Dylan Lauren, Founder of Dylan's Candy Bar
New York socialite Dylan Lauren has successfully managed
to transform candy into a chic lifestyle product with her Upper East Side
landmark treatery, Dylan's Candy Bar. As the daughter of famed fashion
designer, Ralph Lauren, Dylan grew up observing her father's flare for
fashion and his business savvy, but opted not to go into the family business.
She does, however, continue to incorporate style and fashion into the
décor of Dylan's Candy Bar. Windows are dressed with the latest
colors of the season, creating an ever expanding line of candy-inspired
apparel and accessories, with detailing that looks good enough to eat.
The Duke University graduate who majored in Art History has combined her
love of both candy and pop art, pioneering a brand new concept: the artistically
hip and fashion forward candy store. Candy is not just a sugary treat
to Dylan, but an abstract concept representing fantasy, joy and irreplaceable
Just about anything sweet you are craving can be found
in the aisles of this two story whimsical Candy Land. Custom colored M
& Ms, every flavor of licorice and jelly bean, old school favorites
(think Bazooka Bubble Gum and Charleston Chews) and the privately labeled
line of Dylan's gourmet chocolate bars are just some of the tempting treats
that await you when you enter the store. Dylan Lauren also pays homage
to her favorite childhood movie, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory,
with a store that is visually mesmerizing. Stairs are transparent and
embedded with colorful candy, stools are designed to resemble red and
white Starlight Mints, and songs like "Sugar Sugar" blare through
the sound system. Dylan's Candy Bar currently has four locations including
the flagship operation in New York City, Long Island, Houston and Orlando.
During our conversation, Dylan informed me that she is currently scouting
new locations in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Las Vegas and Hawaii.
PR.com (Allison Kugel): I'm in Dylan's Candy Bar all
the time, because I'm a chocoholic.
Dylan Lauren: (Laughs) That's funny! You live
in New York?
PR.com: Yeah, I've been back and forth between Los
Angeles and New York, but they don't have one in LA.
Dylan Lauren: Ah, we're looking…
PR.com: Oh, really? :)
Dylan Lauren: Yeah, so we shall see. It's in the process…
PR.com: Very cool. Well, right now I'm living on the
Upper East Side, so it's very accessible to me.
Dylan Lauren: I'm glad you like it!
PR.com: How did you come up with the concept of Dylan's
Dylan Lauren: It's a variety of things. First, I love
candy. That being said, I would always take candy and collect it; candy
from different countries when I was traveling, whether it was just to
taste it or to look at the packaging. If there were sculptures, like chocolate
sculptures in Italy or candy wrappers that were cool from Japan. I just
started this collection and I was thinking, "Wouldn't it be cool
to have this in America?" But we couldn't find it anywhere. I just
started becoming obsessed with finding more unusual candy. I was an art
history major at Duke [University] and loved pop art and certain artists
like Warhol and Claes Oldenburg who worked with candy wrappers and packaging,
and I started doing my own candy artwork. I started making mosaics out
of gumballs, and used candy wrappers to find the right colors to make
chairs and to wrap tabletops. And I was like, "Wow, I could create
for a gallery space where not only do I showcase candy that has unequal
shapes and colors, but I also showcase my art and other pop artists' work."
Then that evolved into, "Why not sell candy in this sort of venue
with art and these rare candies, and then decorate the whole place to
look like a really whimsical candy land." It just kept evolving.
The candy is so beautiful and the shapes and colors… then I start
thinking about the architecture looking like real candy. Movies like Willy
Wonka and the Chocolate Factory were very inspiring, and going to
Disneyland. Seeing ways to make the store really unusual.
PR.com: Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory
is one of your favorite movies, right?
Dylan Lauren: Definitely! That was one of the earliest childhood
memories from movies I had seen.
Ralph Lauren (Dad), Dylan Lauren, & Ricky
PR.com: You said that your dad (fashion designer,
Ralph Lauren), when you were five years old, he got a print of the
movie and he set up a movie screen, and you and your friends watched it.
Dylan Lauren: Yeah, for one of my birthdays, it was great.
PR.com: You know how childhood memories and associations
often times bring us a lot of joy and comfort? Is [candy] kind of an association
or a throw back to positive memories for you?
Dylan Lauren: Yeah, definitely. The film was so unusual
and fantastical. When Wonka II (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory with
Johnny Depp) was coming out we did a big launch with that. People
really had a strong attachment to the first movie. I think it wasn't just
me. I guess I started to take that to another level because I loved candy
so much. So I think candy in general, when you taste candy you remember…
I ask a lot of people and they remember the first time they had candy
or they say that a child's first purchase that they can afford is candy.
It's definitely affiliated with that.
PR.com: Did you like the new version of the movie
with Johnny Depp (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory)?
Dylan Lauren: Yeah! I thought it was cool. I definitely
was very inspired by the first one. And we have our candy cane columns
and starlight mint stools and a lot of things related to that film. But
the second one was cool because of having our store celebrate Wonka,
and helping launch that film with Warner Bros was just awesome. It was
a great way to tie in the two.
PR.com: Are you always on the lookout for anything
in entertainment that is candy or sweets related, that you can do a cross
Dylan Lauren: Yeah, we are. Wonka couldn't be
more perfect because sometimes films use candy in a private label with
their team, but there is the Wonka oversized chocolate bar which
we carried exclusively. We had the ten pound bar, and then we had the
Wonka Golden Ticket Bars and people would freak out when they found
them. We had this whole exclusive shop and a bunch of things, so it was
great to tie into that. Then Harry Potter also has candy in that
film, so we did a great partnership with them. It's great because our
store is really about celebrating launches of candy and company launches,
and going forward. Superman is coming out so we've been approached
to do a whole Superman tie-in with candy.
PR.com: So how does that work? Does the studio contact
you or you contact them?
Dylan Lauren: Well, it's both ways. With Wonka,
I think a lot of people had heard of our store as the Wonka candy
venue, so it was sort of a back and forth. They knew about us, but also
I pursued that because I was like, "I have to be involved with this
since that was the original inspiration." And then, our marketing
head had built a great reputation with Warner Bros. But now, it turns
out that a lot of the movies that involve candy are looking to us to help
launch them. They're buying our windows to showcase the exclusive shop
and the products. So, it's great! Also, when we open in L.A. we'll tie
it into big parties and things.
PR.com: And as far as parties, I know that children
rent the back room of Dylan's Candy Bar and they do great parties, but
now adults are having parties at Dylan's too?
Dylan Lauren: Oh yeah! Like you said earlier, candy really
brings out the inner child in anyone at any age, and that kind of spreads
to our customer and our candy. [Our customers] average, like, 20 years
old and up. We just had a birthday for someone who was 70.
Dylan Lauren: (Laughs) Yeah, it was cool, and
we have a lot of nostalgic candy so we get an older demographic in there.
But we have all different ages doing the parties and doing the activities
in the party room. We have licorice limbo and bubble gum blowing contests.
Sometimes we do candy martinis. It's a little more unique than just going
to a club, because we involve activities. Our goal is sort of to unite
that inner child and creativity.
PR.com: That's very cool. And, tell me about the association
that you seem to have developed between candy and fashion.
Dylan Lauren: A few different ways. I think growing up,
the colors of my dad's collection of the polo shirts (Polo by Ralph
Lauren), and the cable knit sweaters or even just swatch [watches]
to me, seemed like candy because they had these color Swatches in a candy
jar to choose from. It seemed edible. Even today when I see the line of
all the shades of pink and the gradients of red…they even call some
of the shades, like, "Raspberry Red." So I think that the color
sensitivity that I got was from that. There are so many fashion items
that we carry beyond candy that sell really well, because there are people
who just love the medium of candy, whether it's the shape, the candy,
the color or the graphics. So, we sell tank tops that say "Sugar
Baby," or pajama pants for guys that say, "Sugar Daddy"
or "Blow Pop." (Hey now!) We're now selling so many different
bags with a candy pattern on them that we've designed. [We sell] ribbon
belts, like the ribbon candy. So it's a lot of clothing, and even umbrellas
we're coming out with that have candy raining on them. They're very hip
and stylish designs.
PR.com: I've been going to Dylan's Candy Bar forever.
And I noticed that at the beginning you had a few t-shirts with the Dylan's
logo on them. Now, I think I was just in there about two weeks ago, and
you have literally an entire department of apparel and accessories. At
first I thought they were ancillary products, but now they seem every
bit as prominent as the candy.
Dylan Lauren: Yeah, you're talking about Dylan's Candy Bar
or just the branded…
Dylan's Candy Bar Branded Fashion (clockwise):
"Eye Candy" Tee, Hat, Woman's Tank Top, Tote Bag
PR.com: Everything. All the ancillary products; everything
that's not food: pajamas, shirts, bags, pillows… everything. It seems
like it's become every bit as prominent as the candy itself.
Dylan Lauren: Yeah, definitely. I don't know if it's
after we opened, but it seemed like graphics with the candy companies
have become a really popular, trendy thing on t-shirts; distressed or
vintage shirts with the more nostalgic candies. I don't know if it's just
because of us, (laughs) but it's become a really popular thing.
I think at one point it was like cereal characters and then soda, icons,
beer… so it's very cool that we've been able to have on some level,
some exclusive and popular, trendy thing. In our store it's popular all
the time. I think people just really relate to that, it strikes a chord
PR.com: Is that stuff selling as much as the candy?
Dylan Lauren: Yes. We sell the Dylan's Candy Bar branded
t-shirts and tank tops and now we have these striped scarves. That flies
out of the store. We're having a tank top sale for summer and people are
buying them by the threes. It's the candy colors; they lay over the red
with a pink tank top under it. So yeah, it started out as a sort of fun…I
wanted there to be a sort of sexy baby doll tee to say that anyone can
be a "Candy Girl" no matter what their age. It's not just like
a footlocker type of shirt that's oversized. It has a stylish feel to
it. I think that the popularity of the brand is growing, and people just
want a piece of that.
PR.com: You said that your father, when he was giving
you advice towards the beginning, you guys didn't really agree on the
look of the clothing that Dylan's Candy Bar would carry. He thought it
looked kind of "souvenir shop" and you said, "No, it looks
sexy!" And he didn't get it.
Dylan Lauren: Well, it was more that he didn't understand
why we were even selling these Dylan's Candy Bar t-shirts in our store
at all. He thought we were a candy store and really thought, "Why
are you putting your t-shirts on the main floor? You have two levels."
He was like, "You should move that rack of t-shirts downstairs. It
seems souvenir shop." I was saying "No, this is the whole part
of the brand. It's about the candy girl and the sexy sort of baby doll
thing." I think he didn't really understand the whole candy world
anyway. I think as we've grown, he's seeing that we're coming out with
pajamas with the patterns, and kids wear. He's seeing that people really
want to license our products and they really like what we have. There
are whole different age groups who like it. He's starting to understand
it, but most people who are candy lovers, like it. We're not just about
candy. We're about gifts and holidays and we have occasions. If someone's
on a diet and they don't want to eat candy but they still like candy,
they can get a shirt or they can have other alternatives. We also have
candy spa products with a million scents in candy. There's cotton candy
and caramel and chocolate. So we carry an extensive line of spa products.
PR.com: Is that new, the line of spa products?
Dylan Lauren: No, we started off with candles and some lip
glosses. But we have four stores now. With the stores' distribution, we
were able to carry more diverse products. So it's been great for us. We're
still continuing to grow and to have more stores which will enable us
to have a lot of these bigger companies. Maybe, hopefully, make our own
candy spa products.
PR.com: So right now, all of the candy and the spa
products are purchased elsewhere and then it's private labeled and packaged
Dylan Lauren: We carry so many different companies. Some
of it we private label. We develop it from scratch, and we develop the
ingredients and the packaging. Some of it we source from over 5,000 different
vendors. So, it comes into our stores as their company, but that's what's
so funny. We really change our product mix every season and every holiday.
It's not just like fashion, where it's the four seasons; it's like Mother's
Day and then graduation and then camp. The colors change for the fall
and back to school and the products change, so it allows us to have so
many different vendors in there.
PR.com: Do you brainstorm for each new holiday and
each new occasion on how you're going to put together your gifts and what
kind of themes you're going to go with?
Dylan Lauren: Yeah totally. Now it's Mother's Day and it's
also spring, and it was also just Easter. So the palette of color is a
lot of pastel candies. We have a big gift basket industry for mothers,
so we do gift baskets that have the spa products and the gift basket itself
might look like a bathtub. We're also celebrating flowers because it's
spring, so we have flower lollipops and flower chocolate tulips. You can
make a bouquet out of chocolate tulips or chocolate roses. Then we're
going into summer, so it's going to be a whole slew of products celebrating
America and 4th of July. That's when we'll bring in all red, white, and
blue candies and things with chocolate stars. Then nostalgic candies from
the good old days, and then boardwalk stuff like funnel cake and cotton
candy and fudge and candied apples. Then it's going to change again for
Halloween. So we always change it and we change a lot of the colors and
the baskets. It's a fun industry.
PR.com: As you were talking, I'm like, "You know
what, there's always a holiday!"
Dylan Lauren: What's great about candy is that people give
flowers and they die, but there's always a holiday and there's always
an occasion. Like a get well basket is a chocolate aspirin and a Campbell's
Soup can of chocolate. Or a get well basket bouquet of yellow roses that
are chocolate; yellow foil chocolate roses.
Beautiful "Lollipop Tree" Above Product
Display Inside Dylan's Candy Bar
PR.com: So let's say a holiday is coming up. Does
everyone in your office sit and toss around ideas and come up with what
you're going to do? And who actually designs everything that we see displayed
when we walk into Dylan's Candy Bar?
Dylan Lauren: We have a team and I'm involved in every
step of that. We go to the trade shows and look at all the brochures.
We have a team of buyers who coordinate the high end specialty products,
and then the lower end more kid novelty products, and then the every day
products. Then we have a graphic design team who actually create what
the store is going to feel like and look like; the feel of the season.
Everything sort of goes with the season. And then we market it with our
marketing and PR. So it's cool, it's a whole process.
PR.com: And do you think that you're changing the
image of sweets? Because a lot of women and girls are so deathly afraid
of carbs and sugar…
Dylan Lauren: You know, I don't know about that. We get
people in the store from models to candy addicts to people who are diabetic
and just love candy. Everything in moderation. I think as long as you
exercise and eat your protein, you won't have such a sugar rush. It's
funny because the majority of my customers are totally fit. They walk
in the door and guys go in there to meet them! (Laughs)
PR.com: Right, that's what I'm saying. I walk in and
I see very attractive women in there, and I thought all these Upper East
Side women were totally afraid to eat candy!
Dylan Lauren: We do sell the ice cream sundaes and the
chocolate cupcakes and all that. But I think that candy, the actual just
sugar… this is my theory on it: it isn't as bad as the cake with
the flour and the fat, you know? That's where it starts to get dangerous.
(Laughs) A little handful of M&M's or Gummy Bears isn't going
to kill you. That's my take on it.
PR.com: Right, of course. And what advice did your
dad give you throughout your first year in business?
Dylan Lauren: He definitely said "Do what you love
and keep doing it, and enjoy what you're doing because this is your passion.
Don't get too crazy with the business side of it and the sort of …
people wanting to buy the business, or expanding…" We were approached
by Target right away and I turned it down because I was like, you know
what, I'm developing my own thing. It wasn't really about the money as
much as developing a creative concept. So he kind of said to stick to
your guns basically, to your vision and your gut, which is very important…
PR.com: And your gut told you not to create a mass
distribution deal with one of these big stores…
Dylan Lauren: Yeah, to slowly develop [my] own image, because
we're all about the experience when you walk in the store…
PR.com: You were approached by Target and by Harrods's
Department Store in London when you were partnered with Jeff Ruben. Did
you part company with Jeff because he wanted to do mass distribution deals
and you wanted to keep the brand private?
Dylan Lauren: Pretty much. That's part of the picture, and
I think we had different visions. I was more about boutique-ing it.
PR.com: So now you're by yourself, no partner?
Dylan Lauren: Right.
PR.com: Do you want to continue to keep Dylan's private?
In other words, every time you open each new location is it just going
to be handled by you and your company?
Dylan Lauren: Right, that's correct. I'm definitely going
to do that and I'm looking to expand to more stores. A lot of people ask
if they can invest or franchise or bring it to Australia or Japan, but
we sort of try to control it because the company's not even four years
old. I think that's really important at the beginning stages.
PR.com: I think that's very wise.
Dylan Lauren: Yeah, definitely. I think it's because I've
seen some things that can bastardize a brand pretty quickly. I didn't
want to sell out that fast.
PR.com: I'm sure it's tempting to get all that attention
and have people interested…
Dylan Lauren: Yeah, it's good. I just think that…we'll
get there and probably stay there longer. (Laughs) Because I've
watched a lot of companies do that (referring to companies who sell
their brand too soon)
PR.com: How many locations do you currently have?
Dylan's Candy Bar
Dylan Lauren: Currently we have four stores. The flagship
is in New York. The others are in Houston, Orlando, and Long Island. The
plan is to open other flagships like New York in Los Angeles, Las Vegas
and San Francisco. Then, hopefully London and Japan. We're also looking
to do wholesaling, selling our brand to brands with a similar image. Like
in the W Hotels, we had a product in their mini-bar, or Delta's Song Airlines,
or just other companies where we think we can kind of co-promote the product.
And there's just a lot of business spin-off within the actual store. We
have a cafe, a party room, gifting, and holiday and corporate gifting
and product in general.
PR.com: How involved are you in each different location?
Dylan Lauren: It all stems from New York, the flagship [store].
We develop the products in New York and then they go to the other stores.
Each location has a sort of different audience. There's "Rodeo Week"
in Texas and then Disneyworld in Florida. So right now in Orlando we're
doing a tie-in with Shamu and Sea World. Whether I go down there or someone
from my store does a tie-in with that. I'm very involved; I'm definitely
excited to open more stores in more key markets.
PR.com: Are the next locations on your mind L.A. and
Dylan Lauren: Definitely, and even in Hawaii we've been
PR.com: Would you say that the candy will always remain
the primary product at Dylan's Candy Bar?
Dylan Lauren: Yes, definitely! I mean, that's like…
the source of all evil. (Laughs) Definitely!
PR.com: (Laughs) Tell me about growing up with
a famous fashion designer for a father and with a famous last name. How
was that for you, and did you feel pressure to make a name for yourself?
Dylan Lauren: I think that growing up with my dad (Ralph
Lauren), obviously people recognize him and in a lot of ways it has
a lot of benefits in that, people kind of respect him as a high end fashion
designer. He's been in business for over 40 years now, so he's maintained
a vision and stuck to it. Being around him and learning from him just
by dinner conversations or seeing how people react to him, it's been very
educational and a kind of free education in many ways. I think the last
name has been very helpful in terms of the association with class, and
sort of expensive but quality…and fashion, because the store is about
candy and fashion, fashion and candy and colors. Everyone in my family
is very entrepreneurial and doing something on their own, and I think
my dad's been very supportive of starting your own thing, which has been
great. I can't think of any negatives. It's been pretty positive.
PR.com: I know that at one point he wanted to name
a perfume after you and you said, "No, no, no. I want to wait to
use my name until it's something that I own."
Dylan Lauren: You read The [New York Times] Sunday Styles!
Dylan Lauren: Yeah, that's true. I guess I liked my name.
I liked the originality of it and I just felt like, I kind of knew I'd
do something. I wasn't totally interested in the fashion industry, but
I was into something in the arts and creativity. I kind of just wanted
PR.com: Good move!
Dylan Lauren: (Laughs) Thank you. Yeah, it's funny.
PR.com: What's your take on the whole celeb-utante,
trust fund baby thing that everyone always talks about, especially with
the Hilton Sisters and all this stuff that you're seeing on TV now. Do
you consider yourself to be part of that or on the outside of that?
Dylan Lauren: I think that anyone who has a last name can
do many things with the name. They can sit around and sort of live off
the name and their parent's money, or they can actually use it for charity
or for business. So, I don't know, everyone has a different take. I think
that when the parents are sort of promoting themselves through their kids,
that's a little disgusting to me. I think that I'm very serious about
what I do and I think my parents just sort of brought me up that way.
So I don't think I was necessarily part of that.
PR.com: You stayed away from that whole scene?
Dylan Lauren: Yeah, I mean I have my own social life and
I go out and I go to events and stuff, but I'm definitely not just sitting
around and living off a trust fund.
PR.com: The last thing I have to ask you is probably
the most obvious question. What's your favorite type of candy?
Dylan Lauren: Ah-ha. Well, Easter just passed and they have
Eggs which I really, really like. And then, I like a lot of red gummy
things like Swedish Fish or Swedish Berries. And I like anything marshmallow-y.
There's this thing called Divinity in the south that I really like, or
just plain marshmallows.
PR.com: The next time I go into your store, what's
the number one thing that you recommend out of the bulk candy to try?
Dylan Lauren: Red Australian licorice.
PR.com: I'm usually a creature of habit, but I'll
try something new.
Dylan's Candy Bar currently has store locations in
New York City; Long Island, NY; Orlando, FL; and Houston, TX. For more
information about Dylan's Candy Bar and Dylan Lauren, visit www.dylanscandybar.com.