Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen recently graced the cover of Newsweek with a headline claiming that they are going to be our country’s next billionaires due to the successful fashion empire they built.
Two things that struck me were the fact that I thought the Olsen twins were already billionaires due to the company they founded, Dualstar Entertainment, at the ripe old age of six. Seeing the potential branding power of the twins, manager Robert Thorne helped them build the company. It made billions off of Olsen twins merchandise, albums and all those straight-to-DVD films that little girls couldn’t resist. In 2004 the girls bought out Thorne and became co-CEOs. Though the company has annual retail sales around $1 billion, the girls are only estimated have a net worth of around $100 million according to Forbes. This number was lower than I thought but somehow I will be able to sleep at night.
The other aspect of this assessment of the girls that caught my eye was that a high profile publication like Newsweek saying these girls were now fashion moguls after only being in the industry for a few years. Yes, the girls have always loved fashion and received a lot of attention for their clothing choices but the jump to mogul is a big one. Even though they were essentially the face of the boho chic fashion movement, dressing like a sophisticated homeless bag lady does not necessarily guarantee business success.
But like many actresses do, they decided because they liked fashion that they should start their own line. The thing is you would think the massive popularity of celebrities like Sarah Jessica Parker and Jennifer Lopez would be enough to carry these lines but in most cases it doesn’t work. Both of these women saw their fashion lines fold in the past few years. This is why it is surprising that the Olsen twins have actually had tremendous success with their fashion line The Row which is produced by Dualstar. The line brings in about $10 to $12 million in sales annually.
Newsweek writer Robin Givhan described The Row As “The Gap meets Jill Sanders” because the clothing is made up of simple, minimal pieces that are really expensive and their target consumer group is 35 to 45-year-old women. A Row jersey knit t-shirt has a retail price of $290.
Fashion experts believe the company has managed to succeed, despite the priciness, because the girls know their products very well, are aware of what their consumer group wants and have tried not to use or rely on their celebrity to promote it. They didn’t even want to put their name on the label at first but eventually they did. In the Newsweek article the girls showed the reporter around their factories in Chelsea and they appeared to really know what they were doing in terms of the manufacturing process of their products. The young women are truly controlling the direction of the company and it is actually their main focus as they both have, for the most part, stopped acting.
The Row has formed partnerships with TOMS Shoes and the next plan is a move into E-commerce with a subscription shopping web site called Stylemint. So perhaps the Olsen twins really are businesswomen who have truly built a fashion empire but they did have a slight advantage with that 20-year headstart.