If Mary Lane’s love for Lilly Pulitzer has sparked your interest in the brand, visit the Winter Park store at 118 N. Park Ave or www.lillypulitzer.com
One step into Mary Lane’s closet and it’s clear what her passion is. From floor to ceiling, the closet — which is more like the size of a small bedroom — is a sea of vibrant green and pure pink, the signature colors of clothing brand Lilly Pulitzer.
Lilly-themed paintings, Lilly stuffed animals, rows and rows of Lilly shoes and enough pink sweaters and patterned sundresses for every day of the year pop out from each inch of the room.
“I wear exclusively Lilly every day,” Lane said. “This is my niche.”
And she isn’t kidding. She said 98 percent of her clothing collection is the Lilly Pulitzer brand, which fills two closets in her home, not counting the items she keeps in storage. She never has, and said she never will, give up a Lilly piece. She’s even has a custom Lilly golf cart and bike, and has named her little cocker spaniel puppy Lilly, whom she dresses in only Lilly-looking sweaters, of course.
Lane’s been wearing the line since she was a little girl, and in the last 10 years has amassed a collection large enough to never utter the common words hated by husbands and boyfriends everywhere, “I have nothing to wear!”
Lane, who is a Longwood resident, said she loves the preppy chic vibe of the clothes, but also the history behind them. Socialite Lilly Pulitzer started the brand, which offers a very Florida-resort-appropriate selection of prints filled with bright flowers, seahorses and palm trees, in 1959 in Palm Beach. Pulitzer wanted a dress made to hide all the juice stains she got while serving at her little juice stand in her husband’s citrus groves. Since then, it’s been a brand that follows the trends, but stays true to its roots, and offers clothing for every age and occasion a woman needs, Lane said. It was a brand made for women by a woman.
“Lilly in general has a very devout following,” Meredith Gardner, manager at the Park Avenue Lilly store, said. “People who love Lilly are passionate about it.”
A Lilly ambassador
Lane stops in the Park Avenue store at least once a week, sometimes four, to check out the new merchandise and to just visit her Lilly family. Gardner has known her for 15 years, and said whenever a new shipment comes in, Lane is happy to stop by and unpack boxes with her to get a glimpse of the new styles and individually artist-made patterns.
When she’s in the store, Lane’s self-proclaimed Lilly ambassador title — she even has business cards — kicks in. She’s quick to show off a new print she loves to a shopper, or to tell someone they look wonderful in the little sundress they’re trying on. Her love and friendliness gets her mistaken for an employee all the time, and she plays along. Lane just exudes the Lilly philosophy.
“Mary is a very positive, bright upbeat person … they compliment each other very well,” Gardner said.
Those at the headquarters of the brand think so, too.
“She is the perfect Lilly lover,” said Jack Allred, who’s in customer service for Lilly Pulitzer.
“We love that spirit,” print and pattern designer Rebecca Allred agreed.
Lilly Pulitzer's ambassador
Longwood's Mary Lane has taken collecting clothes to a new level, indulging an obsession with Lilly Pulitzer brand fashions and becoming the brand's unofficial ambassador.
Part of the brand
She’s taken that love for the brand to the next level by organizing and hosting events for them. It’s not uncommon for designers such as Rebecca to get feedback from Lane about what she likes about the clothes and inspiration for new prints. They all know her at the corporate office, and Pulitzer herself has Lane over to her home in Palm Beach from time to time. She even threw Pulitzer an 80th birthday party on Nov. 12.
“She is a very recognizable piece of the brand,” Jack said. “She’s become an iconic customer.”
Lane said it isn’t hard to live up to the Lilly image. It’s hard to be sad in an outfit that embodies spring and sunshine.
“It gives you an immediate lift,” Lane said.