The Olsens clearly made the decision to keep their famous names as far away from the brand as possible. “We didn’t want people to know that we were behind [The Row],” Ashley told The Telegraph in 2011. “We’d learnt so much about building brands and talking to a specific customer. We did it with our faces at the beginning, and we knew we didn’t want to do that any more. It’s far more fun this way.”
It’s this aspect that truly sets them apart from other celebrity designers. Brands like Jessica Simpson, Lauren Conrad, and even Victoria Beckham (a respected designer in her own right), all leverage their celebrity’s fame to a greater degree: Their name and face are inextricably connected with the brand. The Row took a decidedly different track.
“Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen have resisted the temptation to treat their brand as an extension of their own persona,” said Ferdinando Verderi, who leads the fashion and luxury division as creative director at Johannes Leonardo, an NYC firm which counts Google and Clarins among their client list. “I don’t think the brand would have suffered [had they decided to attach their names to it], but I am sure it would be a very different brand. Surely not as timeless in its aura.”
Another decision the Olsens made early on in their fashion design careers was to clearly delineate–and separate–their different clothing lines, which allowed them to target different consumers without confusing their brand message. The Row, for instance, which is a luxury brand through and through ($39,000 backpacks, hello!), and Olsenboye, a tween line sold at JCPenney, are never confused for one another–a neat marketing trick.
“One thing they have done very successfully is to create a genuinely desirable product for all levels of the market, from Olsenboye to Elizabeth & James to The Row,” Imran Amed, the founder and editor of Business of Fashion, said. “This is something that not many designers have been able to do successfully and puts the Olsens in very good company with the likes of Armani and Marc Jacobs. Winning over discerning fashionistas at the high-end, as well as aspirants at the entry-price points is formidable indeed!”