By Deborah Cassell
They say you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, but in the case of retailer Dylan Lauren’s new title, “Unwrap Your Sweet Life,” this adage couldn’t be further from the truth. It is a visually stunning ode to all things confectionery, from front to back.
In her preface, “Confessions of a Candy Girl,” Dylan describes the origins of her obsession with confections, from childhood memories of the first “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” screening to high school flashbacks of Bazooka bubble gum to recollections of college study sessions centered around cherry gumballs.
Over time, candy became more than just the means for a sugar fix for Dylan. After studying art at Duke University, she developed her love of candy as both art and fashion.
In traveling throughout Europe and Asia, “I became a great explorer (of candy, that is), discovering some of the most unique candy stores around the globe,” writes Dylan, who returned home from each trip with suitcases full of sweet finds.
“To me, candy is more than an accessible everyday product we consume,” she further writes. “Candy is an artful masterpiece.”
“Unwrap Your Sweet Life” illustrates that point through colorful photographs of table settings, crafts projects and recipes featuring candy as well as images of confectionery pop art, nostalgic sweets, iconic brand packaging and a sampling of the diverse products sold at Dylan’s Candy Bar. As founder and ceo of the chain, Dylan overseas all five locations, including the 15,000-sq.-ft. flagship location on Third Ave. in New York City.
The candy queen spent almost three years working on her book project, which is meant to capture “a calendar year of candy” or “a trade show in a book,” she tells Retail Confectioner. Much of that time was spent just collecting candy for props/photos shoots, adds the mogul, who calls herself a “visual person.”
“It’s fun to make centerpieces and goody bags,” says Dylan, adding that she is inspired by everything from magazines to party stores to Martha Stewart.
The book is organized by chapters dedicated to seasonal holidays - Valentine’s Day, Easter, Fourth of July, Halloween, Thanksgiving, Hanukkah and Christmas, New Year’s Eve - as well as special occasions - baby showers, birthdays, weddings.
“I love the Fourth of July chapter,” Dylan notes. “It could be cuz I love those colors,” she adds, referencing the traditional red, white and blue that define the national holiday. The section features, among other things, photographs of patriotic mosaics made entirely of Jelly Belly jelly beans.
The book also offers fun candy quizzes, “Brain Candy” trivia and a “Candy Dictionary” defining terms such as “sugar daddy,” “sweeten the pot” and “sugar coat.” And, of course, there is advice on how to unwrap your own sweet life. With its colorful graphics, Dylan’s book has coffee table appeal. Its target audience: anyone and everyone who loves candy, fashion or art, from everyday men and women to industry professionals looking for inspirational merchandising ideas. Starting Oct. 5, it will be available through lifestyle retailers such as Nieman Marcus, Macy’s, Bloomingdales, Lord & Taylor, Barneys, Urban Outfitters and W Hotels as well as book stores and, of course, Dylan’s Candy Bar.
In looking at other titles on the subject, Dylan felt there was a need for a book that really showed what people love about candy and how to use the unique colors and shapes when entertaining.
As a retailer, Dylan’s has always been innovative in showcasing how to entertain with candy; in fact, the store has a dedicated department that does just that.
“We go full force,” Dylan says.
So does “Unwrap Your Sweet Life,” which dedicates numerous pages to holiday and party planning. Suggestions include cornucopia centerpieces for Thanksgiving, Easter basket fillers, candy Christmas wreaths, creepy Halloween treats, tabletop marzipan topiaries, candy-crusted seafood dishes, confectionery cocktails, and candy-coated cookies and cakes. It even offers tips on how to pop the question using Hershey’s Kisses, gummy letters or a Ring Pop.
Decorating with candy allows people not only to look at it, but eat it, says Dylan, adding, “There’s so much you can do with it.”
The former events coordinator should know. Past parties she’s planned include a Valentine’s Day event for a charity called Love Heals, for which Dylan sent out conversation hearts invites in a puffy envelope; centerpieces the day of were made from chocolate roses and red- and silver-foiled hearts, with conversation hearts as confetti and chocolate fondue.
“Everyone loves sweets,” Dylan says. “It’s a fun way to cap off the evening.”
The Confectionery Future
Eating sweets also is a fun way to spend the day. Just ask visitors to Dylan’s Candy Bar, which brings together Dylan’s two best loves: candy and bunnies. Her affection for the latter started with her childhood collection of stuffed animals - rabbits, in particular.
Today, “I have thousands,” she says. It’s no wonder that when it came to choosing a mascot for the Dylan’s brand, “I had to choose the rabbit.”
Not just any bunny, of course, but a chocolate one - the kind that’s synonymous with Easter. A giant Chocolate the Bunny greets shoppers at the NYC location, where they also can buy plush versions.
Dylan also collects candy memorabilia such as M&M’S dispensers and Bazooka Joe-themed items as well as older tokens picked up at antique shows, for example.
“I have a ton of stuff,” she says. “Some are in the store, some are in my house, some are in the office. It is really pop art.” Some even are on display at Dylan’s Candy Bar, where shoppers will find more than just candy.
In addition to apparel and accessories, the chain offers a line of non-edible spa products, including Soda Pop Shower Gel, Candy Butter Cream, Smoothie Body Lotion and Ice Cream Sugar Scrub in scents such as Chocolate Cupcake, Birthday Cake Batter, Coconut Bon Bon and Strawberry Licorice, packaged in aptly shaped containers. In addition to being sold in stores and online at www.dylanscandybar.com, the line has been on display at Sephora.
Next, “We’re coming out with a whole line of stationary and art pieces to be merchandised with it,” Dylan says, adding that it is working on a candy-themed stroller, as well.
The retailer also is in the process of renovating its café, which will feature cupcake seats, for example; the café doubles as a bar at night, as Dylan’s has a liquor license to sell candy-themed alcoholic beverages.
“It’s a very happy place,” Dylan says, describing the store, which is a virtual candyland with its brightly hued ceilings, walls and floors. Like her book, Dylan’s Candy Bar is a confectionery celebration, from top to bottom.
The Dylan’s brand continues to grow and target new audiences. Celebrities are regular visitors to the Manhattan storefront, as are tourists, schoolchildren and locals. The company also operates a kiosk at Yankee Stadium where it sells co-branded baseball products.
In the future, it will expand its reach even further by opening locations in Los Angeles and Las Vegas, for example. The retailer already sells product in Hong Kong, Canada and London, but “my main goal is to open a flagship in London,” says Dylan, who studied abroad in England back in college. “I think it’s the right market.”
In the meantime, the entrepreneur will focus on her book, which she hopes will inspire readers on a creative level.
But this isn’t the end of Dylan’s writing career. The author’s next subject will center not only on candy, but on the other love of her life: Chocolate the Bunny.
Ultimately, “My mission has always been to show lifestyle and not just candy,” Dylan says.
With an eye on candy as art, “Unwrap Your Sweet Life” accomplishes just that.
The relationship between fashion and confections is evident in Candy Couture, a collection of delectable dresses designed and created by six students from the Savannah College of Arts & Design (SCAD).
Inspired and mentored by fashion industry leaders, the students constructed their designs using Dylan’s Candy Bar’s tastiest treats.
Visitors to www.dylanscandybar.com cast their votes for their favorite of the following: Taffy Blossom by Wei-Ting Liao, Fashion Fringe by Eduardo Calvo, Jawbreaker by Jaime Barker, Candiva by Storm Dorris (right), Jolly Ranchero by Julie Tierney and I-Candy by Kashfia Mariam.
Weighing on the results were judges Michael Fink, dean of SCAD and former vice president of women’s fashion director at Saks Fifth Avenue; Paula Wallace, president and co-founder of SCAD; André Leon Talley, Vogue’s editor-at-large; and Dylan Lauren herself.
And the winner is … Jawbreaker by Jaime Barker, who was recognized at Dylan’s Candy Bar’s Fashion Night Out event on Sept. 10. Her winning design will be showcased at Macy’s Herald Square in New York Sept. 9-Oct. 31.
Sign of the Times
Dylan Lauren will be doing book signings at the following retail locations this fall. Stop by to meet the woman behind the Candy Bar.
• Oct. 9, 2-4 p.m.: Macy’s Herald Square, N.Y.
• Nov. 4, Noon-2 p.m.: Macy’s State St., Chicago
• Nov. 13, 1-3 p.m.: Neiman-Marcus North Park, Dallas
Dylan Lauren, Unwrapped
Retail Confectioner: It’s 3 o’clock on a weekday afternoon, and you need a sugar fix. What do you reach for?
Dylan Lauren: Vanilla frosting off a cupcake, a Dunkin Donut, chocolate chip cookies, vanilla chai latte.
RC: What’s the first candy you remember eating as a kid?
DL: I think chewing gum and those little Halloween chocolate bars.
RC: Favorite holiday/season for eating candy? Favorite candy to eat during that holiday/season?
DL: I like Easter - the rabbit and the colors.
RC: Favorite flavor?
DL: Marshmallow or vanilla - I like the vanilla/marshmallow tone.
RC: Favorite color? DL: Turquoise.
All Dolled Up
You know you’ve arrived when you get your own Barbie. Dylan’s Candy Bar Barbie pays homage to ceo and founder Dylan Lauren. The doll even looks like the famed retailer with her long brown tresses and comes complete with hand-held whirly pop and candy necklace accessories.
Before the doll came Barbie’s 50th birthday, which Dylan’s Candy Bar helped celebrate by selling Barbie-themed candies, mint tins, chocolate shoes and other stylish sweets through a year-long promotion. It was toy manufacturer Mattel who approached the retailer with the idea.
“They felt like we were the candy girls, and Barbie’s a candy girl,” Dylan says. The company also has established brand partnerships with the Happy Bunny children’s brand (a nod to Dylan’s love of rabbits), for example, which is celebrating its 10th anniversary. It currently offers candy-colored watches from Plastichic, too. Next up: a collaboration with “The Smurfs.”
This year, the company has teamed up with candy manufacturers to help launch some new branded products, too, such as Wonka Exceptional Chocolate Bars; all three varieties - Chocolate Waterfall, Domed Dark Chocolate and Scrumdiddlyumptious - were sold exclusively by Dylan’s both in stores and online for a limited time before going nationwide. Most recently, Dylan’s was the first store in the country to carry Ludo, LLC’s Bubble Paste - a bubblegum in a tube concept available in strawberry, with grape and sour apple soon to follow.
A Sweet Dedication
Retailer Dylan Lauren was raised to embrace fashion, art and literature. After all, her father is none other than acclaimed fashion designer Ralph Lauren. And her mother is professional photographer and author Ricky Lauren. Dylan pays tribute to both parents in her new book, saying, “I am the luckiest girl to have two heroes to learn from and be mentored by.”
In addition, she acknowledges her brothers, Andrew and David: “Thank you for demonstrating such a passion for my brand and for constantly helping me to think outside the (candy) box.” Her boyfriend, whom Dylan calls “sweeter than candy,” also shares the dedication spotlight.
Move over, Yogi Berra. Watch out, Deepak Chopra. Make room in Bartlett’s for quote-worthy candy queen Dylan Lauren, whose new book is chock-full of memorable, soon to be familiar, remarks, including the following:
• “No matter what age you are, Halloween is a day when diets and portion control can and should go out the window. After all, you aren’t supposed to be your normal self on this day.”
• “Sometimes candy is so beautiful, I don’t even want to eat it.”
• “Every boy should be taught at an early age that the real way to a woman’s heart is through chocolate. (In fact, ‘some women would rather fall in chocolate than in love!’)”
• “I prefer wax lips to botox.”
• “Candy is always in fashion.”