Tory Burch admits she loves a good quote. At the welcome dinner for the launch of the T-Monogram pop-up in Singapore, where we met her this April, she borrows from her favourite poem Ithaca, with its opening lines, ‘As you set out for Ithaca / hope that your journey is a long one / full of adventure, full of discovery.’ During a talk at a design school the next day, she quotes her mother: “You can never learn anything with your mouth open.” The American designer has a few quotable quotes of her own too. “Doing good is good for business,” she says while explaining the raison d’être of the Tory Burch Foundation or that, “The smartest people are the ones who know what they don’t know,” as she expounds the merits of cultivating mentors and a strong team.
Burch has gone on to build one of America’s most successful fashion and lifestyle companies and was even declared the second youngest self-made female billionaire in America by Forbes in 2013. Her journey began in 2004 when she launched her eponymous brand—one with an unwavering cult following around the world, including India—from the kitchen table of her Upper East Side apartment while juggling the role of a stay-at-home mother. She did all this without formal design or business education, though her previous stints at Vera Wang, Ralph Lauren and Loewe held her in good stead.
While the label has come to be associated with an haute hippie and preppy-chic aesthetic that thrives on its maximal love for colour, the pandemic allowed Burch to reset. She talks about Tory Burch 2.0, its new creative direction, and why women around the world just can’t get enough of her designs.
On Going Back To The Drawing Board
Having her husband, Pierre-Yves Roussel (formerly of LVMH), assume the role of CEO at Tory Burch LLC has allowed the designer to focus singularly on the creative process these last four years. “You don’t often get the opportunity to say, ‘Let’s look at how things are done and start again’,” she says. The pandemic further honed her perspective, leading to what she calls “a complete reinvention.” While she had always looked at travel, art and culture for inspiration, the lockdowns made her look within. “I started to think about how I wanted to design rather than be dictated to by the past. I got into the essence of why I started the company, who we are today?” she muses. “It’s a very different way of designing—almost like how I was designing instinctually when I first started.”
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On Her Best- Selling Accessories
When Oprah Winfrey called Tory Burch ‘the next big thing’ back in 2005, the website crashed with 8 million new visitors, and they had to restock their tunics, espadrilles and totes. Then came the Reva ballet flat (named after the designer’s mother) in 2006 with the Double T logo. It gained a sold-out stamp immediately. The accessories are the stars of the show here, coveted items in shopping carts worldwide. “I have always been a handbag and footwear person. So they have been critical to all our collections,” Burch explains.
“When I started the company, I knew a logo would be important. I wanted to create something unique and bold that could become a design element rather than a traditional logo. After many iterations, we landed on our Double T, a geometric motif inspired by Moroccan architecture and David Hicks interiors.” It’s one they constantly innovate with now. And since 2021, they’ve introduced the T Monogram handbag collection in an all-over logo jacquard inspired by Pennsylvania Dutch quilting.
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On Making Luxury Accessible
What works in Burch’s favour is the promise of covetable pieces at accessible prices. “Women want to have things that last. So, I am always thinking about designing timeless, luxurious pieces that you will wear for years to come,” she says. “But we also want our customers to be surprised with the incredible quality and design and feel great about what they’re paying for it. It’s the concept of less of everything and everything with more integrity.”
On Empowering Next-Gen Female Founders
Burch asserts that she started the brand to eventually launch this foundation. Tory Burch Foundation came to life in 2009 and empowers women through low-interest loans. They have already given out close to a hundred million dollars and are in the process of setting up a new fund. “Women get less than 2 per cent of venture capital, even though they are an amazing investment and pay back loans at a 98 per cent rate.” The fellowship program works with 50 women every year to nurture their businesses. “The online tools and seminars have assisted over 15,000 people write business plans,” she smiles. The ultimate idea is to create a community of women that can support and understand each other through the often-challenging (but also rewarding) journey of being an entrepreneur.
On What Women Want
“When people wear our collections and say they feel more confident, it’s the biggest compliment.” This drive to make women feel more powerful dictates Burch’s design sensibility. And while Burch is proud to be an American brand, she admits they’re not American-centric. “I think my father thought he was European,” she laughs. “But on a more serious note, I am intrigued by women globally who can show me new worlds and ways of being.
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