It’s an unseasonably hot May in Los Angeles. The two block walk from my rental car to 8440 Melrose Place nearly melts me. I want to go swimming. Luckily, Mary-Kate and Ashley have a pool.
“May I?” I ask the first pleasant, demurely dressed staffer I see upon entering The Row’s two-year-old flagship store through the triple height (if you’re an Olsen) glass door. She smiles and motions towards a basket of plush towels situated next to the glistening water. “Go for it,” she dares.
But I baulk. I’m fresh off the plane from New York, I tell myself. My skin is the colour of alabaster. And besides, neither of the middle-aged women perusing the beautiful wares on sale here would opt, if pressed, to watch me splash about in the courtyard like a fly in a martini. I decide to take a lap around the space instead, and let the air conditioning work its magic.
At a time when retail is withering like an uncared for houseplant, nothing is more refreshing than a store that makes one feel. The Row does this. And it’s not just the pool, or the glass walls, or the rotating lineup of Midcentury Holy Grails (all for sale) that grace its sparse, neutral-hued, architect tweaked interiors. It is the fantasy; The Row is an exacting LA dream ushered in by the two girls who perhaps know it better than any.
“We wanted to create a space that ultimately reflected a way of life, that felt like a home,” says Ashley Olsen, almost obviously. Neil Diamond once owned the property where the store now sits. Then Sally Hershberger had her salon here – when the Olsens were little girls, they got their hair cut a few feet from where I’m now admiring a cognac suede handbag so perfect in its construction, it pains the eye. “When we saw the space come up for sale,” says Mary-Kate, “we had to have it. It was a part of our narrative, our history.”
Luxury is also a part of the Olsens’ history. They’ve had the best since they were in diapers – and it shows – mainly in their restraint. The pair waited eight years to open this store, because it had to be right. While other design houses have played into the exploded patterns and loud colours of the 1970s and 1990s lately, seemingly trying to out shock one another, the Olsens seem more content to trade in their own brand of sober elegance. A navy trench coat and cream dress hang on a rack next to each other. Not carelessly, as they would in a closet, but casually. Every garment in the store complements the others, and could be worn interchangeably. One could get dressed in the dark. Which is ironic, in a store so filled with California light.
“We always say that luxury, or at least our version of it, is something that makes a woman’s life easier,” says Mary-Kate. Easy. Yes. But expensive. The Row’s clothes don’t come cheap. But in the same way a Paul McCobb woven leather chair is ageless (you’ll pay for that too), so will those calfskin, logoless boots that take you from now to next fall, from New York to Tokyo, from 25 to 55, and then beyond that. Yes, it’s quite safe to say that the Olsens have timelessness nailed, filtered through a system so precise that risk is practically out of the equation. Unless of course you count credit card debt.
“Is there anything else I might be able to help with?” The smartly dressed, cheerful, and chic woman has returned. I shake my head; No. After about 30 minutes of loitering, inspecting every detail of every piece and doubling back through the rooms, I realise I’ve now done four, maybe five laps too many. The Moroccan rugs, vintage Patek Philippe wristwatches, and floors of hand laid marble kept pulling me back. I felt at home among the fireplaces, and the immaculate daybeds, built for a post lunch swoon. I was in the Olsens’ world. And their world is awfully nice. “Very well then. We’ll be closing soon. Thank you so much for coming.” You can do practically anything here, in this store, in Olsenland. You can have it all. You can even swim. You just can’t stay.