Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen on Being Fashionable Little Ones and Thinking Big

Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen
Photo: Getty Images
Design duo Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen

The days of the Olsen twins having to convince the fashion world that they’re serious designers are over. The former child stars and current multi-business moguls, are, at just 24, forces to be reckoned with in the industry—just ask the CFDA, who last week announced that Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen’s line The Row would go up against Prabal Gurung and Joseph Altuzarra for the 2011 Swarovski Award for Womenswear.

It wasn’t always so easy for the twins, though, as they tell Sarah Mower in April’s Vogue.

“We hired a showroom and talked buyers through,” Ashley said of The Row’s beginnings, which was met with no shortage of incredulity. “People would drill us about fabric, where we’d make it,” added Mary-Kate. “The first season, customers bought it, so the stores came back. And drilled us again.”

Now, the collection garners rave reviews each season for its sophisticated, classic elegance and meticulous attention to detail. One particularly high-profile fan? Lauren Hutton, who starred in The Row’s look book one season.

“You know, I look up to them,” the former supermodel said.

Detractors point out that the twins never had formal design training, but they maintain that their childhood spent on set was training in its own way.

“We had to change 12 times every episode,” said Mary-Kate of their various television projects. “There would be five or six racks of clothes there, and they cut them down to fit us—even Chanel.” Ashley added, “We were involved 100 percent in the fittings.” (Their business savvy is equally honed; Mary-Kate and Ashley gained control of their production company, the aptly named Dualstar, when they were 18.)

While Mary-Kate hasn’t quite left the acting world (her latest movie, Beastly, is in theaters now), Ashley seems happy to not look back. “I am so proud of what we did,” she said. “We made kids smile every day. But we had done the most we could do.”

Now their focus is on The Row, as well as their contemporary line, Elizabeth & James, and Olsenboye, their juniors line at JCPenney. But they’re not content with just that, either.

“I want to run a studio,” Ashley said of her future goals. “I’d probably like to manage other people on their brands. It could be an artist. A young designer. It could be an existing brand.”

“The thing about us is we think big,” added Mary-Kate. “Huge.”

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