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August 8, 2007

Ashley Olsen: The Coolest Girl in the World

ashley olsen

Ashley Olsen

Photo Credit: Ruven Afanador

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But in the world of fashion, they also have a bit of an image problem. The girls became forces under the tutelage of lawyer Robert Thorne, who started Dualstar with them when they were only 6 and masterminded wildly lucrative ventures like their clothing partnership with Wal-Mart, their cutesy adventure videos, and their detective-book series. Ashley and Mary-Kate were reportedly millionaires by age 9, a commercial juggernaut — the very essence of mass. And a far cry from what they're going for now.

Cue the skeptics: In a New York Times article last June, designer Phillip Lim implied there was something unfair about celebrities like Ashley and Mary-Kate getting into the contemporary market, making it that much harder for "real" designers who lack their fame and resources. "He wrote a letter the next day," Ashley is quick to note. "He was like, 'You know, I was completely misquoted. I respect you guys more than anything; just keep kicking ass.'"

Three years ago, after turning 18, Ashley and Mary-Kate bought out Thorne (as well as their low-key, un-Svengali-ish parents) and took sole control of Dualstar. Although Ashley credits Thorne with playing an enormous role in their success, she also says, "Mary-Kate and I never really wanted our names on a bunch of different things. It wasn't us — it never felt like us." For the first time in their lives, they were in charge of their own image, tapping a sensibility, a side of themselves, the world never knew existed.

Around 1 P.M., Ashley leaves her offices for the factory in downtown L.A. where The Row samples are made. A fierce pair of Tom Ford aviators in place, she walks to her black Mercedes G55 AMG-"a tank," she calls it. (She used to drive a Cadillac de Ville but prefers the Mercedes because "I feel safer in it.") And suddenly she starts to scurry, having spotted a central-casting paparazzo across the way in a beat-up white sedan with the front bumper hanging off. Ashley hops up into the driver's seat, lights up a cigarette, and makes for the freeway — the sedan tailing her at a furtive distance the entire way. The paparazzi have been her lifelong bane. Earlier, Ashley told me it's the reason she wears bras: Much as she'd prefer to go without under her favorite spare, filmy sheaths, the photogs would have a field day.

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