For 60 years, Lilly Pulitzer has been a favorite for summer frolickers in the Hamptons. With a heritage and aesthetic based on the Palm Beach resort lifestyle, the Lilly Pulitzer brand was originally created in the late 1950s and has epitomized resort wear ever since. We can’t get enough of the bright colors (think lots of pinks and yellows) and whimsical patterns. We sat down to learn more about the iconic brand from the Lilly Pulitzer CEO, Michelle Kelly:
Can you tell us about Lilly Pulitzer’s foray into fashion?
We just love the juice stand to fashion icon story! It’s quite a story! This spring, we debuted Lilly Pulitzer, published by Assouline, which tells the full story beautifully — with over 300 pages of history and 60 years of brand legends, it’s hard to boil it down. The short version is that the bright and colorful Lilly was a strong woman with a fearless, brave spirit, who set out to do things her own way. She planted her roots in America’s original resort town of Palm Beach, where she and her
husband owned orange groves. While raising a family, she sought to do more with her entrepreneurial streak. She opened a juice stand on Via Mizner just off Worth Avenue and encountered an unexpected side effect of her juice stand — splashes and spills. She worked to bring a dress to life that would camouflage juice stains. She wanted a simple dress that fell away from the body, zipped easily, was lightly lined, and brightly colored in pinks, greens, yellows, and oranges to hide spills. She wore her shift dress to her stand and received so many compliments that she began to sell her dresses, too. Soon her dresses were outselling the juice. An iconic style was born.
Some of America’s iconic women embraced the Lilly look. Can you tell us about some of them? The book Lilly Pulitzer spills the juice on some of the iconic women and generations of families who have embraced the Lilly, including Jackie Kennedy, various Whitneys and Vanderbilts, and in more recent years we have seen Claudia Schiffer model the Lilly and Gwenyth Paltrow’s goop collaborate with the brand.
How has the fashion brand evolved over the years?
We always celebrate what’s new, embrace our strong heritage, and bring to life what Lilly Pulitzer means for a particular year and beyond. We now offer a full collection of beautiful resort wear, including dresses, sportswear, swim, golf, tennis, accessories and gifts. The iconic shift dress has evolved in many ways and there’re so many varieties, We offer shifts with stretch, shift rompers, the iconic shift shape with a modern fit, soft knit shifts, and so much more.
Can you talk about how the brand became a must-have with the preppy set? The brand grew in the early years when the women who bought Lilly’s dresses at her fruit stand in Palm Beach during the winter months brought their Lillys home, and debuted them across America in the summertime when it was natural for everyone to turn to a shift dress for their daily look. This led to an iconic American style that is truly Lilly and held dearly across many generations.
Social Life fashion editors selected a few of their favorite Lilly items for the summer. Join us in each issue this season to see more of what we love about Lilly.