Dylan Lauren, daughter of Ralph Lauren and a sunnier, hipper incarnation of Willy Wonka, comes to the door of her bayfront suite at the Standard Hotel wearing a red camp dress and no shoes. She has just gotten off a plane, so she doesn’t have her usual stash of gummies and gumballs and cookies to share.
Instead, you check out the room service menu together. It’s a little after 5 p.m., but she’ll risk tossing and turning all night to join you in a cup of coffee. She also orders a cayenne pepper-spiked lemonade that’s such a trip on the palate she offers you a sip so that you can see for yourself.
“I’m sorry I don’t have any candy right now. I always have something in my purse,” says Lauren, 38, founder and CEO of Dylan’s Candy Bar, a growing chain of candy stores that takes the joy of rainbow-hued, sugar-coated excess to arty, fashionista heights.
In early December, she’ll open a Lincoln Road outpost in the former Ghirardelli space. Expect ample opportunities to gawk at celebs. The flagship store in Manhattan has lured Michelle Obama with her girls, Oprah, Madonna, Janet Jackson, the Olsens, the Beckhams, Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes with daughter Suri and endless others.
Because Lauren is fresh out of goodies today, she offers fruit from the bowl that greeted her at check-in. Nah. Not the same.
“I know. I always at least have the white half of a black-and-white cookie,” she says.
Because she eats the black part first?
“Because I only like the white part. Really, just the frosting. I’m not such a chocolate person. I’m more into anything red. Red licorice, red gumballs, red Swedish Fish.”
Lauren, 38, knew early on that she wouldn’t follow her dad into the fashion world, but she nevertheless treats candy as couture. Can’t decide what confections to buy from a collection of more than 7,000 brands and styles from all over the world? Dylan’s Candy Bars offer by-appointment personal shoppers who can help you come up with show-stopping arrangements and gift baskets.
“I majored in art history at Duke, and when I was bored, I’d go to the supermarket at night with my friends to cruise the candy aisle. I started collecting candy for the packaging and design and started using wrappers to do collage art. I’d make mosaics with candy. I thought I wanted to be an artist who worked with candy. And I wanted to showcase other artists who worked with candy. That evolved into the candy stores that to me are more like galleries of candy that merge art, fashion and pop culture,” she says.
The first store, which opened in Manhattan in 2001, offers 15,000 square feet of carbolicious fun, complete with a café serving floats, sundaes, an endless variety of Belgian hot chocolates and more. There are also stores in East Hampton, Houston and Los Angeles.
Dylan’s Candy Bar products are carried by some Bloomingdales, Saks Fifth Avenue, Neiman Marcus, Nordstrom, Sephora, Alice + Olivia, Urban Outfitters and Juicy Couture stores.
“We’re growing,” Lauren says. We’re looking at expanding to some hotels, to airports. Candy never gets old. I do see candy as fashion: the colors, the textures, the designs. And we’re branching out to other products like clothes, stationery, iPad cases, bags.”