Thursday, July 3, 2014

Mary-Kate Olsen and Ashley Olsen: Lifetime Woman Crushes and Ultimate Influences

Amy Troost for The Wall Street Journal, re-edited for Barney's

     I could sit here and discuss why the dynamic duo of Ashley Olsen and Mary-Kate Olsen were such a tremendous influence on me when... well since before I can remember but that would be a waste since there are already a myriad of articles on "Growing Up Olsen" floating around the internet (namely on distracti-listicle sites like Buzzfeed that I'm in a committed love-hate relationship with). It would also be an insult to why they continue to influence and inspire me today. These two women, unlike any other, have done EVERYTHING. They've acted, they've sung, they've written, they've editor-in-chiefed, they've designed, they've creatively directed, they've lived. It is worth noting briefly, though, how tremendous their image was for young girls growing up in the late 90s and early millennium. It was refreshing to see images, shows, and movies of young girls having fun and having positive relationships with other girls and with each other as sisters. There wasn't really a strong market or brand aimed at and catering to the kid-to-preteen/teen market (now cringe-worthily referred to as the "tween" market) before them. Ashley herself proudly made note of this in an interview with Zeit. From a young age, they've learned to focus on learning about and understanding their audience and market, the backbone and support for any business venture. 

Bruce Weber for Vogue
     This is something that has not changed. Ashley and Mary-Kate, now 28, have retired from acting and submerged themselves entirely and seamlessly into the fashion world. They currently have four lines: Olsenboye, a young women's line for JC Penney; StyleMint, a line and website aimed at delivering elevated women's styles at an affordable price; Elizabeth and James, a contemporary fashion line; and my personal favorite: The Row, a high-end luxury line. They've taken these lines and used them to deliver accessible fashion to women of all ages, incomes, and tastes. They've also collaborated with TOMS, Bik Bok, and are the creative directors for Superga shoes.

     What draws me most to these two incredible businesswomen is their ingenuity and artistry. They are very interested in empty spaces in the fashion world, voids in which women are looking for certain styles or for certain degrees of functionality in fashion that have not yet been filled. They don't look for trends, to put it in their words, but rather for longevity in what they create. The importance of being able to wear a piece from any of their lines and collections, any time, anywhere (where weather-appropriate), is all any consumer/shopper could ever possible hope for. Beyond this, they take every aspect of their products into account from materials and fabrics, to fit, to purpose and everything else that a quality product entails. Even reading a recent interview about their new fragrance Nirvana really shows their consumers that that they care not only about the process, but about what the consumer is able to achieve and do with the final product. For me, what makes an artist an artist is a creative vision attached to a passion, attention to detail, a deep care for what it is you're creating and why and having that transfer effectively in the execution of that vision. These two women have that in everything they do.

Unknown photographer for WWD, via
     It says a lot that Mary-Kate and Ashley were able to survive the stress and demands of being child stars, the scrutiny of growing up and remaining in the public that continues to this day, and not only continue in their constantly evolving creative ventures but do so to great success and positive response from critics and the public alike. As a young creative myself, their journey to success in the fashion world says to me that if you have a solid idea, work hard for it; don't fear mistakes but embrace them. The two most key elements of self-education that I've learned from reading several of their interviews while researching to write this article, is first and foremost actually DOING what it is you want to do and secondly allowing for mistakes when your idea doesn't turn out as it was envisioned. This teaches you both the process of actually creating and helps you understand more about what it is you want to create and what it is you don't. 

     Their inspiration and influence on me is beyond what I can express in this blog post. Here's to hoping for another 28 years of Olsen Excellence. 

(Also, big ups to Mary-Kate for seeking help for and ultimately overcoming her eating disorder in 2004, during a time in which people and the media weren't especially understanding of eating disorders or supportive of those who suffered from them.)

Craig McDean for Vogue