Candy Girl

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Dylan Lauren, of Dylan’s Candy Bar, releases a new book that is an ode to sweet treats

Reigning candy queen Dylan Lauren, the founder and CEO of Dylan’s Candy Bar, is responsible for awakening the inner child, sparking the imagination and satisfying the sweet tooth of thousands of people. With the guidance and mentorship provided by her parents, legendary fashion icon Ralph Lauren and author-photographer-painter Ricky Lauren, Dylan Lauren realized her dreams by gathering gobs of different candies and installing candy-themed decor at her magical, state-of-the-art candy-centric emporiums. Visitors to the flagship Dylan’s Candy Bar in New York City are treated to the ultimate sugar rush, where they discover everything from the comforting, nostalgic candies of decades past and beautifully wrapped candies from around the world to some of the greatest lollipop, chocolate and gummy collections ever to be amassed.

With her glossy and colorful new book, Dylan’s Candy Bar: Unwrap Your Sweet Life, Lauren merges her love for the worlds of fashion, art and pop culture with her serious passion for candy. She also shares her flair for candy-colored fashion, candy history and trivia, creative decorating ideas implementing candy, candy crafts, candy cocktail recipes and other sugary stuff to inspire readers to incorporate their love for candy into their own lives. Charming, humble and sweet as can be (of course), Lauren shared some candy-coated tips with New Orleans Living magazine, along with her thoughts on living the sweet life in a variety of delicious and vibrant ways.

Dylan, the whole time I prepared for this interview with you I was overwhelmed with cravings for gummy bears and chocolate. Fancy that!

Oh, that’s very funny!

You must have definitely related to Willy Wonka as a child! It’s incredible how you were able to take a real candy fantasy and bring it to life at Dylan’s Candy Bar. Dylan’s is truly sensory overload—there’s candy everywhere! You don’t just grab some candy and run out the door; you want to stick around and take in all the fun. How did you devise this candy-shop-on-steroids?

I always loved retail entertainment venues, like Niketown or FAO Schwarz, and even my dad’s stores. And it’s true, I wanted to have a sort of Willy Wonka experience when I was shopping for candy, so that was what the inspiration was, to make it more of an experience. The average person usually spends about 40 minutes in the store. And every aspect of the store is about living this experience of candy, whether it be music playing in the store featuring candy-themed songs, and the videos on the screens of candy commercials, and there’s candy fixtures all over that you’re shopping under, and we also carry the world’s largest assortment of candy, so it’s really candy everything and there’s something for everyone, whether you’re a sophisticated candy eater or if you’re more into the fun, gummy stuff. We have over 5,000 items available, and our products are constantly changing depending on the holiday and the occasion.

Your new book, Dylan’s Candy Bar: Unwrap Your Sweet Life, which encompasses the whole candy experience, is really stunning and so much fun to look at. You graduated from Duke University with a major in art history, and that creativity really shows in the book.

Thank you! I’m happy with how it came out, with all the colors and the glossiness of it. I just love art and wanted people to really understand the vibrancy of colors and candy, so that’s good to hear. Thank you very much!

Your book has some great ideas about popular candies to enjoy and decorate with around the holidays.

The candies we have for the holidays are fun because some of them are the iconic, basic stuff that people remember. For Thanksgiving, the harvest corn, which is like the candy corn, with the brown, white and orange colors, is popular. And the foil turkeys are sort of a classic thing and so is anything with maple in it. Then for Christmas, it’s all the foils, colored and shimmering ornaments; they’re chocolate but they look like ornaments. Anything with Santa is popular too. I think what people like are the classics they see every year, and I think it has to do with the comfort of seeing them again. And what the book demonstrates is that the theme of the holiday can be decorated, whether it’s decorated with candies that are the iconic designs such as Santa Claus, the reindeer or the snowman, which can be provided with wrappings, designs, foils or candy molds, or decorated with the colors of the holidays. Thanksgiving is a lot of fall-colored candies such as browns, oranges and reds, and for Hanukkah or Christmas it’s blue, white and silver, or gold, red, green and silver. And people love to give candy as gifts. Also, there are so many dinner parties and you want to decorate your table with these holiday candies or put candy on the place settings.

Women love to wear lots of black, especially New Yorkers, but you have always embraced candy-colored fashion, and you write about it in your book.

Exactly. I’ve always worn multiple colors, even in the winter, when most people like the dark grays, browns and maroons. When people have their winter blues, it’s funny, our store is very popular. People will come in the store and get excited about all the color around, so it pervades everything.

I have a candy-colored striped sweater and seriously, I really do feel happy when I wear that thing.

Yeah! Totally! See, it definitely has an effect. I wrote about primary colors in the books. Preschool toys are those colors too; those are good, saturated colors. They’re upbeat and sunny and cheerful. But if you notice sometimes we put our Dylan’s Candy Bar logo on black T-shirts, because this is an adult store, too, and it looks hip.

Did you ever meet a candy you didn’t like?

You know, I’m not too fond of caramel. It’s actually too sweet. It makes me a little nauseous, believe it or not.

Really! I can’t believe that coming from the Candy Queen! Well, does liking a certain candy—like if someone really loves Peeps—say a lot to you about a person?

If someone loves Peeps, they really like Easter, they like marshmallows, they love sticky things and they’re not afraid to get their hands dirty. And I think if someone is afraid to try sweets or doesn’t like sweets, then I’m sort of like, What’s wrong with them? [Laughs] Maybe they’re not comfortable with their inner child or their creative side, something like that.

Tell us about the celebrity bins at Dylan’s Candy Bar.

We have a ton of celebrities who come through the store, and they sign a bin of their favorite candy. They write a little note with an autograph, and we collect them for a sort of “candy hall of fame” called Famous Favorites. People like Madonna and Michelle Obama and Oprah have frequented Dylan’s Candy Bar, and that’s flattering. And people just love seeing what their favorite celebrities like and to see that everyone, no matter who you are, can eat candy and still be cool.

What is one of the most over-the-top, most spectacular products to come out of Dylan’s that you’re really proud of?

I would say the giant topiaries in the store. There have been these 4-foot-tall topiaries made out of different candies, especially at Christmas. Those are amazing and people use them for parties.

You travel and you see some interesting candies in different places.

Yes! We did a whole expo last summer of candies from around the world. We featured Asian candies, candies from Belgium, candies from Switzerland, all over the place. The weirder and more eccentric the candies are, the most interesting they are. They don’t always taste the way people are most comfortable with typical candy. We definitely carry some of the weird stuff. It’s always fun to explore. I sometimes enjoy the packaging more than some of the candies, because of the bright patterns or fabric cloth. But it’s fun to discover the diversity with this world’s taste palates.

It’s refreshing to see someone who’s very healthy and in shape like you out there as a proponent of candy. You hear a lot of negative stuff about candy, but I’m a believer of everything in moderation, and you must believe that too.

Exactly. As long as you exercise, you’re okay. I eat candy every day, but I also eat salads and protein and vegetables and I work out, so I think eating candy is okay.

In fact, you are a contributor to Self magazine.

Yes, I love Self magazine. I am the candy contributor. I write about healthy candy options each month. They’re not really healthy, but with candy corn by the bite, there’s not a lot of calories. Instead of eating a real candy apple or real popcorn, candy corn comes in so many flavors like popcorn, candy apple and blueberry cheesecake. Same thing with jelly beans; they’re five calories apiece and come in flavors like coconut cream pie and margarita, and they’re these bite-size sort of things that can satisfy your taste palate. Then there’s all the dark chocolate–covered dried fruit, like dark chocolate covered pomegranate and açai berry and chocolate-covered nuts. There’s all different kinds of candy treats to help you stay on track with your diet.

Besides the immediate gratification we get when we consume it, how else can candy bring joy to our lives?

I think just looking at it! Looking at the colors of candy and when you decorate with it, and you’re entertaining other people, giving it as a gift. As I wrote in the book, even at a shivah service or a funeral, people eat candy and it makes them happy because it’s comforting.

You must be a very happy person who likes to see other people happy too. I mean, you just can’t be the CEO of Dylan’s and be a grump!

Yes! [Laughs] I think so. And I’ve always had a lot of energy. And color always makes me happy. Great color and eating sweets and the comfort of eating nostalgic foods, all that comes to me through candy.

What do you want to explore and expand in the future with Dylan’s?

We have our flagship store in New York City, and we also have stores in East Hampton, Garden City, Houston and Orlando, and we’re opening more stores, and we’re starting a private label with a lot of things. We have a gumball machine with stripes on it, a gingerbread house kit that is ours. We did the first kind of retailer’s Candy Land board game, and I designed all the characters, so any way we can private label candy, chocolate, gum and lollipops and make it more beautiful, that is what we’re doing. So for Christmas, we’ll have our gingerbread house kit and we’ll have a three-dimensional event calendar, sort of like an Advent calendar with candy in it, plus we’ll have great gift baskets with all our new stuff. It’s really just beautiful packaging and really delicious flavors of chocolate bars and popcorn and just anything you can think of that’s sweet, we’re just trying to reinvent.

You are recently engaged, too. Congratulations! Did your fiancé, Paul Arrouet, incorporate candy into the proposal?

Thank you! And yes, he did! He had a cocktail table and a rainbow candy-colored umbrella set up at the beach and he spelled out on the table ‘You are my “It” girl’ by using Hershey Kisses and our Dylan’s Candy Bar “It” bar.

That’s so sweet. You had to say yes to that!

Yes! [Laughs] Definitely!

Have you been to New Orleans before?

Not yet. I really have to get there! I’ve always wanted to go to New Orleans. I helped with some of the animals after Katrina by donating some money. I’d love to see everything that I’ve read about the city—definitely the French Quarter, the music, some of those places. I’d try some of the fried food, even though I probably wouldn’t like it. [Laughs] All that kind of stuff!

I know in the New Orleans area, the Dylan’s Candy Bar Re-Treat bath collection is available at Sephora, like the Strawberry Licorice Candy Butter Cream and the Chocolate Cupcake Soda Pop Shower Gel.

Yes! In addition to our stores, we also sell the Re-Treat line to Sephora and Neiman Marcus, and we do wholesale some of our products to Macy’s.

Yes, I believe I have purchased your candy here at Macy’s Lakeside. So Thanksgiving is right around the corner, Dylan. What are you thankful for?

I’m thankful that I was able to execute my vision and run a company that makes other people happy, so I’m thankful to the customers who support it and make it successful.

-CHRISTINE FONTANA