Ashley Olsen’s Walk in the Woods With a Machete

Last week, Ashley Olsen swapped city sidewalks, single-use Starbucks cups and oversize bags for evergreens, a glass containing some amber liquid and a machete. Her signature layers remained intact.

In a photograph posted by her boyfriend, Louis Eisner, as an Instagram story, Ms. Olsen strides through an unidentified forest (possibly in the Pacific Northwest, if another recent photo is any indicator) wearing loose white pants, a white shirt tied around her waist, a white sweatshirt hiked up to reveal an arm, and black Yeezys.

The photo — a highly unusual upload from Mr. Eisner, whose grid contains no photos of Ms. Olsen, and a rare image of a designer known for being, as her sister Mary-Kate put it recently, “discreet” — set off a flurry of excitement on social media, where it was widely deemed “a mood,” as well as “a sexuality,” “a summer vibe” and “a spirit animal.” It also inspired several artistic interpretations.

Alyce Peeler, who has run the Mary-Kate and Ashley fan account @olsenoracle since 2017, wrote in an email that fans usually only see photos of the twins when they attend a red carpet event — Ms. Peeler estimates about three times a year — or when they walk in and out of the Manhattan office building where The Row, their fashion label, is headquartered.

“They’re so low key it seems to honestly shock the public when a photo like this starts to circulate,” Ms. Peeler said.

“She’s on her way to free Britney,” one commenter wrote on @olsenoracle’s repost of the photo — a reference to Britney Spears, who recently pleaded with a judge at a public hearing to release her from her conservatorship. Another commenter suggested that Ms. Olsen might be “on her way to smash the patriarchy.”

On TikTok, Ashley Hamilton, a host of the podcast “Celebrity Memoir Book Club,” extolled the photo’s virtues: “We have party, we have preparedness, we have calm, we have giant sunglasses,” she said, pointing to the drink, the machete, the white palette of the clothes and Ms. Olsen’s oversize frames. “If you aren’t thoroughly inspired to change everything about your life after looking at this picture,” Ms. Hamilton added, she cannot help you.

Even John Stamos, Ms. Olsen’s co-star on “Full House,” was asked to weigh in during an appearance on the “Today” show on Monday. “Getting ready for Halloween?” he suggested. Sorry, Uncle Jesse, but given that the Olsens have run an award-winning fashion label for 15 years, it seems unlikely that one of them needs three and a half months to get ready for a single-day costume event.

If Mr. Stamos had known the question was coming, he might have ventured a more educated guess. With her machete, Ms. Olsen could have been maintaining a trail, chopping compost, harvesting crops, hunting, splitting fruit or nuts, making traps and snares, butchering meat or clearing brush.

“I suspect this is an inexpensive machete commonly found in a big box retailer intended for light use to get ‘nuisance brush’ out of your way while on a leisurely stroll,” a representative from MacheteSpecialists.com named Jamie wrote in an email. “Seems appropriate for AO’s purposes (again, based on the picture).” Ms. Olsen’s representatives declined to provide any details about the photograph.

Though the ephemerality of an Instagram story suggests a certain casualness, the photo’s composition belies a professional and intentional artistry. Mr. Eisner, the man behind the lens is, after all, the son of Lisa Eisner, a well-known jeweler, photographer and stylist. He is also an artist in his own right.

There is tension in the shot between the ease signaled by Ms. Olsen’s backward cap and the aggression telegraphed through the dangling machete. Her posture and foot placement are both relaxed — hips slightly forward, shoulders down — and determined — one foot forward, stride confident.

And then there’s the vibe-defining drink Ms. Olsen clutches (in a glass! in the woods!). Is it kombucha? Beer? Do the Olsen twins even drink beer?

Spending more time with the photo only sparks further questions. Is Ms. Olsen having fun, or is she taking charge because no one else will? Will she save the world or destroy it?

And most importantly: How does she keep her pants so clean?

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