This is a repost from a piece I wrote in February 2014 after having the privilege of attending a special press event for design bloggers to celebrate Lillian August's 25th Anniversary. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the person and the brand, here's a brief introduction.
It all started in the early 1980s when Lillian started selling crafts and patchwork quilts. Tapped by Imperial Wallcoverings to design a wallpaper line with an iconic American Country look, her career soon took off. Shortly thereafter Lillian moved to New York City to continue to build on this success and to begin the search for a retail location for her home furnishings and textile business, and would end up calling tony, Westport, Connecticut home. The store opened and a family business was founded. The year was 1987.
Since then, under the leadership of her two forward-thinking, visionary sons, Dan and John Weiss, Lillian August, the brand, has become a trend-setting resource for designers, homeowners and all design enthusiasts. There are currently 6 Lillian August stores, 3 of which are in connecticut;The Flagship store - The Norwalk Design Center, the South Norwalk outlet store, and the newest member of the family in Greenwich. There are also stores in New York City and in Los Angeles. Each location carries many notable brands as well as her own, the Lillian August Signature Collection, and as well as one she recently introduced for Hickory White, which is available throughout the United States. Over the years the Lillian August brand has become synonymous with unique home design and home furnishings.
After meeting Lillian and touring her flagship store in person I wanted to get to know more about the woman behind the brand. I was thrilled when she agreed to an interview.
JGR: What inspires you everyday?
LA: My family and my family business inspire me everyday. I work in a wonderful field with the word home in it - Home furnishings. That inspires me!
JGR: You're now celebrating your 25th Anniversary. Where do you see your company and your brand in the next 25 years?
LA: We're ever changing and ever evolving. Entrepreneurship means constantly reinventing yourself and your brand. We want to continue to bring the fashion and design sensibility we love to all and to keep adapting and changing to accommodate the needs for home and fashion.
JGR: What's your favorite trend of the moment?
LA: Today's decorating is so expressive and a mix of many periods and styles. It's the era of the interior designer. People want an extremely well put together home but very few can pull it off themselves. This is hard to do if you are not a professional. We offer our clients access to the best designers.
JGR: What's your least favorite trend at the moment?
LA: Beige fabric for a quick fix.
JGR: What's been your company's greatest obstacle?
LA: I don't think we've had many. We've been very lucky. When I think about the ability to change and adapt, we've done a pretty good job. My sons have been the driving force for us. In most family businesses the company's founder is generally the decision maker but I let my sons make the decisions and our stores really reflect their visions - the excitement of their generation. They have reinvented retail that way. I have been very open to their visions. I hope we are a family of good listeners. That's most important in business and in life today.
JGR: When did you realize that you'd really arrived, that your name Lillian August was synonymous with a well respected brand?
LA: When I had a quilt business I was asked to do wall coverings for Imperial which became #1 in sales. That is what launched my career - it was the early 1980s. With every wall covering book I needed come up with a fabric line and that established me and my brand in the textiles industry. I literally started on my kitchen table. Laura Ashley was so popular back then and I used that as my model. Our store in Westport was right down the street from theirs and both stores were so tiny. We had some clothes in the front of ours that I designed. They were made in Canada. When Joanne Woodward came in and bought some fabric I knew we were going to make it! Westport was very good for us. We were in the right place at the right time.
JGR: If you could do anything in the world, or be anything in the world, other than what you're doing now, what would it be?
LA: I don't have any dreams. Work is fine - I believe in hard work. As a divorced woman I always encourage women to think of themselves financially - you never know when you are going to have to support yourself. I love the people I work with.
JGR: What's the one thing you can't live without?
LA: The New York Times. I must read it and I must read it outside. I live in Florida during the winter and I make a point of getting outside with my paper. I get my vitamin D that way! The rest of the day I'm inside and working or in front of the computer.
Lillian also told me that social media is very important to the company and the brand. She hopes that they soon will be a destination site for information as well as shopping. An ecommerce site is set to be launched momentarily. "We live in an age where people want information so desperately and they want to have the right information. We have that information and we have a lot of it, and we will find a way to get it all out there for them."
If you live in the area or plan a visit to the area we hope you will stop by one of the locations. They are fun and magical and will appeal to all of your senses. Whether you are looking for something small or something large, Lillian August has just what you are looking for. Please visit theirwebsite for more information on their lines, products, stores and in-house designers. They also have a wonderful digital magazine filled with ideas to further inspire you!
I'd like to extend a heartfelt thank you to Lillian for taking the time from her hectic schedule to talk with me.