Armed with a business degree from the University of Virginia’s McIntire School of Commerce, entrepreneur Lash Fary created Distinctive Assets 20 years ago to create gift bags and gift suites that have augmented the GRAMMYs, the Latin GRAMMYs, MTV Movie Awards, the Tony Awards and other prestigious entertainment events. Signing up clients to provide their goods and services provides unique, valuable exposure to the elite celebrity world, and the company’s selections are often profiled on TV shows and magazines. In 2017, Fary also launched a line of casual wear, Happiest Tee.
Music Connection: Regarding the GRAMMY Talent Gift Lounge, how many of the items included are submitted for your consideration and how much do you source out?
Lash Fary: We have a full-time sales staff that works year round, and I’d say about 60 percent is sourced by us. .... Once the nominees are announced and the billboards are up all over L.A. and New York, we start getting a lot of calls because the GRAMMYs are on people’s minds.
MC: What are some of the unique items you have included in the Gift Lounge over the years?
Fary: Going back over 10 years ago, we started offering certificates for Lasik eye surgery, and that was really unique at the time. It took two or three gifting cycles for people to get used to it, but it became really popular, with a lot of people redeeming the certificates. The doctor was thrilled. Since then we’ve had all kinds of doctors participate, for services such as cosmetic dentistry, and dermatologists with special products they’ve developed,
Trips have always been very popular and this year we’re very excited to continue our relationship with The Golden Door destination spa, and they donate 100% of their profits to child abuse charities.
MC: How do you promote the philanthropic causes that Distinctive Assets is involved with in the GRAMMY Talent Gift Lounge?
Fary: MusicCares of course is an official GRAMMY charity, so we do anything we can for them. We always provide one of the celebrity gift bags for them to auction off at their Person of the Year event. We always try to have at least one charity that we’re promoting backstage. This year we actually have two, Truth Initiative (which promotes information about the dangers of tobacco products) and the American Heart Association. They are promoting awareness for CPR, and the Gift Lounge includes a home CPR training kit, as well as information on their current campaign to celebrate EMTs and nurses. We always try to help the artists give back, because that is something that resonates with artists.
MC: How has the Gift Lounge changed over the years?
Fary: It’s been an interesting evolution. I’d say over the years as things change, things stay the same. Over the first few years, we were really creating an industry, so to coerce people to do this from a marketing perspective, we initially had to educate clients. We didn’t have this template of success we have now. We had to explain to them how it worked, and why it was going to work. The dollar value of the items certainly wasn’t as high. Over the years, as we’ve started adding trips, the dollar value has sort of taken on a life of its own.
The dollar value amount I don’t think is very important. The artists are at a point in their lives, careers, if they’re looking for a great gift, they’re looking for something they can share with their family, so the price tag is pretty irrelevant. So we don’t really go by the price tag.
MC: How many items are included at the 2018 GRAMMY Talent Gift Lounge?
Fary: About 50. While there’s only so much you can fit in a bag, sometimes we have to add bags. For an Oscar nominee event last year, we had to use three bags. And sometimes there’s an odd-shaped item, like last year for the Oscar nominees—one of the items was a Casper dog bed, which came in this big box, and we had to create a special bag.
MC: Now you have launched your own line of tee shirts, Happiest Tee, which will be featured at the GRAMMY Talent Gift Lounge.
Fary: Happiest Tee shirts are literally the softest, most comfortable shirts I’ve ever worn. I have never come across a better tee shirt. The company I use for the shirts, State & Manor, is a company I’ve been a fan of for years. They have a huge celebrity following.
MC: Are Happiest Tee shirts available at retail?
Fary: Not now. My business partner, Suzanne Corbo, has been an executive in the luxury hotel business for many years, and the concept was actually her idea. So our primary market is to her hotel clients, The Golden Door is carrying them, and we are in the process of designing custom ones for high-end souvenirs. The original concept was to redesign the souvenir for this market. So instead of going away with an ordinary shirt with a hotel logo on it, you will have a truly amazing tee shirt that you actually want to wear. And also celebrate your favorite place, your Happiest place. .... I think it will be a hit with musicians. They’ll be able to celebrate the places they’ve been on their tour.
MC: The graphics are very simple, but will show up well on stage, on TV or social media.
Fary: We have the feminine styles with the script letters, and the masculine ones with bold block lettering. Straight guys that I’ve given the shirts to comment, “Dude, this is the nicest shirt I’ve ever had. The fabrication is high quality and the fit is great, it’s one of the best constructed shirts I’ve ever come across.”
I think “Happiness” is something all of us are looking for these days especially. And I think it’s something that the world needs more of. I was in Las Vegas for the Latin GRAMMYs, and we had the Las Vegas shirts, and so many people said, “This is really what we need right now,” [after the Las Vegas shootings].
I think that resonates with musicians. I find that musicians are really sensitive people in general, and I hope that they’ll want to spread that energy with the world. We do plan to expand distribution. And before we add to our geographic Happiest Places, we’ll add non-geographic Happiest Places, like Happiest at the Beach, Happiest at Home, Happiest in Bed.
MC: Where are the shirts manufactured?
Fary: They are one hundred percent designed, created and distributed in Los Angeles; not assembled in Los Angeles or imported from somewhere else and the tags sewn in Los Angeles. We are very proud of that.