Mary-Kate & Ashley Olsen scored the cover of Newsweek

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The Olsens made the cover of Newsweek! Can you believe it? They got the cover because of The Row, their luxury clothing line which is the crowning achievement of their billion-dollar company. You can read the full piece at Newsweek here – I was hoping for a good interview, but for the most part the piece just reads like dry copy about Mary-Kate and Ashley’s company and what people think about it. The quotes are few and far between, but if you’re interested in fashion, the business of fashion and entrepreneurship, it’s definitely worth a read. Here are some highlights:

The collection [The Row] —embraced by older women with little patience for celebrity frippery—has been worn by business executives and first lady Michelle Obama.

Critical validation has come in the form of a nomination from the Council of Fashion Designers of America as the year’s best new womenswear designers. They have been recognized alongside Joseph Altuzarra, who worked at Givenchy, and Prabal Gurung, a Bill Blass alumnus. The winners will be announced in New York on June 6.

The Olsens, who will be 25 in June, did not go to fashion or art school. They have built a considerable reputation by obsessing over darts (they hate them), gamely absorbing the blows of skeptical retailers, and keeping their celebrity mostly under wraps. They also have become champions in a longstanding effort to save this country’s garment factories. In 1965, factories in America produced 95 percent of the clothes sold in this country, according to savethegarmentcenter.org. Today, only 5 percent of the clothes sold here are produced locally. The future of New York’s garment center is no longer in mass production, activists argue, but rather in small-scale, high-end manufacturing that relies on skilled artisans.

The Olsens have taken up this blue-collar cause by producing their collection in factories in New York and, to a lesser degree, Los Angeles. (Their handbags are produced in Italy, as are a few of their superfine knits.)

“I really believe in our being able to create here and utilize the skills that people have here,” says Ashley. “The skill set is here. Our main issue is that some of the machinery is gone, so some knitwear is produced in Italy. But whether it’s clothing or cars, I believe in manufacturing as close to home as possible.”

Their holding company, Dualstar Entertainment Group, was created with their then-manager, Robert Thorne, when they were about 6 years old as a vehicle for selling Olsen-branded merchandise and projects. By age 10, they had a line of clothing in Walmart; eventually they branched out with a contemporary line called Elizabeth & James, named after their siblings. At 18, they took over Dualstar, buying out Thorne.

“Thank God our parents wanted us to be involved,” Ashley says. “Running a fashion company, it’s just as important to understand numbers as it is to have a design point of view,” Mary-Kate says. The company now has annual sales of $1 billion, according to Forbes.

The Row, founded in 2006 and named after Savile Row, began with Ashley’s search for a perfect white T shirt: fashion’s holy grail of fit, comfort, durability, and price. She was dissatisfied with what was available, and a business was born. That first collection consisted of jersey T shirts and knit leggings. It evolved into a line of intricately woven fox jackets, cashmere sweaters, wool and mohair dresses, and leather leggings for which women are willing to pay $1,700.

The Row might best be described as the Gap meets Jil Sander: basic, minimal, adult, and extremely expensive. A jersey T shirt: $290. A cashmere and mink sweater: $5,900. And for fall, while “debt” and “unemployment” are on the tip of everyone’s tongue, the Olsens have introduced more fur, more cashmere, raising their overall prices by as much as 25 percent.

Their customers can afford it. While most designers thrill to say their core shopper is a 25-year-old woman, The Row’s main customer is 35 to 45 years old. Instead of encouraging women to cling to their slacker years, the Olsens want them to luxuriate in their most productive ones. That point of view is rare. Most young designers create collections for their contemporaries—or some fairy-tale version of them. And even as designers grow older, they tend to shift their focus to women who are their junior. The Olsens seem to revel in the promise of maturity. Their work avoids high-society, leisure-class clichés. Instead, it evokes a professional, tailored, hail-a-cab-in-the-rain reality.

Instead of trying to leverage their fame, the Olsens hid it—most notably by not putting their name on the label. “Initially, I wanted someone else to front the brand,” Mary-Kate says. “We wanted someone else to rep it. But we couldn’t lie.”

In their showroom, which is in the offices of Dualstar, the Olsens do business around a banquet-size table decorated with a bouquet of white roses and lilies. Ashley tends to zero in on the technical aspects of the collection. Mary-Kate is more likely to highlight pure aesthetics. Both, however, are adamant about what they want the collection to be.

“We really want The Row to be an American luxury brand,” Ashley says. “We believe in not just American by representation but American by make.”

To that end, the Olsens traveled to Washington last year, where they lobbied the East Wing on the importance of the garment center: fashion provides New York with 28 percent of its manufacturing jobs. It puts $10 billion annually into New York’s economy.

Who knows… the next time the first lady wears a dress by an American brand, she might also make a point of saying it was made in America. In the meantime, the Olsens apparently have already won Mrs. Obama’s respect in a very public way. She wore their pleated skirt when she appeared in April on The View.

[From Newsweek]

I don’t think I realized the American clothing manufacturing statistics were so harsh. Yikes. Give the Olsens an award, damn it! They’re bringing back American manufacturing, one $6000 t-shirt at a time! (Double yikes.)

By the way, while I think Mary-Kate was talking about taking themselves out of the equation as far as business, being the corporate face of the brand, I also think they would be wise to not be the FASHION face of the brand. Because while I think The Row is impeccably made, their clothes always look like hell on them.

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Photos courtesy of WENN. Newsweek cover courtesy of CoverAwards.

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26 Responses to “Mary-Kate & Ashley Olsen scored the cover of Newsweek”

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  1. the original bellaluna says:

    Why did they get the cover again? Just kidding, I really don’t care, outside of the fact that it’s the cover of NEWSWEEK, FFS!

  2. hmmhmm says:

    MK just needs to put on a few more pounds. They’re not ugly, just unique.

  3. LisaMarie says:

    I dont like how they dress at all – like 80 year old society ladies, but I like the fact that they arent flashing their lady bits everywhere like some young celebs. Or like some older celebs even…

  4. Johnthing says:

    Do they have bad teeth? They never have a toothy smile.

  5. Micki says:

    Only 2-3 posts about them and I already respect them, wow.I wonder how many 25-years-old think about producing at home for the pure image of it, costs set aside.
    They don’t dress their age but in the same style as long as I know them, so obviously they feel comfortable in it.Besides how many underdressed dolls are showing off all they have? I find the change refresing even if not my taste.
    As for the prices I may not buy $1,7oo leather leggins but good quality clothes stay in shape for nearly forever and at the end of the day I may have even saved money by not buying 20 cheap sweaters but 2 expensive, quality ones

  6. ladybert62 says:

    Every single time I see them, I think how strange they look. It is not just the weird clothes, it is the no-we-never-smile-for-anyone but thanks for asking. They always look lost to me.

    And please, pretty-please, could you just comb your hair?

    I still find it hard to believe they have a successful clothing line and that they design the clothes.

  7. Maritza says:

    They have terrible fashion sense. They always wear so much clothing, why do they cover up so much? It wouldn’t hurt them if they would show a nice smile instead of that smirk they do.

  8. dread pirate cuervo says:

    Interesting article. Can’t hate they they produce close to home. I have 2 American Apparel t-shrts & seriously, I think that’s the only clothing I own that’s Made in the USA. It just doesn’t exist. Hopefully all the rich people always crying for more tax cuts will spend their money on the Olsens’ home grown luxury.

    Also, the one in the green wrap, I believe it’s Ashley, I LOVE that look. So 1950′s socialite. Like you’d imagine she’s going to a cocktail party with Truman Capote.

  9. Nanea says:

    Fur real?

    I don’t get people who are still using it.

    I wouldn’t ever buy clothes from people who can’t dress themselves, Olsens, JSimp and so many other celeb “designers”.

  10. baby says:

    love them, have always been a fan since elementary school (hehe) and i love how smart and savvy they are. and it sounds like they’re doing good things. i’ll never be able to afford the row but keep up the good work!

  11. theresa says:

    I’ve never understood these two. I guess that their parents and subsequent financial managers have been smart to invest their money wisely and ethical enough not to steal it from them.

    I do not believe that they are actually, in any usual meaning of that term, CEOs of a company that grosses $1 billion in sales. Nor do I believe that they are designers. I think that in both capacities they just sort of advise and approve the work of others who actually ARE creatively talented and business savvy.

    I wonder exactly how many jobs are/ will be created for the “skilled artisans” at their “small scale” manufacturing facilities, what their garment workers will be paid and if they will be unionized. Will the Olsens only be operating sweatshops in the U.S. or will they do more?

    IMO they have absolutely no fashion sense of their own. They also continue to promote the hideous, inhumane practice of butchering animals to decorate “fashion.”

    I have never heard either of thenm

  12. mia girl says:

    Kudos to these two for making efforts to support the garment industry in the U.S.

  13. OtherChris says:

    What’s with their cheeks? Implants? I’m terrible at spotting plastic surgery, but they look off.

  14. B says:

    Good for them, but geesh, the pursed lip thing is really old. They look like paper dolls, same expression/bodies w/ outfits switched out, blah.

  15. nikki says:

    One of my favorite things about the Olsen’s is that they keep styling themselves however they want to no matter how many people think they look horrid.

  16. karmarat says:

    Kudos to them for making a real career, and a real effort to support US jobs! I’d rather see a million of them than our current culture of overly-entitled, spoiled, shallow bimbos.

  17. Beatrix says:

    I love the Olsens. They WORKED, not famewhored for their money.
    They want and appreciate their privacy and the scandals are at an extreme minimum.
    I kinda dig that they dress like old ladies. They know other people hate that about them and they just don’t give a damn.
    Kudos, and make dat money bitches!

  18. kmn says:

    Wow this is pretty impressive. They sound intelligent, astute and business savvy. I had no idea their business was so successful but I guess I’m not surprised…their Elizabeth & James label has gorgeous shoes…

  19. Hakura says:

    Ah, the irony… That girls who look like homeless senior citizens with a wardrobe I wouldn’t touch with a 10ft poll… make millions of dollars dressing other people.

    Their business success is admirable, & I give them credit not making their fortune by using their biscuits on magazine covers. But I’d have a lot more respect or them if they didn’t wear FUR with just about everything.

  20. RocketQueen says:

    These two should take a tour of the horrific fur farms used to make their “luxury” brand clothing – I, for one, am disgusted. Compare these uninformed tots to Stella McCartney, who makes clothing that doesn’t harm animals, there’s no comparison.

  21. Anti-icon says:

    Who does their PR? Because this…..is a PR FLUFF piece. I commend the business for attempting to produce all the clothing in the U.S…..but I suspect there’s a whole lot more to the business story than this cover article suggests.

  22. Kelly says:

    Why do they always pose together, it’s a little creepy.

  23. gg says:

    Hideous old lady clothes, but their faces look better in one picture at least.

  24. Madam U says:

    If they ever remake “The Shining”, they should play the twins.

  25. Becky says:

    Both of them definitely have a very “other worldly” sort of look-they’re unique looking girls.

    Good for them for being so smart with their money and for actually being able to start and grow a business. From everything I’ve read, they’re very hands on.

  26. jane says:

    do you think as soon as they read the words “big, fat” they immediately went on the masterclease and/or ran to the bathroom to barf? I do.