Could we have forseen 20 or so years ago that reality TV stars would have so much influence on our culture at large? They were pioneers in redefining what celebrity looks like in the 21st century, how you can achieve it, and what you can do with it once you have it. Lauren Conrad is of the class that is responsible, in part, for the modern reality star as we know it — all the potential and possibility tied up in that title, both good and bad. She is the blueprint.
I started my career at MTV, during the height of the network’s reality TV era. Jersey Shore, Teen Mom, and Rob Dyrdek’s Fantasy Factory ruled the airwaves, but the one show that had audiences transfixed, the one that set trends and drove culture more than any other was The Hills. It was massive — the cover of Rolling Stone massive.
Since then, my career has gone from entertainment to beauty and fragrance, which is why when I was asked if I wanted to interview Lauren Conrad for her debut fragrance, it seemed like a full-circle moment too perfect to pass up.
Conrad hit our screens as one of the main talents on Laguna Beach, which was billed as the real-life version of classic scripted aughts TV drama, The O.C. The subsequent, more successful spin-off, The Hills, positioned Conrad and her friends as the real-life, West Coast version of another rich-kid show, Gossip Girl. And just as the main character of that series, Serena van der Woodsen, did from the Upper East Side society, Conrad would soon disappear from the entertainment.
After slowly but surely growing her brand for over a decade with books, fashion, kids products, and beauty ventures, she’s diving into fragrance, with her debut scent, Loved.
Loved, which arrives on HSN July 19, is a classic floral inspired by Lauren’s personal love story with her husband. It bursts open with grapefruit, white tea, peony, and magnolia. The heart of the scent features pink rose, tuberose, and gardenia, with a base of lily, jasmine, and musks. The scent is available as an eau de parfum and a body lotion, as well as a gift set that includes both.
I talked to Conrad about what inspired her new scent, growing multiple lifestyle brands, and what she learned from growing up in the spotlight.
ALLURE: What is your personal relationship to fragrance?
Lauren Conrad: For me, fragrance has always been really sentimental. I think that for a lot of people, fragrance can transport you, it’s so closely related to your memories. I’ve worn a lot of fragrance throughout the years and I love that I can smell something that I wore years ago and it can take me back there.
ALLURE: Are there any fragrances that impacted you or meant a lot to you throughout your early life?
LC: It’s funny, I was trying to remember some of the first scents I wore. It was either Ralph by Ralph Lauren or Clinique Happy. One of those was my first fragrance, I think it was Ralph. When I was younger, I definitely gravitated towards a sweeter smelling scent. Then as I got older, I was more into musks and florals.
ALLURE: You’ve established a ton of successful brands in the last 10 years. Why is now the time to launch your first perfume?
LC: I always wanted to take my time with different categories while growing the brand. I spent years building my apparel and accessories and all of that. I didn’t ever want to rush things.
I also like to get educated on categories. Both the fragrance and beauty spaces are very complicated. It was really just finding the right partner, taking the time to sort of familiarize myself with how fragrances were created, and just have a better understanding of the process.
I developed Loved during COVID so I wasn’t able to actually do it in person, it was a lot of shipping samples back and forth. It was interesting, I really got to learn more of the language. It’s sort of like describing a feeling, and everybody reacts differently to that. So it was a lot of me trying to dig for words on these phone calls where I was like, “this smells sharp” or “this smells bright.” The team was really nice and worked with me and was really patient.
ALLURE: What was your inspiration for the fragrance? What was really important to you when bringing it to life?
LC: I wanted it to represent an important time in my life. The most obvious thing for me was to create a fragrance that transported me back to meeting my husband, falling in love, and starting our family.
When I first started dating my husband, I was wearing a really floral scent. I would always wear it on our dates and, at the time, his go-to drink was scotch. So it was the combination of those scents, or what reminded me of that time in my life.
I wanted to do something that had a nice balance of masculine and feminine notes. I wanted it to feel warm and inviting, and feel like an embrace.
It was just that moment, right? That moment of falling in love, and it’s just something you would kind of look back and, like I said, scent can kind of transport you. So I thought it’d be so nice to create a fragrance that felt like a love song.
ALLURE: Can you tell me about the design of the bottle?
LC: When we were developing the bottle, we went through many designs. I have a thousand different samples that we did in my closet. In the beginning, I wanted the cap to be a rose, and we based the design on a rose in our garden. There’s rose in the fragrance, too.
For the bottle itself, when we were looking for inspiration, I was buying old whiskey bottles, and we ended up with more of a decanter shape. Over time, it became a lot more simplified, but I wanted to feel consistent with the story behind the scent.
ALLURE: How did your time in the public eye prepare you to be an entrepreneur and scale so many businesses?
LC: There’s been so much trial and error in my career, and I was fortunate to start so young. I had lots of time to learn and figure things out.
I think one of the things that I learned early on is just to be thoughtful with your choices, to not say yes to everything, to make each business decision brand extension feel organic and natural, because if it’s forced or if it’s something that you’re not genuinely interested in, or that you’re doing just because you got an offer, I think that your brand becomes a bit inconsistent and the quality of products can suffer. I learned early on to just do things that you’re really excited about, and ask for help along the way.
ALLURE: What do you think the biggest misconception is about someone being in the public eye and launching their own brand?
LC: I think everybody’s a little different. There are people who are really, really hands on, regardless of what category it’s in. Personally, I’ve always been really involved in everything, to the point where I’m actually kind of annoying to some of the team members. Not only do I care about getting it right, I also look at it as a learning experience. This was fascinating to me, this was so much fun. And everybody acted like teachers and was really patient with me.
There are some people who create brands and that’s their approach, and there are other people that are a little bit more removed. It’s tricky to lump everybody together.
ALLURE: How were creating a beauty brand and a fragrance similar or different?
LC: There were a lot of similarities in working on formulation and packaging, but when you’re doing a beauty brand, it’s about a collection. You’re merchandising, you’re editing, you’re creating a large collection of beauty.
With fragrance, you’re typically only releasing one, so I think a lot more goes into the story of that one product and creating the creative around it, as opposed to beauty where they all work together to create a larger story.
ALLURE: What does the next phase of the Lauren Conrad brand look like?
LC: I’m really focused on growth opportunities within the categories that I’m already in. I launched kids a couple of years ago. I have a little co-line that’s all sustainable and has a lot of gender-neutral pieces in there. It’s been a huge focus, design, not just because I get to dress my kids in it and I love it, but it’s just such a fun space. When you work in beauty and fragrance, it’s a lot, it’s a lot more competitive and I think people can be really critical.
I’ve found my happy space in kids. It’s all sunshine and rainbows, literally. I’m looking to grow that a bit. This year, we expanded into home, so I want to continue to grow that. I’m not really looking to start any new projects at the moment, just kind of work with what we’ve got. Sometimes it’s smart to go with what’s working and what you’ve established.
It leaves me a little more time for me and my family. I’m trying to just enjoy this moment.
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