Fashion week—digital, distant, largely on video—is underway, and there is something for everyone. Want to go to the Olympics on the moon? Thom Browne has you covered. Balenciaga will make you feel kind of gross, but in an awesome way. Marine Serre will turn you into an upcycled ninja, and Grace Wales Bonner would like to put you in a tracksuit. That’s all well and good; these are cool, talented designers, and they are proposing novel solutions to the problem presented by getting dressed in 2020. But they do not have my heart, for my heart belongs to The Row’s Spring 2021 womenswear collection, released via lookbook Tuesday morning.
The Row, of course, is the clothing line founded by Ashley and Mary-Kate Olsen. Their clothes are deeply luxurious, and almost offensively tasteful, sort of like wearable Nancy Meyers movie kitchens. (It goes without saying that The Row’s clothes are fantastically expensive, too.) The Row already makes menswear, which is largely terrific: if I had $3,200 to drop on a “summer coat,” you know I would. But we’re here to talk about the just-dropped women’s collection, which is more than a little heart-stopping in its ease, shape, and attitude.
Let me be clear: the Olsens are not here to push boundaries. This is not the sort of fashion week presentation that will upend your idea of what clothing can be; there is no theme, nor is there a plot. There are no aliens, or ninjas, or Parisian nightwalkers. There are just…clothes, and really good ones. They are white and black and beige and gray. One of them is red; a few are navy.
Many of the silhouettes borrow heavily from the world of menswear: loose pleated khakis, slouchy blazers, boxy white dress shirts. There are traces of the ‘80s Armani we’ve been digging lately, and of the thoughtful pieces Margaret Howell has produced for nearly 50 years now. There are hints of Phoebe Philo-era Celine, and of British schoolboy uniforms, and of course of ‘90s Gap ads. When I squint, I see luxed-up echoes of Evan Kinori’s thoughtful shapes.
There is a kind of gender-bending happening here, but it is rather muted. This is not quite Thom Browne’s vision for gender-fluid clothing. It’s not Gucci’s luxe take, either. Instead, it’s something a little simpler: quiet, perfectly-cut clothing that treats gender as almost besides the point. It’s about as mellow, unfussy a collection as you’re likely to see at this fashion week, or at any other. And while the collected fashion industry seems almost paralyzed in the face of its overlapping existential crises, the Olsens appear to have found a path forward that works for them: let your clothes speak for you. The closer to a whisper, the better.