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2013 February 28

The Olsens Discuss Elizabeth and James' Handbag Launch and Fragrant Future

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Ashley and Mary Kate Olsen Ashley and Mary Kate Olsen
Patrick McMullan
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(NEW YORK) Talk about a crossover success story: Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen have segued with aplomb from adorable child star sister act to CFDA bait with a waitlisted $39,000 alligator backpack in their uberluxe line, The Row. But for chic wear-everywhere threads, it’s all about their Elizabeth and James line, launched in 2007. Six extremely successful years later, the brand’s future is fragrant! The twin titans filled The Daily in on the blockbuster contemporary line, from now to what's next...

You just launched a new handbag line. A teaser, please!
Mary-Kate: The collection focuses on functional, easy shapes with a clean aesthetic. We paid close attention to finishing, selecting quality Italian leathers and cow hair, and accenting with subtle, signature hardware.

Why expand Elizabeth and James into the handbag realm?
Ashley: Mary-Kate and I researched the market and felt there was an opportunity in the advanced contemporary space. We thought about our Elizabeth and James girl and wanted to offer great fashion and quality at an attainable price.

Do you have a go-to from the new spate of bags?
MK: It’s impossible to pick just one! The sling and satchel are two of my favorite silhouettes.
A: I love the cross body. We designed it so you can unclip the shoulder strap and carry it as a clutch taking it from day to night.

Do you divide-and-conquer much in terms of your roles?
MK: Ashley and I are equally involved in all aspects of the business. From design and business decisions to brand imagery and marketing, we put our touch on everything. We’re all about the details. 

Why does Elizabeth and James make the trade show rounds?
MK: Coterie allows us to show our specialty stores the breadth of Elizabeth and James. In addition to launching handbags this season, we’re introducing our updated logo. The brand has grown up over the years; it was time for a new look!

Who are your biggest fashion industry supporters?
A: Major retailers and specialty stores embraced Elizabeth and James immediately; they’ve shown loyalty and support over the past five years. Also, we’ve been lucky to develop amazing relationships with editors. It’s fun to see which styles they gravitate toward! 

Any retail outposts on the docket for Elizabeth and James?
A: We’re hoping to launch e-commerce first in 2014—then, we’ll move into retail in early 2015.

Are there any countries you aren’t yet selling in that you’d like to break into?
MK: We see great potential in Asia. We’re exploring expansion opportunities, specifically in Korea and Japan. We’re excited to visit those areas next year.

You’ve dabbled in handbags; the results look quite chic! So what’s next for the brand?
A: Mary-Kate and I are excited to launch the Elizabeth and James fragrance in early 2014 exclusively with Sephora. 

Sounds scents-ational! Why go such a fragrant route?
A: Fragrance is very intimate and personal! We’re enjoying the process and can’t wait to share the finished product.




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