May 22--Dylan Lauren exercised willpower as her eyes wandered to a Dylan's Candy Bar employee who was arranging the new personalization station, where party hosts and gift givers can order customized sweets.
"As I'm sitting here, I'm watching her put the tissue paper in. I'm like, I've got to get out there!" Lauren said from the glass-walled party room on the second floor of her new Michigan Avenue emporium. "Like my dad (designer Ralph Lauren), I'm very involved in designing my packaging and the apparel and the way things look. Roy G. Biv. If I see a color out of place I go crazy."
In a rare departure from the norm, Lauren stays in her chair. She is becoming accustomed to the push-pull of her many roles: Founder of Dylan's Candy Bar. Unofficial ambassador for her father's stable of fashion brands. CEO of a growing, 13-year-old business. Mother of growing, twin babies, born in April.
She has a few tricks up her cap-sleeve cable-knit sweater (Ralph Lauren, of course) to help her manage her passions.
Her Michigan Avenue store opened, partially, in time for the December holidays. But she timed the grand opening celebrations, which her dad and other family members attended last week, to just before the Sweets & Snack Expo, where she shopped this week for new confections at McCormick Place.
She runs a business that requires continual sampling. So she runs -- on the morning of our talk, six miles along Lake Michigan -- "so I can eat more candy," she said.
That's not the only way in which her personal and professional interests could conflict but, instead, converge.
The stores' signature color is turquoise, Pantone 3135, to be exact, which is also her favorite color, as seen on the sweater she wore on this day. Her Manhattan home is filled with blue and white. And she frequently wears turquoise and gold (the color of the Ralph Lauren wedges on her feet). "It's my favorite color combo, but I love all color." She also likes turquoise with Santa Fe-ish antique silver, especially in chandelier earrings, sometimes her dad's and sometimes from a friend's jewelry line, Nathan&Moe.
"I love accessorizing with jewelry," Lauren said, and cites a collaboration with Nathan&Moe on a bracelet with the Dylan's signature candy stripe. "I'm not so much a shoe or bag person as jewelry, and I think it's because jewelry is like candy."
When she dreamed up Dylan's Candy Bar, she envisioned her stores less like a chain than a museum or movie set, one of which inspired her concept.
"I always wanted to re-create 'Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.' I've always been inspired by retail entertainment, whether Ralph Lauren or the Disney Store or Niketown. I always saw candy as art. I wanted to curate the stores as a candy museum, with a lollipop tree and candy cane columns, to create a fun way to shop. I don't just want it massed out."
Her 15,000-square-foot store on the Magnificent Mile stocks much more than edibles; there are candy-print robes, pajamas and slippers, LeSportsac candy-print totes (one of which now serves as Lauren's diaper bag), Havaianas flipflops, T-shirts, travel blankets, neck pillows and stationery.
When the bar and restaurant opens Tuesday, age 21-and-older visitors can imbibe candy-infused cocktails like the Pop Rocks Explosion (Pinnacle citrus vodka, melon liqueur, lime and orange juice poured over Pop Rocks; $12) or spiked milkshakes ($15). Lauren was editing the menu earlier on this day, which will include sandwiches, personal pizzas and salads, plus dessert pizzas ($12), sundaes ($12) and shareables like the 10-scoop, 10-topping "I Bet You Can't" sundae ($40).
The Tribune Tower store joins locations in New York, Los Angeles, Miami and East Hampton. She's opening in airports in Detroit and New York (JFK). A new boutique in Union Square will be the hip, downtown counterpart to the Upper East Side flagship -- "instead of white, everything is black and sparkly silver, sort of like a dance club with candy music (think Maroon 5's 'Sugar'), light-up candy columns and fixtures that change colors -- very hip-hoppy -- and in the Andy Warhol Factory building, so it's pop art."
She's scouting other cities with a lot of walking traffic. "We're selective in that we want cool, cosmopolitan cities." But not so cool that adults don't enjoy the nostalgia of childhood, even after they become parents.
Motherhood hasn't changed Lauren's own unbridled love for candy. She'll continue to partake --"about three handfuls through the day," often Swedish fish or Jujubes -- and allow her children to indulge "in moderation," she said.
Motherhood has, however, posed challenges that she sees as opportunities.
"I've been looking at stores for apparel and everything for babies, and I don't love a lot of what I'm seeing," she said. "I think it creates a market for us to create clothing and toys. We already have a stroller with Maclaren, a candy pattern, that we're relaunching."
Restraint has its place, though, including at this week's Chicago sweets expo. "When I go to candy trade shows, and it's limitless, I have a trick for not eating candy: I put some kind of fragrance on my hands."
It transfers to the candy just enough to serve as a deterrent against gluttonous fistfuls, when a piece or two will do.
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