IN 2007, Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen added another dimension to their ever-burgeoning merchandise empire by launching The Row, a high-end clothing line inspired by the bespoke tradition of London's Savile Row.
With retailers that include Net-a-Porter and Bergdorf Goodman, clothing from The Row (skinny jeans in the US$400 range, leather pants for 10 times that) was pitched to an enviable, coveted demographic: affluent, fashion-savvy and discriminating. So when it came to adding an accessories line, the twins didn't deviate from their luxe, uber-priced mandate.
For the new handbag line - which enjoyed a splashy welcome last month at Barneys in New York and has just landed at On Pedder in Hong Kong - the girls were inspired by legendary style mavens like Coco Chanel and Lauren Hutton, as well as the dramatic stylistics of US painter Jackson Pollock. They chose the most exclusive, most expensive fabrics - think ostrich, lizard and crocodile - and fashioned them into modern silhouettes thankfully liberated from garish details such as instantly identifiable insignias.
With a capsule collection of only seven offerings - described by Mary-Kate Olsen as 'perfect, classic handbags' - The Row bags are a seamless adjunct to the successful clothing line.
'Since we launched The Row, the goal has been to understand our customer and deliver a collection that suits her lifestyle,' says Ashley Olsen. 'Accessories are a natural extension for The Row, providing something she's looking for but can't find anywhere else. We've planned handbags since day one. The process is as much about timing as perfecting the design.'
The Row was nominated this year for a women's wear award by the CFDA (the Council of Fashion Designers of America); Prabal Gurung ended up winning. But the girls' appearances on red carpets and other swanky events always sets fashion blogs abuzz.
'We've always gravitated towards classic, functional handbags and worn them to death,' says Mary-Kate. 'Ashley and I always love finding beautiful bags in our favourite vintage stores in Europe. Now, it's all about The Row.'
During the design process, they thought about their own lives and the sort of accessories their lifestyles demanded. Ashley said the key was to provide bags which could be 'styled any number of ways'. Her favourite is the crocodile backpack, which she says can transition from day to night - it's received the most amount of buzz because of its colossal US$39,000 price tag. Her sister is partial to the Day Luxe bag, made from cognac-shaded alligator and capacious enough to do double-duty as a travel bag. The bag starts around US$2,500 'We're creating true luxury bags,' says Ashley Olsen. 'They epitomize fine tailoring and follow the same [Savile Row] standards.'
The Row bags are available in Hong Kong at On Pedder