Inside The Pink Retreat
by Jennifer Lynn Robinson
Think Lilly Pulitzer is all about colorful resort attire? It is that – and so much more. For Lilly fans like me, the brand is … well, more than a brand. It is a community populated by affinity groups all across the world. In June, after a Covid hiatus, 500 of us gathered in Palm Beach for The Pink Retreat, a colorful girlfriends’ weekend. This year, The Pink Retreat featured shopping parties, wine tastings, afternoon teas, painting events and other opportunities to make friends, relax and have fun. It is truly a networking story and since that is what my business focuses on, I was all in.
Founded in 2017, the four-day Pink Retreat is organized by Lilly lover Tosha Davis Williams of Nashville, Tennessee. Tosha is not employed by the company, but Lilly Pulitzer is a presenting sponsor of the event. Really, Tosha just wanted to bring online Lilly communities together in person. She was recently featured in Sunshine Spotlight, one of Lilly Pulitzer’s website initiatives. There is even a dress named the “Tosha dress.”
I attended my first retreat in Palm Beach in 2019. It was an incredible experience. I made new friends and landed two clients. Like other affinity groups or organizations, there is something to be said for being around “your people.” In this case, that meant women with the same passion for the brand, who realize it was much more than clothes and relish in Lilly’s positivity, community, and philanthropic aspects. It was a weekend filled with camaraderie, networking, shopping, and showcasing our Lilly fashions. The company got behind the retreat; President Michelle Kelly as well as corporate team members, print designers and other Lilly staff were part of our festivities. We left with new friends and could not wait until 2020 for the next retreat. Of course, we all know what happened next.
During the pandemic, many of us stayed connected in our online communities. Sometimes our conversations and posts are about a new Lilly dress or styling tips. Often, it’s much more than that. These communities support one another through difficult life issues – deaths, divorces, illnesses, and more. Like the country at large, the last two years have seen conversations about Covid, politics, and a racial reckoning. It is not always positive and happy, but the relationships are honest and real.
Lilly Pulitzer, like many brands, has changed based on its expanding and diverse client community. Melanin In Lilly, an affinity group created by Andrea Pugh-Kelly and Ciera Campbell, highlights Lilly lovers of color. Many of the Lilly-loving women of color got together for a brunch during this year’s retreat.
At the 2019 retreat, I met Maxine Lewis and Chanell Lewis Dagesse, an amazing mother- daughter team. In April 2022, they opened The Pink Leopard. Located in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, it is Lilly Pulitzer’s first Black-owned signature store.
Chanell told me, “Being a signature store owner is a dream come true for us. We hope that we can inspire people of all ethnicities, proving that we can all accomplish greatness. We hope that other Black women will continue to live out their dreams just as we have – just how Tosha lived out her dreams when she brought The Pink Retreat to fruition.”
For Chanell, the Lilly brand is about connectivity. “The Pink Retreat has brought together so many women and has created lasting friendships and memories. The sunshine is brighter in Palm Beach when the Lilly community comes together for The Pink Retreat.”
Many states and cities have developed vibrant local Lilly communities. Here, we have Lilly in Philly (started by Barbara Bengston) and I feel very lucky to be part of such a great community of women. We have local activities and events, and a number of us flew to Palm Beach to attend The Pink Retreat.
This community has been so impactful for me, and I was thrilled to be at The Pink Retreat – as were “first-timers.” “Some of our family and friends think we are crazy because of our love for Lilly,” said Valerie Phillips Miller, who lives in Alabama. “I wanted to meet and be with all the like-minded, beautiful people who share my love for the brand! I have met some amazing new friends.”
Trish Conner agreed. “I was very nervous about coming solo, but met the most fantastic women,” she said. “Everybody was friendly and inclusive. There wasn’t a stranger among us. I can’t think of a more beautiful legacy … and it is thanks to Tosha Davis Williams and her hard work.”
The retreat has nearly doubled in size since 2019. There was even a men’s event this year which my husband attended at a golf driving range. Tosha’s husband, James Williams, spearheaded that effort.
Tickets are open to the public but hard to come by. You can join the Facebook group and the mailing list to be the first to know when 2023 registration goes live. You can be sure I will be there.
As Tosha asked us at the closing breakfast at this year’s retreat, “Is your cup full? Did you fill your cup?” The answer is yes.
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