An interview with Elisabeth Holder Raberin, Co-President of the famed pastry boutique.
The House of Ladurée was founded in Paris in 1862 by Louis Ernest Ladurée. Since purchasing the company in 1997, Chairman David Holder has transformed Ladurée into a global luxury brand. In 2011, Ladurée USA Co-Presidents Elisabeth Holder Raberin and husband Pierre-Antoine Raberin opened the first Ladurée USA boutique on New York City’s Upper East Side. Earlier this year the company launched their Miami Beach boutique, and their first stateside tearoom. Last month we met with Elisabeth at the new Ladurée Soho for a behind the scenes look at one of the world’s most recognizable luxury food brands.
Congratulations on the very successful launch of Ladurée USA. How important is the American market to the expansion of the Ladurée brand?
Every opening of Ladurée is important of course, but when we decided to open in the U.S., my family sent my husband and I to grow the U.S. business, so I guess it is a special attention. The U.S. is a very important market in size and influence, and I remember someone singing if you can make it there, you can make it anywhere….I think it is the American dream.
Ladurée is best known for its macarons. Your many loyal customers know that you purvey a wide range of both edible and non-edible gift items. Please describe the new product development process at Ladurée. What is the commonality and synergy between all the offerings at Ladurée?
Our Paris office is working non-stop to create new ancillary collections, collectibles, and must-haves. They are like trend spotters and think incubators. Always in the spirit of the brand, but incorporating newness. Being flexible when opportunities come along, such as the NUTCRACKER box we are launching in collaboration with the NYCB for their 60th anniversary. A balance of Creativity and Reactivity. We also have the limited edition capsule collection for NY designers and artists such as Reed Krakoff, Will Cotton last year for Miami Art Basel and upcoming Donna Karan…
The Ladurée experience always seems to be both classic and modern, as well as elegant yet whimsical. As usual, your 2014 Autumn/Winter Collection displays all of these qualities. Please tell our readers about the inspiration and goals for your upcoming Tropical Holiday Collection, and the new, collectible Les Yeux, Python, Serpent, and Sonny Angels packaging. How important is quality, innovative packaging to the Ladurée experience?
As mentioned before, every year we present new collectibles, classics with a twist, fun, fashion related items. The upcoming six months are the prefect demonstration of that. Les Yeux [the eyes] are a wink to fashion, as is the python box; Sonny Angels is a cult classic, and the tropical holiday is a twist on your classic desserts. Bringing the pineapple as the centerpiece – a sign of hospitality, abundance and wealth in many cultures. Again creativity is key. We are truly a brand that appeals to all ages, from 9 months to 99 years.
You worked in the fashion industry prior to your acquisition of Ladurée. How does your haute couture experience at companies such as Hermes help you in the culinary world? What are some of the similarities and differences between the food and fashion industries?
I have learned extreme attention to details, flawless service, high quality. As you know in business and life, every experience is a learning one. It is true the luxury world operates on similar codes and most of the time shares the same clientele.
Earlier this year you opened the first Ladurée tearoom in North America in the Soho neighborhood of New York City. The location has already established itself as a mandatory stop on every culinary tour of NYC. How long did it take to find the right location? What was the most frustrating part of the process of opening Ladurée Soho? What is your recipe for success there?
Location Location Location is the first lesson my father taught me. The determining factor was the garden in the middle of Soho. Truly unique and magical . We waited, and, yes, patience is a virtue – the most frustrating part of opening is the construction – it is generally long and unpleasant anywhere. The recipe for success is to be there every day to check every detail, a top tier pastry team, and, again, patience. And a special thank to my partner in life and business – my husband Pierre Antoine Raberin, who is in charge of the development for the U.S.
Ladurée has a strong retail presence at airports in France. Your signature Ladurée carts are a traditional gift-buying stop for many discerning travelers. In New York City you have created the Ladurée Marie Antoinette cart to promote your brand at special events. Has the Marie Antoinette cart been a successful marketing tool? Any plans to launch Ladurée retail carts in airports or other locations in the USA?
Our Ladurée carriage in strategic locations at airports is key in our worldwide expansion. It created awareness as well as offering a great service for people that did not have time to stop by our Paris store. We are planning to use our carriage in a strategic way in the U.S. It is a great tool to create buzz for a short period of time – so far we have used it during the Armory show. Fashion week would be amazing, as well as a location in a department store? Who knows.
You run a large company with a wide range of products. What is the most rewarding aspect of your career? What is most challenging part of the business?
The most rewarding is a happy client, always. The most challenging – making sure they are always happy and coming back.
As you well know, most business owners in the restaurant and food service industries are men. What are some of the advantages and challenges of being a very successful and high-profile businesswoman in this business?
Even though you are right, it is a male dominated world, I keep it neutral and, I must say, as a woman, it is great working in the U.S.
There are Ladurée locations in twenty-five countries. What's next for Ladurée USA and elsewhere?
In the U.S. – LA, Washington D.C. and Chicago come to mind, but for now these cities are dreams, not a concrete future. What is real is our Virtual Store, the Ladurée e-commerce coming for fall, I hope, so our customers can order macarons and other products anywhere in the U.S. It is a huge undertaking, but necessary in this country.
What are your personal favorite pastry, macaron, and savory items at Ladurée?
I eat macarons by threes, it’s a habit: Rose, Orange Blossom and the holiday one, Pineapple, or should I say Ananas…. but shhh it is not here yet.
More images of Ladurée follow. Photographs by Felicia Perretti.