A peek at the Dylan’s Candy Bar pop-up on the third floor at Holt Renfrew on Bloor Street West
Who knew candy could be so chic? Well, I suppose Dylan Lauren did, even at the age of five when a viewing of Willy Wonka and The Chocolate Factory inspired her lifelong dedication to sweets.
Dylan’s Candy Bar, which opened in 2001, is well-known to candy connoisseurs as the largest candy store in the world. With popping colours and vivid displays, the über-fit entrepreneur has found a way to marry her love of art with her love of candy, resulting in the all-time sugar high.
Now, the New York City-based store is spreading its reach across the border with a pop-up store at Holt Renfrew just in time for the holidays.
In honour of the happy partnership, Dylan was in Toronto to help unveil the department store’s ever-exciting holiday windows and we had a quick chat about her vision, her favourite treats, and that other Lauren – her dad, Ralph – all over a bar of “Everything But The Kitchen Sink”. —L.L.
FLARE: Why candy?
DL: I love candy. I’ve been a candy/sugar-junkie, you know, since I was younger. To me it’s a lot about, not just the taste, but the colors of candy. I see it like art. The gumballs, the gummy worms, the lollipops – it’s very beautiful, and I guess having grown up in fashion and seeing colors and rainbow palettes, and becoming an artist myself – I do a lot of art with candy like mosaics and decoupaging – I think candy lends itself to so many mediums besides just [food]. For me this is a like a hobby to design the packaging and the fixtures so they look like sculptures.
FLARE: The packaging and store interior really do help round-out the whole experience…
DL: My goal is to make people feel like a kid again and also feel like they’re in a pop art gallery. My inspiration is Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and I love that feeling like you’re a kid in a candy store, you know. You’re in the set of [the movie]. Everything is oversized, and we have 5 stores now, but, um, New York just went from 8,000 to 10,000 to now 15,000 square feet and we added a third floor with a bar and a café, so it’s another part of the candy world.
FLARE: You come from a very fashionable family, with your father being Ralph Lauren, how does that lend itself to the business?
DL: Just having an entrepreneurial dad and brothers – David does advertising and marketing for Polo and my brother Andrew’s in film. They’re all very creative. They pay attention to the details of packaging – you know, some people are doctors and lawyers in their families, and my family’s all artists. My mom’s a photographer so growing up [I] paid attention to color and packaging. Also just wanting to merge fashion and pop art and pop culture with candy has been my mission and I feel like I’ve been exposed to a lot just going to fashion shows and traveling with my dad and Polo.
FLARE: So they were obviously very supportive when you first started?
DL: Yeah. I think my dad got it. He got that it was going to be a Disneyland of candy, like a big venture and not just a little dinky candy shop. A lot of business types that aren’t creative types didn’t understand, like, “Oh, okay, how are you going to make any money on five cent Bazookas?”, but I was like, “No, it’s gonna be a retail experience and sort of fun and like F.A.O. Schwartz.” So, my dad got it because he does that in his stores. It’s more about being in a setting. [At Ralph Lauren stores] if they’re selling winter ski resort clothing, the whole set design of the store looks like they’re in Aspen, you know? So, being able to capture that experience with candy is what I’m trying to do. I call it “eatertainment” or “retailtainment”, like an experiential store. We play candy music, there are candy stairs and the wallpaper’s all candy—it’s like very [being in] a gingerbread house. The average customer spends about 40 minutes in the store.
FLARE: Is that sort of the most rewarding part? Is having the customers in the store and watching them experience it?
DL: You know, I don’t like to be in the store when there are customers, it makes me a little crazy. I’m happy they come, but to me it’s such art that I’m like, “don’t break the lollipop!” It makes me a little crazy because I’m so into the merchandising and making it look perfect that if one lollipop is coming off the lollipop tree, and [customers] start moving things around I’m like, “Oh no!” But, I’m happy we’re doing well and people are liking it and…that they get it.
FLARE: Where do you see it going?
DL: I want to expand here. I want to open in Canada, definitely. I want to open in Europe and Japan. Um, just growing into the different lifestyles, you know, like spa products, which we’re selling in Sephora now, and clothing. We do kids’ birthday parties and we did a wedding with candy. We also have a bar in New York, a candy martini bar, so we’re doing like adult parties now.
Anything we can tap into with candy is my goal. You know, trying to take over the world with candy!
Photos: Courtesy of Holt Renfrew