How do you keep a classic and beloved brand fresh and relevant in the mercurial world of fashion? Recently I went inside Lilly Pulitzer Headquarters, aka The Pink Palace, to find out. Come join me as we take a ride into the colorful world of Lilly.
THE LILLY SPIRIT
One rainy gray winter day I wound past nondescript structures in a suburban office park until I rounded a corner and there in front of me glowed a pastel pink building, hot pink Lilly logo splashed across the front and a lime, fuchsia and lemon flowered Jeep parked outside. Inside, candy striped awnings decorated an airy central gathering space. There was even a juice stand, an homage to the company's beginnings.
Yes, I'd arrived at The Pink Palace, aka Lilly Pulitzer Headquarters. It's located in King of Prussia, about 20 miles outside Philadelphia, Pennsylvania -- not Palm Beach, Florida as you might expect -- because in the 1990s a trio of Main Line businessmen (whose mothers and sisters were avid Lilly fans) approached the retired founder and asked to revive the brand. Now 80, Lilly Pulitzer (the woman) acts as an informal creative consultant to Lilly Pulitzer (the company) and its enduring heart and soul. Her mark is everywhere: Lilly quotes scribbled across the walls, photo montages in the hall, a gallery of bold and quirky prints on display. Most importantly her carefree barefoot chic aesthetic imbues every single design.
At Lilly Pulitzer, everything begins with the print. In an impossibly small studio, an equally small team of artists conjures up and hand paints every print (and hides the "Lilly" name somewhere inside). Final designs are then transferred to a computer for production. Once retired a print is never re-used. Check out the "Shop Prints" section of the company's website, to discover each print's inspiration, plus view a closeup that often reveals incredible detail.
As Lilly aptly said: "There will be a moment of silence while our prints do the talking."
A FRESH CUT
The Lilly Pulitzer line stays fresh by cutting in a modern way -- perhaps narrower on the body or lower on the hip -- yet still stays true to the brand. How do you find this balance? Abraham Cruz, Senior Dress Designer / Knits told me that when creating silhouettes he gives free rein to his ideas, but then "filters everything through the Resort Chic lens." Or to put it another way: "Lilly-ify it."
LISTENING TO CUSTOMERS
After hearing so many tales about customers refashioning old "Lillys" into pillows, the company recently debuted a home fabric collection for Lee Jofa. The line captures all the colorful originality and humor of the fashions.
A GREAT TEAM
No matter how strong a legacy, if the current team doesn't deliver, there's not much future for a company. Not to fret, Lilly fans. From the infectious enthusiasm of Design Director Janie Schoenborn, to the talented artists and designers, to the fun and interactive social media program, the future looks pink indeed.
Get a little Lilly for yourself--enter to win a lovely giveaway.
Special thank you to Janie Schoenborn for making my visit possible and to Lindsay Lebresco, Social Media Manager, for making it so informative and fun
"Use the good china for breakfast."