You can’t spend more than a few moments in Dylan Lauren’s presence without being swept up by the burgeoning retail mogul’s enthusiasm — especially about her growing chain of Dylan’s Candy Bar sweets emporiums.
But don’t call those shops “candy stores,” as Dylan, the daughter of fashion icon Ralph Lauren, is quick to note. Her stores are selling “much more than just candy. We’re about lifestyle and fun and using candy as part of an overall part of peoples’ lives,” said the younger Lauren, sitting down to chat about the official grand opening of her latest outlet at 445 N. Michigan.
Along with just about every kind of candy one can imagine, the store is jam-packed with clothing, tote bags, travel accessories, stuffed animals and other items — all featuring a candy theme.
Dylan Lauren has been obsessed with candy her entire life — much more than her fellow family members. “They like candy, but it’s not a big thing for them. I’m the one who always loved it,” said Dylan, who joked about her return from studying abroad in college.
“Most girls would come back with their bags filled with jewelry or clothes or accessories. I came back with my luggage jammed with candy!”
For Lauren, candy is a lot more than just a treat; she’s been making art out of candy for years.
“I made picture frames out of candy — and then shellacked [them] — to give as gifts for friends. I love making collages out of candy wrappers,” added Lauren, who pointed out that the glass-topped table we were sitting at, with its hundreds of gum balls in a circular pattern, was something she had designed.
Given that Lauren maintains such a petite, in-shape figure, one had to ask how she does it.
“Very simple. I work out like crazy! I love sweets and I love sugar and I do eat a lot of it, but I work out religiously and obviously eat healthy as far as my regular diet — fish, chicken, lots of veggies,” she added.
In addition to officially launching Dylan’s Candy Bar Thursday evening (which has been quietly open for some time), Lauren also participated Wednesday in a book-signing for her “Dylan’s Candy Bar: Unwrap Your Sweet Life” at “my Dad’s store” (aka the Ralph Lauren Polo store at Chicago and Michigan Avenues).
“What I like about the book is it’s not a big coffee-table book. But candy is so visual, I find that people like looking at it for that, but it also shows people how to decorate and entertain and craft with candy. So it shows how we see candy for different occasions. For example there’s a spread in the book on the Fourth of July. There’s trivia about candy history, which is really big in America. There’s candy quizzes.
“It’s a very fun book. Plus in the stores, we refer to it all the time — whether we’re merchandising the store or helping customers with a party or wedding. But it also shows how I see candy for every holiday and special occasion. For example, Easter is my favorite holiday — and I celebrate it, even though I’m Jewish,” Dylan said with a big laugh. “It’s because I most love the candy associated with Easter. It’s so nostalgic with the foil rabbit eggs and the chocolate rabbits. It’s so much fun to decorate the table with all the candies that we have.”
Speaking of rabbits, Lauren has a collection of more than 3,000 of them. “Eventually, several hundred of them are going downstairs in this Chicago store — in a glass vitrine next to our mascot, the chocolate bunny.”
While her signature Dylan’s Candy Bars are the stores’ bestsellers, Lauren noted that the bulk candy tops the list of what customers scoop up in large quantities. “Especially the red Swedish fish.”
As for her dad, Dylan thinks Ralph Lauren “is going to be especially proud of Chicago, our biggest store outside New York so far. He’s very much into ‘Go big, or go home!’ For him it’s all about creating a real wow with a retail experience. Chicago does that. This is a wow with its size and fixtures. It’s a great model for the big city stores we’ll be doing in the future.”
That future includes plans to expand to Dallas and Hawaii, plus heading overseas. “London and Japan — that’s my ultimate dream,” said Lauren — very sweetly, I might add.