Brands We Love

Meet the Chic French Visionary Behind Ladurée

Meet the Chic French Visionary Behind Ladurée
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Elisabeth Holder, co-president of Ladurée U.S.

Elisabeth Holder, co-president of Ladurée U.S.

Elisabeth Holder is a few things we love: French, a mom (to six-year-old twin boys), and a savvy, effortlessly stylish businesswoman. Her family bought a little Parisian bakery called Ladurée in 1997, and as the co-president of Ladurée U.S., she’s helped skyrocket the brand, crystalize its signature tea-shop-from-our-dreams style, and introduce us all to that bite-size morsel of sweet perfection that is the macaron (we’re addicted). Her knockout design sense is nowhere better experienced than inside the new Ladurée SoHo. She decorated it, aiming for it to awaken all your senses, and it’s a marvel from front (quaint café) to back (salon that’s a dead ringer for an 18th-century ballroom—soaring ceilings, chandelier, and all). Since we’re, well, sweet on her, we were thrilled to chat her up about her design inspiration, creative path, and of course, her personal favorite macaron flavor.

Elisabeth’s intention, when you step inside Ladurée’s jewel-box shop, is for you to feel as if a time machine has shot you back centuries to a quaint French patisserie that, conveniently, has a New York address.

Elisabeth’s intention, when you step inside Ladurée’s jewel-box shop, is for you to feel as if a time machine has shot you back centuries to a quaint French patisserie that, conveniently, has a New York address.

First things first, where did you grow up? “The north of France.”

And does that region influence your style at all? “Not so much—living in Paris and New York have been bigger influences on my style.”

Did you learn how to bake as a child? “I did—I had no choice! Every Wednesday after school I was helping my grand-maman at our bakery in the north of France. I grew up with foodies.”

Mosey up to order and, as if you’ve won the dessert lottery, a candy-color rainbow of deliciousness awaits. At any given time, Ladurée offers between 14 and 18 flavors, adding a new one each month. Since the beginning it has dreamt up more than 130 flavors. Drooling yet?

Mosey up to order and, as if you’ve won the dessert lottery, a candy-color rainbow of deliciousness awaits. At any given time, Ladurée offers between 14 and 18 flavors, adding a new one each month. Since the beginning it has dreamt up more than 130 flavors. Drooling yet?

Behind the counter, pretty packages in a row wait to be plucked for some lucky giftee. “We draw from such a rich DNA of French art de vivre, so our packaging combinations are really endless,” says Elisabeth, who sometimes partners with fashion houses like Lanvin and Emilio Pucci for special packaging collaborations.

Behind the counter, pretty packages in a row wait to be plucked for some lucky giftee. “We draw from such a rich DNA of French art de vivre, so our packaging combinations are really endless,” says Elisabeth, who sometimes partners with fashion houses like Lanvin and Emilio Pucci for special packaging collaborations.

We want the shop to feel like a time machine that wakes up every sense.

— Elisabeth Holder
The finishing touch on each package is a color-coordinating ribbon tied in a luxurious bow that slows the unwrapping process, upping the delicious anticipation factor.

The finishing touch on each package is a color-coordinating ribbon tied in a luxurious bow that slows the unwrapping process, upping the delicious anticipation factor.

What was your family’s relationship to the original Ladurée? “We went there for lunch in Paris every Saturday for years, then it went up for sale, and my dad made an offer. At the time there were only four flavors of macarons—it was a sleeping beauty.”

And the name Ladurée? “It was the name of the original family.”

Did your previous jobs at all prepare you for this path? “I worked in fashion and luxury, and that’s what we are—more than a pastry shop, we’re a lifestyle.”

How does your personal decorating style relate to the design of the shop? “It’s kind of opposite actually—night and day. My style is very modern. We have a loft with loads of art, colorful details, and light, light, light. But you’ll find the same attention to craftsmanship and detail in my home as in the shop with regard to everything—especially tableware.”

Ladurée’s coffee table books are a treasure trove of inspiration, both honeyed and historical.

Ladurée’s coffee table books are a treasure trove of inspiration, both honeyed and historical.

In addition to macarons, Ladurée’s pastry team turns out the most delectable tarts, eclairs, and cakes.

In addition to macarons, Ladurée’s pastry team turns out the most delectable tarts, eclairs, and cakes.

A raspberry delight.

A raspberry delight.

When we bought Ladurée there were only four flavors of macarons—it was a sleeping beauty.

— Elisabeth Holder
There are four seating areas to choose from inside the shop: this light-filled front room, a sexy dining room, a ballroom-style salon, and a dreamy outdoor patio.

There are four seating areas to choose from inside the shop: this light-filled front room, a sexy dining room, a ballroom-style salon, and a dreamy outdoor patio.

What’s the one thing you did that was crucial for building the brand? “Respect the DNA of the sleeping beauty: It was all there already; we just had to recognize it and revive it, so it stays true.”

Do you possess any traits that you feel were critical to your success? “I love people, but really what’s key is putting together a great team.”

Did you ever receive any stellar business advice? “Be open-minded, listen closely, and learn quickly.”

Pass through the whimsical café up front and you’ll wind up in this plush room all wrapped in velvet and animal print. This is where Ladurée devotees gather for farm-fresh omelettes in the morning, delight in sumptuous tea spreads in the afternoon, or linger over dinner and cocktails late into the night.

Pass through the whimsical café up front and you’ll wind up in this plush room all wrapped in velvet and animal print. This is where Ladurée devotees gather for farm-fresh omelettes in the morning, delight in sumptuous tea spreads in the afternoon, or linger over dinner and cocktails late into the night.

“This room was an ode to Madeleine Castaing,” says Elisabeth, who calls the famed decorator a muse. “She was known for her eclectic tastes—mixing Empire accents and leopard carpet, for example. Our rue Bonaparte shop and tea salon in Paris actually used to be her shop, studio, and apartment. She was the Andrée Putman or Kelly Wearstler of her time.”

“This room was an ode to Madeleine Castaing,” says Elisabeth, who calls the famed decorator a muse. “She was known for her eclectic tastes—mixing Empire accents and leopard carpet, for example. Our rue Bonaparte shop and tea salon in Paris actually used to be her shop, studio, and apartment. She was the Andrée Putman or Kelly Wearstler of her time.”

You work closely with your husband and brother—how is that dynamic? “Can I take the fifth? It’s interesting at times. We have the same culture, the same references, but the main advantage is the trust—we all work for the same goal even if sometimes we disagree.”

How did you transition your family from France to the U.S.? “One macaron a day made it easy.”

On that note, what’s your favorite flavor? “Rose always, but I’m like a child and have a new favorite each month.”

With all the trappings of an 18th-century ballroom—those sky-high ceilings, that stuff-of-fantasies decor—the lavish salon sets a dreamy scene for special events, though you can brunch or lunch here too. The design was inspired by Madame de Pompadour, a member of the French court and Louis XV’s mistress.

With all the trappings of an 18th-century ballroom—those sky-high ceilings, that stuff-of-fantasies decor—the lavish salon sets a dreamy scene for special events, though you can brunch or lunch here too. The design was inspired by Madame de Pompadour, a member of the French court and Louis XV’s mistress.

Do you have any cherished family rituals? “We all—the parents, siblings, kids—take a one-week vacation together every year.”

Where’s your favorite place to travel? “Always places I have not been to yet—like Lord Howe Island off of Australia.”

Generally are you a morning person or a night owl? “I am both a morning person and a night owl!”

Style runs in the family: Many of the pieces in this room, including this classic portrait, belong to Elisabeth’s dad, a passionate antiques collector with exquisite taste.

Style runs in the family: Many of the pieces in this room, including this classic portrait, belong to Elisabeth’s dad, a passionate antiques collector with exquisite taste.

Oh so gracefully framing the windows are tasseled drapes from Braquenié, a Parisian maison that worked under Louis XIV and is still active today.

Oh so gracefully framing the windows are tasseled drapes from Braquenié, a Parisian maison that worked under Louis XIV and is still active today.

Throwing light around the grand space is a gilded mirror, also from Elisabeth’s dad. “It’s so great, because I can just go into his storage and pick out what I need!” she says.

Throwing light around the grand space is a gilded mirror, also from Elisabeth’s dad. “It’s so great, because I can just go into his storage and pick out what I need!” she says.

Where would we find you on a Sunday afternoon? “With my twins at an exhibit, a park, or the Ladurée garden for brunch.”

Coffee or tea?Canarino, a Ladurée specialty.”

How do you unwind during those rare off-duty moments? “Yoga and boxing.”

As a working mom, what is your best time-saving tip? “We order all our groceries from Fresh Direct.”

What would people be surprised to learn about you? “I’m an amazing singer (in the shower), or at least I think I am!”

We’re more than a pastry shop; we’re a lifestyle.

— Elisabeth Holder
Picture-perfect, as if it leapt off a page of your favorite childhood storybook, this tea party (and every meal here) uses Ladurée’s signature pastel china, crafted for the company by lauded French porcelain house Bernardaud.

Picture-perfect, as if it leapt off a page of your favorite childhood storybook, this tea party (and every meal here) uses Ladurée’s signature pastel china, crafted for the company by lauded French porcelain house Bernardaud.

Bet you can’t take just one bite! Ladurée’s macaron flavors range from pistachio to tea to black currant to salted caramel.

Bet you can’t take just one bite! Ladurée’s macaron flavors range from pistachio to tea to black currant to salted caramel.

If someone swings by Ladurée for a visit, where else should she stop in the neighborhood? “I love Juice Press, The Mercer, and Le District, the French version of Eataly.”

Where do you love shopping for decor? “I love Monc XIII in Sag Harbor, the store in the Wythe Hotel in Brooklyn, and websites like One Kings Lane.”

Since you’re always on the go, what items are always in your bag? My lipstick, blush, iPhone, hand cream, a rose spray for my hair by Christophe Robin, a mini elixir spray by Caudalie—it is like a shot of vitamins for you face—and a Globe Trotter perfume charge by Francis Kurkdjian.

Are you currently stalking anyone on Instagram? @ladureeus, of course, and @manrepeller and @bonappetit.

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