and Linda Rodin, both figures whose age serves no indication that timeless elegance is reserved for a woman of a single crowd. The sisters have referenced the abundance of elegant, chic and strong-minded women who have surrounded and influenced them immensely while they were growing up. Much aligned with The Row’s character, the designers have picked up a sensibility from years of being exposed to the ins and outs of various business models and their formulaic design algorithm serves as a navigational map to the brand’s much reputed success.
As in the development of most brands, a flagship is the firmament by which the company’s identity plants its roots. The Row’s first flagship was erected seven years after the label’s launch on Melrose Place in Los Angeles in 2014 and the space embodies the sister’s philosophy to nurture the growth of their business slowly with an utmost integrity in mind. The store is discreetly placed, tucked away from the street and takes the form of a pristine midcentury California home divided up into a library, east and west wing, a pool included, sparsely decorated with carefully selected vintage furniture and jewelry alongside some selected designer brands like Manolo Blahnik. The store’s layout complements the ambiance of a home and is filled with the sister’s favourite items to extend the intimacy and comfort which aligns itself perfectly with The Row’s ever-prominent voice. A second flagship store is due to follow suit on New York’s Upper East Side later this year.
A sense of home and intimacy play an important part of The Row’s aesthetic. The brand’s flagship store in Los Angeles also doubles in familiarity; it was the original site of the John Frida salon, a place where the sisters have been going to get their hair trimmed since they were ten years old. Their New York flagship will open its doors in a townhouse on 17 East 71 Street in Tribeca this year and the details of the space have been as scrupulously designed as the dried rosemary which will hang from the ceiling to infuse the space with a scent to soothe the senses.
Much like the clothing, there is a subdued elegance which transpires each collection’s presentation and the designers fluidly merge atmospherics, often turning down backstage photography and after show parties in favour of intimate gatherings and small venues in which to stage their mostly monochrome collections. The Row’s spring 2013 presentation, for example, was staged at the Carlyle Hotel in New York. A single classic piano set the mood and silver baskets filled with pastries sat atop the tables, a breakfast bite to sway the senses even further.
The designers have clearly positioned the brand’s refinement, one which combines a draped ease with austere tailoring, much like the environment in which the clothes presented and meant to be worn. For fall 2015, the Olsen’s set their show on the vacant 35th floor of the Mies Van der Rohe Seagram building in New York. Spring 2015 saw a stripped warehouse floor at 52 Mercer Street, decked with elemental aesthetics like metal beams and filtered skylight fill the bare-boned spaces and reflect the clean graphical elements that extend from The Row’s serene signature look. Amidst the chaos of New York Fashion Week, The Row’s shows consistently transpire a calm hush over the crowd.
The language that lingers most prominently is The Row’s luxe fabric selection and meticulous finishing as reflected in the hand beading and embroidery. Textiles of choice include ostrich skin, python, ermine, raw silk, double faced cashmere and hand-trimmed organza and are just a few examples which scatter each collection’s artistically intrinsic array. Among the collection’s precise structure, there is lightness in form which is characterized by the absence of complicated fastenings and closures. Innovative cuts and elongated lines grant the clothing a sense of continuous movement in the form of diaphanous drape.
Luxury fabrics have held true from The Row’s inception and their first seven piece collection did great justice in matching ‘luxury’ with ‘basics’ as with the sister’s debut T-shirt, which was produced on a lingerie machine to ensure an extra fine finishing. A cotton sateen tank dress and cashmere leggings set the ground work for what steadily ensued to house the brand’s umbrella of ready to wear, leather goods and eyewear. The Row is now carried in over 188 stores in 37 countries and though the garment’s price tags set precedence for its $50 million annual sales, it is the brand’s mandate of sole American and Italian production which sets a price tag that ranges from $300 T-shirts to $5, 000 coats. Attributing the highest manufacturing quality accounts for the brand’s Saville Row standards such as Los Angeles-based glove makers who employ the industry’s most advanced leather to craft The Row’s accessories on American grounds.
A steady growth characterized by the brand’s high integrity has caught the attention of the CFDA and The Row was recently been awarded the Womenswear Designer of the Year Award for the second time in three years. The sisters are mindful with their words and their careful sensibility transcribes their design voice into a lifestyle which synergistically stays in flow with their brand’s ever-evolving constitution.
Clean lines, exquisite fabrics, refined fit and tailoring, monochrome palette, these are the defining lines of The Row’s brand identity. The Row’s tag is characterized by a small gold chain, inscribed with the brand’s name
Produced in America and handbags in Italy, The Row prides itself on its distinctly American manufacturing.
The twins debut their Fall 2010 Ready to Wear collection in Chelsea during New York Fashion Week, the same year
they collaborate with Linda Farrow Eyewear to launch a unique four piece sunglass collection.
The Row launches their leather handbag line together with Barney’s, with phenomenal success. This same year they work with charitable cause, Toms, to design a pair of wool and cashmere socks, and on a big note, open their first office in the french capital to handle the Europe wide distribution.
The Row moves into a new office to house their 60 person team in Greenwich Village, collaborates with Damien Hirst on twelve piece Nile crocodile rucksack collaboration AND wins the prestigious CFDA Designer of the year award.
The Row establishes a new residence in a midcentury house on Melrose Place in Los Angeles.
Former design director Nadège Vanhee-Cybulski leaves The Row for a position as womenswear artistic director at Hermès. The same year brings another win from the CFDA as Womenswear Designer of the year award. The Row is set to open up its second flagship store at 17 East 71 Street in Tribeca, New York City.
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