Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen Told Us All About Their Favorite Things

The stories behind the vintage treasures in their new Los Angeles Elizabeth and James store, straight from Mary-Kate and Ashley.

By: Emily Ramshaw
Photography: Tristan Kallas
Illustration: Chidy Wayne

To say that Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen prefer to stay behind the scenes of their cult-favorite brands The Row and Elizabeth and James would be a grand understatement. The twins (our pre-teen hearts will forever think of them in that way) rarely make public appearances, and when they do, it’s to absolutely zero fanfare. On top of that, their clothes and accessories, at both Elizabeth and James and The Row, have a subtlety to them—there’s no shouting when it comes to their pieces. Then again, that ease is probably what makes them feel so chic and luxurious.

If you know where to look, however, you’ll find the Olsens’ touch everywhere. But it even came as a surprise to us when we found out that one of their most personal projects was right under our nose (and the noses of all their devoted fans) at the new Elizabeth and James store in Los Angeles’ The Grove. As we discovered during a recent visit, amongst the hard-to-resist tailored shirts, slip dresses and delicate gold jewelry that are Elizabeth and James mainstays, is a collection of found objects, vintage clothing, and artisanal products that Mary-Kate and Ashley have sought out themselves. They are “essentially, items Ashley and I live with,” Mary-Kate explained to us.

So while the dream of getting into the designers’ closets for real must, alas, remain just that, hearing the stories behind the pieces they love so much (and that are, for the most part, actually available for us to buy) is a close second. Click through the slideshow to find out the L.A. gallery that is the girls’ go-to, Ashley’s all-time favorite pair of jeans, and why they gravitate towards anything representative of female empowerment.

Ashley: “Mary-Kate and I approached the Elizabeth and James store from a lifestyle perspective.”

Mary-Kate: “We believe in this strategy for all of our brands. Curation of vintage apparel, furniture and objects helps maintain a wholesome view for ourselves and our clients.”

Ashley: “[When choosing objects for the store] we started with an L.A. mentality and looked for pieces that complement the Elizabeth and James collection.”

Mary-Kate: “Everything from local pottery, found objects at flea markets. Essentially, items Ashley and I live with.”

Mary-Kate: “Our favorite pieces are constantly evolving, but because we have a deep love of vintage clothing, the tees and kimonos were especially fun.”

Mary-Kate: “This is a mid-century Japanese Indigo window shade by an unknown artist. [We found it at] Blackman Cruz in Los Angeles.”

Ashley: “Both pieces of art and the found objects are from Gibson in Los Angeles. We had an emotional reaction to the necklace. That is how we curate. The photograph is an archival print by Karl Blossfeldt, a late 19th-century artist from Berlin. He was a sculptor, self-taught photographer and lecturer. He is known for his close-up photographs of botanical varieties, which were originally created as a teaching experiment for his students. His photographs are beautiful yet modern and showcase intricate details. The bird sketch is by an artist called The Ditty Bops. We have a lot of their pieces in the store.”

Mary-Kate: “We found the book online along with the vintage pins. We gravitate towards anything with positive messages that support women and female empowerment. I like the idea of mixing pins on a vintage jean jacket or canvas tote.”

Ashley: “These [vintage Levi’s] came from a flea market in New York. My favorite jeans are [a] pair of vintage Levi’s and my old Elizabeth and James zip-front jeans in black. We re-did them in the last Fall collection.”

Mary-Kate: “We found the pencil sets through the stationery company we source greeting cards from.”

Ashley: “My favorite is DO YOUR BEST.”

Mary-Kate: “Mine is GOOD VIBES ONLY.”

Ashley: “The bag was found at Rose Bowl Flea Market. The vendor imports handmade accessories and textiles from Mexico and works directly with craftspeople. The African wood table and woven bowls are from Merchant and Galerie Half in Los Angeles.”

Mary-Kate: “These are vintage Landlubber [overalls] and came from Spanish Moss. The Margherita Chair by Franco Albini was purchased at Orange in Los Angeles.”

Ashley: “The designer on most of the kimonos are unknown or not labeled. We loved the chartreuse dip-dye detail on the inside. It’s unique and eye-catching.”

Mary-Kate: “We were attracted to the color and pattern in this piece. It’s an interesting double-layer construction that functions as a wrap dress underneath a robe jacket.”

Mary-Kate: “[The best places to shop for vintage robes are] vintage shops, dealers and flea markets across New York, Los Angeles and Paris.”

Ashley: “The woman we source the crystals from visited the store and loved the aesthetic, so we decided to work together. Yes, [I collect crystals].”

Ashley: “They are hand-painted zodiac signs, and you can use them as ring dishes or display in multiples as décor items.”

Mary-Kate: “[We found these belts at] a flea market in Los Angeles. Wear them tied around a vintage military jacket with an Elizabeth and James washed cotton tee.”

Ashley: “The zines, tinctures and teas are all from Homestead Apothecary in Oakland. We love that they are from California and everything in their shop pays homage to the plants and supporting local herbalists, farmers and artists. I drink the Brain Booster tea. The handcrafted tinctures are made in small batches using local plants. We think they resonate with our L.A. customer.”

Mary-Kate: “Our sources for vintage t-shirts are always changing and a combination of vintage stores and flea markets, mostly in New York and Los Angeles. I have too many favorite t-shirts to answer [and pick just one].”

Ashley: “This is a Shibori print cotton kimono, most likely from the ’60s or ’70s. It’s perfect for summer with a slip dress or thrown on over your swimsuit at the beach. This piece was found at a vintage fair in New York.”

Ashley: “The clutch was from a vintage shop in New York.”

Mary-Kate: “[We burn sage at our homes] all of the time, and in our offices and stores, as well. These phone cases are from the same vendor at the Rose Bowl who imports accessories from artisans in Mexico.”

Ashley: “[These drawings are from] Gibson in Los Angeles by The Ditty Bops.”

Mary-Kate: “This is an architectural piece from the 1960s by an unknown artist. This was one of the first pieces we bought in L.A. when we opened the store last year. We found it at Merchant House in Venice. It’s not currently for sale because we love it so much, but that could always change.”

Ashley: “These are handcrafted soaps from an aromatherapy company based in California that uses all-natural ingredients and pure essential oils. Our team came across them at a local natural foods market in Los Angeles and reached out to the brand directly.”

Mary-Kate: “All of these pieces are from Gibson. The sketches are by The Ditty Bops. The photograph is by Peter Novak from his Woodcuts series. The mixed media piece on wood panel is by Gary Gibson, the owner. We love vintage bed jackets, and the velvet makes it feel special and a bit elevated. This came from a vintage shop in Brooklyn.”

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