The Olsen twins haven’t appeared on-screen together in 15 years.
Independently, the sisters, who began their careers as actors while still in diapers before either could speak, haven’t turned in a performance in over five years, choosing instead to dive head-first, and rather magnificently, into the world of fashion. It’s a rare day when the pair agree to sit down for an interview; seeing them out in public is even rarer.
They announced their retirement from the world acting in early 2012 and have proven true to their word.
And yet, our fascination with Mary-Kate Olsen and her older-by-two-minutes fraternal twin Ashley Olsen remains as powerful as ever. But what is it about these two women who’ve by and large eschewed the spotlight in favor of leading relatively normal lives—well, as normal a life as one can live when they’ve routinely ranked on Forbes‘ list of America’s Wealthiest Celebrities since they were 16 and have an estimated combined net worth of around $300 million—that makes us desperate for every last detail of the lives they’ve decided they don’t really feel like sharing with us any longer?
It’s been 13 years since Mary-Kate and Ashley launched The Row, the luxury label that would become but a building block in the Olsen fashion empire. And even then, the former Full House stars were hesitant to attach their unwanted celebrity—and its associated tabloid attention—to what was their true passion. They wouldn’t give an interview about the line for a full three years after its 2006 inception.
“We sold it at first with no label,” Mary-Kate admitted to Women’s Wear Daily in 2016. “Only certain people knew it was us behind it. We didn’t do any press. Our idea—because we had been in the branding industry for a very long time—was ‘If the product’s good, it will sell.'”
And it worked. In the 13 years since the launch, they’ve introduced three more lines, including the wildly popular Elizabeth and James. They’ve ventured into the world of accessories and fragrances. They’ve opened brick-and-mortar stores. They’ve been named Womenswear Designer of the Year by the Council of Fashion Designers of America—more than once. Quickly, they proved that this was no mere celebrity vanity project. They meant business.
And while they’d always proven to be savvy business women, dating back to the launch of their production company DualStar in 1993—when the sisters were merely seven years old—with a business partner whom they bought out 10 years later, this newfound clout afforded them the opportunity to step away from a spotlight that had been thrust upon them since the days before they could even form the words to object to it.
They notoriously avoided the rise of social media and what a presence there might have to offer their brand—”We’ve spent our whole lives trying to not let people have that accessibility, so it would go against everything we’ve done in our lives to not be in the public,” Mary-Kate told Vogue in 2011—and they’re hesitant to post for the camera in any official way any longer. “We’re used to being on the other side of the camera and managing the process, so it’s hard for us to do photoshoots now,” Mary-Kate explained to Net-a-Porter’s The Edit in 2017. “That’s why you have models.”
They’ve intentionally built a wall between them and the prying eyes of the outside world, be they fan or critic. We don’t dive into that world [of social media]; we don’t have Instagram or Facebook,” Ashley added. “So we’ve never been connected to our customers or our fans in that way. We’ve stayed quite sheltered.”
Instead, they’ve chosen to focus on the work. Almost meticulously so. As Ashley told WSJ Magazine last August ahead of the launch of The Row’s first full menswear collection, they once spent one full year “really figuring out the fit of the suit,” determining the difference a slightly higher rise on men’s pants makes. “We’re talking millimeters,” Mary-Kate explained.
All that focus meant that by the time Netflix was reviving Full House for Fuller House, a sequel series putting former co-stars Candace Cameron Bure, Jodie Sweetin, and Andrea Barber‘s adult versions of their characters front and center, they had the perfect excuse, amid all the hopes of, at the very least, a quick guest appearance from youngest Tanner sister Michelle, to stay away from the endeavor entirely. While Ashley immediately told producers it was a no-go, citing her lack of comfort stepping in front of the camera, Mary-Kate cited timing concerns, which, when you think about it, couldn’t be more legit.
As they’ve explained, their days are meticulously mapped out—”We’re very organized; every minute is accounted for,” Mary-Kate told The Edit—and their wary of trying to do too much at once. “We like having success with one thing before we move on to the next,” Ashley told WWD. “We don’t like to spread ourselves too thin.”
“They are very involved and hands-on with their companies,” an insider told E! News. “They work every day. They have an office in New York that they both go to and they attend meetings and conferences all the time.”
And it seems that, even if the nostalgia-obsessed fans haven’t, the Olsens’ former co-stars have finally accepted that Fuller House’s upcoming fifth and final season will, indeed, come to pass with nary an appearance from the retired twins.
“You heard it from me first: They will never come back!” Cameron Bure told Us Weekly at the 2019 Movieguide Awards in Hollywood in early February. “They are never coming back on the show! They don’t want to be on the show. The answer’s no!”
While their steadfast dedication to their fashion empire may seem, at times, obsessive—”I’ve always been a worker. It has taken me a lot to figure out how to take a vacation,” Ashley told The Edit—that doesn’t mean they haven’t managed to find a balance. As Mary-Kate, who’s been happily married to French financier Oliver Sarkozy a little over three years now, acting as step-mom to his teenage children Julien and Margot, admitted in that same interview, its her home life that offers her an escape.
“I think we’re lucky [working hard] comes quite naturally for us. We don’t need so much time to sit and think and ponder. But then I have a husband, two step-kids and a life; I have to go home and cook dinner,” she said. “I ride horses on the weekends. You find the thing that helps you relax and if you don’t have it, look for it. Or you get burned out and then you’re not productive.”
She and Sarkozy share a $13.5 million townhouse in NYC and can often be spotted courtside at a Knicks game or at a high-society event when they’re not at their Paris residence. But more often than not, she and her sister, who owns her own condo in downtown NYC and has seemingly been single since splitting with a financier beau of her own, Richard Sachs, in 2017, prefer to limit their socializing to places where the public can’t serve as witness.
“At night they have a lot of dinner parties at home, or they go out to eat,” our insider told us. “They both love music and will go to concerts or to Knicks basketball games, but mostly its dinner parties with friends at home.”
Of course, when it comes to Olsen twin relationships, nothing fascinates us more than the one the two share with one another. And in during their chat with WSJ Magazine last year, they gave us a rare glimpse into what it’s like to have nearly every facet of your entire life be so inextricably linked with someone else.
“It’s been 32 years of learning how to communicate,” Ashley shared, adding that their relationship is “a marriage and a partnership. We have had ups and downs. We do everything together.”
Mary-Kate added, “We came out of the womb doing that.”
And while they’re not “together every day, probably from 9 a.m. till 12 at night, sometimes earlier,” as Ashley admitted they once were on The Ellen DeGeneres Show back in 2010—marriage and Ashley’s long-rumored permanent return to their birthplace, California, will do that to ya—there’s certainly no reason to expect that this fruitful partnership will ever come to an end. “They see each other every day,” our insider insisted “and, if not, they talk multiple times a day.”
“We’ve always worked together so it feels natural to us,” Mary-Kate told British Vogue in 2015. “To be able to have a sounding board and to trust the person who is your partner, is beneficial across all aspects of running a business.”
Over a billion dollars in sales later, who are we to argue?