It’s no secret that the fashion industry has inspired many to create stunning designer label wardrobes. but for some fashionistas, only one brand will do. in the collector’s edition, we’ll see why certain designers inspire obsessive collections in their fans.
what does it mean to love a brand? to be a devotee of a fashion house’s DNA, its inevitable shifts, ebbs and flows, its praise and criticism? for some, it’s the influence that comes with wearing a particularly recognizable logo. But what if that brand doesn’t have a logo? what if it doesn’t beg to be recognized by the untrained eye?
The row operates with a “if you know, you know” spell, and in today’s marketplace of fleeting trends that come and go faster than the earth currently turns, that’s a hard tune to play. sing continuously. While it was established in 2006 by designers Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen, the label hasn’t been seen as a celebrity-founded brand since its earliest appearances. Instead, it harbors the silent mystery of Olsen: the same mystification that has inspired countless Olsen-style blogs, candid photo Instagram pages, hashtags, and op-eds documenting an Ashley or Mary-Kate candlelit smile. in a perfectly undone, slightly-wrinkled cotton-poplin blouse as she makes her way from the car to the dinner date. once you get past the olsen obsession (heck, even i had a tumblr on eponymous day), you find women who don’t care about celebrity.
the row has provided a fail-safe option for women who prefer personal style to trends, who want their wardrobes to serve them, not the other way around. For Neelam Ahooja, a stylist who built her wardrobe around investment pieces, she fell in love with the row’s combination of form and function early on, first beginning with her adoration for the timeless appeal of the ’90s. Favorite style designer from that era is lisa bonet, and it’s ironic that her daughter, zoë kravitz, is now a champion of the ahooja can’t quit brand.
“I think my style during that time was a mix of minimalist and denise huxtable aesthetics,” says ahooja. “she was a huge influence on me. we were about the same age, the same height, and we both had curly hair. [her style] was not quite feminine, nor quite masculine, and it was ‘t strong; it was the perfect mix.”
that character, one could say, led neelam to know what her wardrobe consists of now.
“I wasn’t obsessed with the Olsens, I was older than them, but as they got older and became adults, I started paying more attention to their personal style,” she says. “Now that they are young women, I consider them style icons. I appreciate all they bring to the fashion industry and their personal uniqueness.”
ahooja usually saves images of them when they are using the row. “They’ve nailed what looks good on them, and that’s why their line is so successful: they’re perfectionists and meticulous about details.”
Their first discovery of the “slow burn” brand began at the beginning of the release. “I was appreciating them from a distance, and then the jerseys fell,” he says ahooja. he began by collecting a few T-shirts: a simple white crew-neck and an oversized three-quarter-sleeve black tunic, all for prices he wouldn’t normally buy.
“No brand was really doing that at the time, but because the quality was there, I appreciated that it came from Mary-Kate and Ashley. I think because they were behind it, I felt like this must be something noteworthy,” she says. “they wouldn’t produce anything”.
The craftsmanship is what attracted many, despite the high price. The unpretentious cultivated simplicity and timelessness of each and every garment and accessory that Fila creates will transcend a season, a moment. people now understand that they can put on one of her pieces, without thinking too much, and feel comfortable, groomed and luxurious.
“What I like most about the row is that it embodies all the elements of what I think is important to me in my personal style. Timelessness, unmatched quality: no detail is skimped; an aesthetic minimum, which grants to the brand and all the pieces that a timeless category makes. if something’s flashy and garish, it’s not timeless. if something falls apart, it’s not timeless.”
barneys and word-of-mouth (versus traditional) ads further demonstrate the brand’s dedicated following. ahooja considers the brand to be the epitome of the silence emoji on an iphone: “it’s like a little secret, that’s not so secret anymore”.
ahooja also loves that the row uses a lot of black. “Black is a color. I feel like yelling that!”, she laughs to herself. “Somehow every year the collection looks a little different. Just enough that you’re willing to part with more money. It makes my heart race. When Spring 2023 launched, I was shaking with emotion. black is’ t just black when the row does.”
Committing to her own ideas of personal style and teaching others how to cultivate their own wardrobes, with an emphasis on the row, is what has earned neelam her following. i realized the power i had after a tweet i posted got over 1500 likes and many comments. “When you don’t know what to do, a white T-shirt, a pair of faded jeans, and loafers will do just about everyone,” she says.
On her social media profiles, ahooja tries to showcase a variety of style ideas with pieces from the row, combined with tips for customizing each piece. Your favorite investment pieces to start with? the gaia sandals, the banana bag and the margaux bag with a top handle.
“the gaia sandals, when they first came out: love at first sight. worth every penny, i love them so much,” she says. “the margaux is the quintessential row. it embodies everything i say: it’s timeless, it’s impeccable quality, it comes in black, it’s understated, and it’s just beautiful, it’s functional, it’s elegant. you can see through the collections over the years that the brand keeps renewing and refreshing because it’s a big skeleton bag. it’s got bones. it’s here to stay.”
if there was a fire, outside of his family, ahooja would take the margaux, the gaias and their coats. Sometimes, he says, she goes into his closet to visit the coats, just to look at them, a true sign of a person who appreciates the brand for all that it is. “they are garments forever. they are so beautiful and very special.”
true collectors spend a lot of time searching the internet for pieces they want to revisit, second-hand retailers they trust, and local businesses that carry the brand. But it’s not enough to wait for the next installment: many collectors, including Ahooja, are on a VIP list of new season gifts not yet available online.
“i have such a strong relationship with the new york store now that they give access to a small group of customers. they give us access before a new season. i order straight from the runway because i know how to do it’ i will work with my wardrobe.”
In the end, the effort and expense is worth it for a true ride-or-die hobbyist. The Fila is about much more than clothing: it’s a celebration of excellence in dress and personal style with a penchant for sustainability. real sustainability lies in portability and utilitarianism. If you buy an expensive sweater, but wear it every season and have it for decades, what can be more sustainable than that?
“I didn’t set out to be a collector, it just evolved very organically as a love of row,” she says, “which started when it allowed me to get some pieces that they now have by looking at their collections on the vogue site, and Now I don’t hesitate to buy. I do it as a hobby. I have so much of it that it must be a hobby, because I love it so much. A lot of people invest in art, but this is my art.”
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