When I went to sit down with Dylan Lauren at her eponymous Dylan’s Candy Bar on Michigan Avenue I suspected there might be some sweet treats involved, what I didn’t expect was Dylan to open up her tote bag, a blue Longchamp, upon my arrival and offer Rice Krispie treats. The gesture speaks to not only how sweet Dylan is, pun intended, but also how down-to-earth she remains despite being the daughter of designer Ralph Lauren and a business mogul in her own right.
Let’s start at the beginning- What did you want to be growing up?
I always wanted to be an entrepreneur. I knew I wanted to run my own business. I guess more than anything, growing up, I wanted to be an artist. Which [Dylan's Candy Bar] allows me to be in some ways. I always loved crafting, and putting together gifts. Oh, and I also wanted to be a backup dancer for Janet Jackson. I just love the arts. I did do events before this, but I found it challenging to do events around other peoples ideas and themes. All my ideas always came back to candy, so now I’m able to incorporate all of that into this.
Did you ever consider following in your father’s footsteps with a career in fashion?
Somewhat. I love what my dad does and that it’s his passion. I’ve always had ideas about the clothing I’d like to have for myself, thoughts on colors, and gowns, and whatnot. But I love candy, so I love using that as a medium for fashion. We do candy inspired clothing and candy spa products and jewelry and accessories.
How did the original idea for Dylan’s Candy Bar come about?
It was the evolution of a lot of different passions of mine. I always loved the movie Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and I watched that all the time, just for fun, and as I was traveling for school I was finding all sorts of interesting candy in different packaging, again just for fun. I thought I was going to be an artist, and focus on making pop art out of candy. Making mosaics and decoupaging. Then I thought I would open a space that looked like the set of Willy Wonka and sold my art along with that of other pop artists who worked with candy, as an art gallery. Then eventually that idea evolved into why don’t I also sell all this unique candy I’ve been finding. The ideas just kept growing, until it turned into the retail spaces we’re known for today. The vision has always been to merge pop art, fashion and pop culture with candy. It’s an evolving concept. We started in New York in 2001, and now we have 8 stores. Lifestyle products have been added, we have a candy cafe and bar, a candy event room, spa products, accessories.
Well now I’m dying to know- what is your favorite kind of candy?
I like gummy! I really like Swedish Fish and Gummy Bears. I also love marshmallows. Every once in awhile I’ll crave chocolate, but more often it’s the really sweet things.
What are some of your favorite design elements in the stores?
I really like how “color your world” looks as a section of the store. It’s our bulk product that’s set up in a rainbow array. It’s 7 different colors, “ROY-G-BIV”, basically. I love giving a gift of somebody’s favorite color packaged in a beautiful apothecary jar. I also love the way our lollipop tree goes through the center of the store and feels very grand. Our cake fixture is a fun way to shop for lollipops. It’s a cake with lollipops coming out of the different tiers. I love all of the different candy elements but those are some of my favorites. We’re sitting at gumball tables that were inspired by one of the first art pieces I made, it was a mosaic made from gumballs. The target shape on the tables is actually of our logo.
Your twins, Kingsley Rainbow and Cooper Blue, were born the same week as my son. How has becoming a mother changed your vision for the company?
There’s definitely more I’m focused on in terms of baby products and gifts now. We’re going to do a line of baby clothing with the candy spill [print] that’s more pastel. We’ll do baby bibs, and blankies and onesies. It’s all on its way. We did a partnership with Maclaren for a stroller, and we’re coming out with a new version that’s even more supped up. I’ve been looking for baby products with more color in them, so I’m excited we’re doing that.
Are there any specific area of the business that you turn to your family for advice in?
I do in terms of expanding to different cities, both in America and internationally. They’re helpful in finding where the sophisticated shoppers are, and understanding where the opportunities are. Some cities are better for driving than walking- Chicago happens to be perfect for both. It’s a lot of tourists and locals, sophisticated shoppers on Michigan Avenue, I’m very happy!
What can you tell us about your new Dylan’s Candy Barn foundation?
Dylan’s Candy Bar is a new foundation we launched, I just came from a party we threw in LA, where you can either donate to your favorite animal charities or adopt an animal. We’re developing a lot of products- bowls, leashes, toys as well as gummy candies that look like different animals, as well as partnering with local shelters to get animals adopted.
What do you like to do in your free time? Do you even have free time?
It’s really fun to have stores in places I want to visit. I was just in LA and now I’m in Chicago, next I go to Miami. It’s fun to see all the different shopping areas and people watch. I also love being with my family and my dog Jersey.
I can’t leave without asking about your wedding dress.What was it like designing it with your father?
My dad designed it but he knew some of the features I wanted, like off the shoulder and ruffles. It had a nine foot train with some lace on it. He definitely wanted me to be happy. I wanted to look thin in it, as well as be sexy and elegant at the same time. He worked on it with his team, and I grew up around them so they were all very emotional about it too. He knew I liked the ruching on an angle so he worked that in. It was modern with a twist.
I vividly remember waiting to see the first photos of the dress in Vogue. It was stunning!
We shot that in April before [the wedding] and were actually still fitting the dress at that point. We didn’t release photos from the actual wedding, but there are so many [photos] I like even more.
What advice do you have for other female entrepreneurs?
Stick to your gut! Listen to yourself and your vision. Make time to be creative. Sometimes it feels like you always have to be doing something work related, but I find I’m most creative when I take a jog and come back to it. It’s very hard to be on and be creative when you’re constantly in a business setting.
[Photos By Hallie Duesenberg]