On a Monday afternoon in September—just after the first day of school had let out—nine tiny models were milling around Brooklyn’s Herbert Von King Park in layers of Italian cashmere. The kids, a creative bunch, none of whom does this professionally, seemed remarkably unfazed by the flurry of activity that accompanies a fashion shoot: As photography and styling assistants flitted around them, they sipped from juice boxes, shared their Transformers, and scattered cheese snacks on the ground. Louie Nobuko Huelster, 5 years old, tested the durability of a pair of green velvet shoes by jumping from one row of bleachers to the next. A few others wriggled out of their knit pants when their parents weren’t looking.
Even when approached by a masked stranger with a voice recorder, the kids maintained their cool. I asked Coralynn Agbasionwe, 5, how her outfit made her feel. “It makes me feel happy,” she told me, playing with the belt of a blue cardigan. “I only just tried it on, but I would wear it for, like, a Valentine’s Day. Normally, I wear dresses on Valentine’s Day, and then I put a little sweater on the top.” Seven-year-old Ava Lamb said she’d wear her turmeric-hued pants “to a party.” Like a birthday party? “No,” she said matter-of-factly. “Just a party.”
The designers of these cozy, colorful ensembles are Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen of the Row, the brand whose minimalist, trend-agnostic adult clothes occupy a very specific niche in the world of luxury fashion. Where other designers are constantly pivoting, piling on, and riffing off of one another, the Olsens remain monastically consistent. The Row’s first children’s capsule collection, which launches in their stores and on their website today, stays true to that philosophical core: “The items have to have a sense of practicality, ease, and comfort,” Mary-Kate told me. “We think of this for our main collections, but it’s even more important for kids. Over the past 10 years, we’ve personalized cashmere onesie and blanket sets for our clients and friends who have had kids. We wanted to explore that in a bigger way.” While neither of the 35-year-old sisters has children of her own, a lot of their friends have had kids during the pandemic, which helped spark the idea.
The collection is made up of cashmere pants, crewnecks, belted cardigans, hats, and velvet slip-ons (a miniature version of an existing women’s style, and based on Venetian gondolier shoes). It ranges in size from 2 to 10 years, and in price from $390 to $790. Also in the mix: small cashmere hacky sacks, an extremely chic upgrade on a ’90s college campus staple. Unlike the conventional ones, which are stuffed with plastic beads, these are filled with pearl couscous. At the shoot, at least one model enjoyed pelting them at our creative director.
None of the pieces is gendered—a refreshing departure from the norm. (Enter just about any children’s clothing store, and you’ll feel like you’ve stepped into a battle of ruffled florals and monster trucks.) “Kids are the heart of creativity,” Ashley said. “They should be able to pick and choose what they want to wear, no matter what.” Everything is also devoid of zippers, buttons, laces, and anything else that might make the clothes less comfortable, or make getting them on and off more difficult than it needs to be. Those features, along with the cheerful but still sophisticated color palette, were born out of conversations with tots throughout the design process. “Kids bring out a sense of playfulness. They were very vocal and opinionated about what they liked and didn’t like,” Mary-Kate noted. “We loved listening to their free minds.”
The capsule also has a philanthropic element: Proceeds will be donated to charities in Los Angeles, New York, and London (cities where the Row has flagship stores) that support children’s health, education, and well-being. With successive collections, which will expand to become “a reflection of core and seasonal offerings,” per Mary-Kate, the Olsens hope to build upon their network. “The plan is to create a program that gives back in a significant and meaningful way,” Ashley said.
So does that mean we’ll eventually see toddlers around Greenwich Village and Notting Hill wearing suede trousers and soft-shouldered merino wool coats? “We started the Row with a T-shirt,” Ashley noted. “This collection was started in a similar way—we are focusing on the basics and building from there.”