Few fashion houses inspire the same levels of fervor and devotion as New York-based label The Row. Established in 2006 by designers Ashley Olsen and Mary-Kate Olsen, the label was originally founded to create the perfect T-shirt, but is now known for its quietly luxurious pieces and has become an enduring favorite of well-dressed women across the world. And while The Row has successfully established global appeal, the label retains an undeniable affinity with New York – or rather, the myriad women who make the city the cultural and creative melting pot it is.
The Row’s focus on effortlessly elegant designs that deftly blend form and function means its clothes provide a fail-safe choice for women who want their closets to serve them in every sense of the word. The Row is a label that is as much a celebration of sartorial excellence as the extraordinary women who wear it – the clean lines, sumptuous fabrics and exquisite simplicity of the clothes let the women wearing them take center stage. Here, PORTER talks to five adoptive New Yorkers about the enduring allure of a label that was born in the city they now call home.
Alek Wek, model
Since being scouted in 1995, when she was 18 years old, Sudanese-British model Alek Wek has gone on to work with the fashion industry’s most celebrated designers, photographers and stylists, in a glittering career that has included many iconic ‘firsts’ – she was the first African model to feature on the cover of ELLE US and the first Black model to close a Chanel haute-couture show.
“I first discovered The Row by word of mouth. I kept hearing how good the clothes were; and, having worked in fashion for more than two decades, I can appreciate just how stylish and timeless the pieces really are. The Row’s designs are the kind you keep in your closet forever – mixing and matching effortlessly. Personally, I love the fact that The Row’s beautiful tailoring perfectly fits my long legs and limbs. Plus, the fabrics always feel utterly luxurious. I really respect Mary-Kate and Ashley’s process – from the way they embrace sisterhood to their love of art and how they incorporate that into their work. For me, fashion is about feeling fabulous while you go about your daily life in a wicked look that actually works. The simplest way I can say it is that wearing The Row just feels right.”
The Row’s designs are the kind you keep in your closet forever – mixing and matching effortlessly. Plus, the fabrics always feel utterly luxurious”Alek Wek
Deeda Blair, medical research advocate and philanthropist
A style icon since the 1960s, Blair has also distinguished herself as an advocate for groundbreaking medical research in the fields of Aids, infectious disease and cancer. In recent years, her philanthropy has reached its zenith, as she works tirelessly to connect medical innovators and venture capitalists.
“My personal style is uncluttered. I never wear glitter or sequins and always opt for longish skirts or wide-leg pants worn with loose-fitting tops. Of course, there are exceptions once in a while. The interesting thing about The Row is that the clothes are quiet and never ‘show off’. And yet, when you wear a piece, you’re guaranteed to receive plenty of compliments. It’s all down to the quality and simplicity of the fabrics. Mary-Kate and Ashley know how to interpret the times in an appropriate sartorial way. Of course, my favorite piece is the sleeveless white jumpsuit that I wore for my cameo in Sofia Coppola’s movie On the Rocks. Perfection.”
Grace Fuller Marroquín, landscape designer
Formerly a fashion editor at Vogue and jewelry editor at W Magazine, in 2018, Fuller Marroquín left the fashion industry to pursue her lifelong dream of being a landscape designer.
“Incorporating nature into our daily lives is essential. I like to think of myself as a steward of nature. Ferdinand Bac summed it up nicely when he said, ‘The soul of gardens shelters the greatest sum of serenity at man’s disposal.’ Over time, my style has evolved to become somewhat practical, as I now spend much of my time working outdoors. But, inevitably, fashion remains a form of self-expression to which I pay a great deal of attention. The Row has an intentional simplicity that makes it exceptionally elegant and makes women feel confident and elevated. The label has such permanence – it’s as though it has been around forever – yet Mary-Kate and Ashley are so young; it’s a really amazing feat. My favorite pieces by The Row have to be my leather ‘garden boots’. I first saw them in the FW19 show and I can’t live without them.”
The Row has an intentional simplicity that makes it exceptionally elegant and makes women feel confident and elevated”Grace Fuller Marroquín
Nian Fish, creative director and producer
Fish started her prolific career in the fashion industry as an assistant at the fashion services agency KCD. Since then, she has become one of the most in-demand creative directors at work today, overseeing shows, events and films for the world’s leading brands.
“In winter 2010, I was walking into my favorite restaurant, Omen Azen, when a striking woman in her sixties passed me wearing the most simple, luxurious coat, which was the color of white clay. I had to ask her who made it – and she replied with a quiet smile, ‘It’s The Row.’ I wasn’t familiar with the brand but, a few weeks later, I saw The Row’s first show and immediately fell in love with the first look – a black, double-face cashmere coat, belted at the waist. That’s when I really started to pay attention – and the label has never disappointed me. Simply said, The Row’s clothing and accessories are honest, unpretentiously artistic, effortless and timeless. The extraordinary quality of the fabric and purity of the design give me a natural confidence in who I am – and support me in what I want to accomplish that day. For me, clothes and accessories have to be effortless. I’m one of those women who is dressed and out the door within five minutes – but I still want to look good, so self-expression and utilitarianism need to be 100 percent balanced.”
Cass Bird, photographer
Bird’s work as a photographer spans the worlds of fashion and art. Lauded for her fresh and dynamic style, Bird’s images frequently challenge and redefine traditional notions of femininity and beauty.
“What makes a great photograph? That’s simple – it’s one that gives you a feeling. I guess what I am trying to convey with my work is life, an expression of the spirit. When it comes to getting dressed, I gravitate towards The Row because, as a label, it’s clean, minimal and represents understated luxury. Wearing the label’s pieces makes me feel instantly polished and put together. As far as my favorite piece goes, that’s always in flux. For a while it was the simple white T-shirt but, nowadays, it’s the brand’s oversized, gray cashmere sweater, which is both beautiful and comfortable – like all of The Row’s pieces.”