With Summer approaching and women beginning to shed black, for more bold, colorful clothing, the timing couldn’t be any better for Lilly Pulitzer’s (http://www.lillypulitzer.com/) first Manhattan store. Pulitzer, who was born to a socialite family in Roslyn, New York in 1931, can trace her fashion roots back to when she eloped, in 1950, with Peter Pulitzer, the grandson of publisher Joseph Pulitzer. The couple who made their home in Palm Beach let a bohemian lifestyle (entertaining in the kitchen, walking barefoot down Worth Avenue – scandalous in those days!), and these influences are clear in almost every piece of clothing that bears the Lilly Pulitzer name.
Peter owned Florida citrus groves, and with produce from the groves Lilly opened a juice stand during which she inevitably dirtied her clothes. In a smart move, Lilly asked her dressmaker to design a sleeveless shift dress made of bright, colorful printed cotton to blend in with the juice stains. The resulting dress became her “Classic Shift Dress.”
It didn’t take long for Lilly’s dress to become more popular than the juice she was selling and so began her career as a fashion designer. Jackie Kennedy was one of the first celebrities to sport one of Pulitzer’s dresses (also known as “Lillys”), and when the First Lady was featured in Life Magazine wearing the Classic Shift Dress it became an instant fashion sensation.
Lillys remained popular through the 1980s, after which Pulitzer retired to spend more time with her grandchildren. Lucky for us, her line was revived in 1993 and though she is not involved in the day-to-day administration of the company, she is a creative consultant, approving new designs, fabrics, and collections.
This Tuesday, Lilly Lovers (the trademarked name the company uses to describe devoted customers) all over Manhattan can rejoice that they no longer have to trek to Southampton, as the company opens its first Manhattan store at 1020 Madison Avenue. The 3,600-square-foot space, which used to house a kitchen design showroom, is done up in signature Lilly style with white walls, a pink carpeted staircase, pink-tinted mirrors, bright pink couches with green and orange pillows, vases of cala lilies on tables of jewelry, sunglasses, shoes and handbags and framed vintage family photos of Lilly herself. Best of all, in an ode to her heritage, there is a juice cart so shoppers can sip while they browse.
Jon Patrick, the company’s visual director said that if Lilly lived in New York, on Madison Avenue, this would be her residence and that this store tells the story of the brand, but with a residential, elegant, inviting feeling. Adding that the fixtures were specially designed to blend in, and not compete with the liveliness of the clothes.
There are currently 20 company-owned stores nationwide as well as 75 licensed stores that carry the Lilly Pulitzer collection with retails for between $65 and $348.