How Lilly Pulitzer stays fresh for a new generation

A piece of Lilly Pulitzer apparel is immediately recognizable; its vibrant prints and inimitable energy have been delighting customers for 60 years. President Michelle Kelly joins this episode of Retail Gets Real to talk about how the iconic Florida brand stays relevant and uses “the love of Lilly” to bring people together.


When Lilly Pulitzer launched her eponymous brand in the 1960s, she created a sense of fashion that was fun, whimsical, confident and optimistic at its very core. “People still want those things,” Kelly says. “While the fashion has changed, the time has changed, the way we deliver product to customers has changed, some of those fundamental reasons for why Lilly makes someone smile are absolutely still relevant today.”

The brand works to capture and create a sense of community around an emotional connection. Customers are more than points of data — they wear Lilly for important moments in their lives, and act as true ambassadors for the company. The recent “For the Love of Lilly” campaign, launched as part of its 60th anniversary celebration, saw customers around the world sharing their personal accounts of how the brand has touched their lives.

“We hear a lot of stories from our customers how maybe they were going through a transitional time in their life and needed something to give them more confidence,” Kelly says. “We don’t have the traditional marketing funnel that many brands will talk about. We have these stories of connectivity and community and meaning, which makes it a little bit more challenging but so much fun.”

When Kelly joined Lilly Pulitzer in the early 2000s, the company was completely wholesale; it has since opened its own stores and collaborated with brands including Pottery Barn and Target. The brand recently announced a second collaboration with Target for the fall.  “We get new problems every day, both as retailers and as brand manufacturers and designers,” Kelly says. “It all comes back to serving the customer and finding new ways to really exceed her expectations.”

Listen to the episode to hear about more how Lilly Pulitzer keeps finding ways to bring customers together, along with Kelly’s advice to people at the start of their careers.

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