Ten years ago, she was an unknown designer. Today, she’s behind a billion-dollar affordable luxe empire. Tory Burch tells us how she did it.
Start by Providing Solutions for Women
“I came up with the idea for our company after I noticed there were pieces missing from my own closet that I couldn’t find anywhere – beautiful, well-made clothing and accessories that didn’t cost a fortune… And when I was personally missing things, it wasn’t just one category. It was a caftan, a bathing suit, so it became a lifestyle concept. Back then, the term wasn’t being used a lot, or maybe it was, and I didn’t know. We launched with over 10 categories and included everything from ready-to-wear and shoes to handbags, jewellery and swimwear.”
“Our brand is not about one woman. It’s about many women of all ages and personal styles around the world. My design team is a diverse group and that translates to our collection. We also keep local preferences and traditions in mind. For instance, we created smaller sizes and lower heels in response to feedback from Asia, and rolled them out globally. And we design special pieces, like an all-white collection in honour of a Brazilian New Year’s tradition.”
Be Daring With The First Store
“Elizabeth Street (in New York’s Nolita) was off the beaten path for retail then, but we didn’t have the budget for a more visible location. I was confident of my concept and wanted to launch with a store from day one. The (quieter) location also gave us the opportunity to try things out. I wanted the interior to feel residential, as if you were walking into someone’s living room. Fashion then was in a more minimal place, so I wanted to go in a different direction and kept looking to British decorator David Hicks, known for his geometric prints and bright colours mixed with pieces from his travels… Now, all our boutiques have that residential feel, with key design elements in each location – printed fabric, brass, fretwork.”
“No matter the season, my parents are always one of my greatest sources of inspiration (her dad was an investor who reportedly lined his suit jackets with Hermes scarves; mum, a former actress whom Burch named her signature Reva flats after). I often look back at photos of them travelling in the ’60s and ’70s in Morocco, Italy and Greece. They are still the most impeccably stylish couple I have ever known.”
Always Give Back
“The importance of giving back was instilled in me by my parents from a young age. When I started the company, I knew philanthropy would be a part of it – social responsibility was incorporated into the business plan. In 2009, we started the Tory Burch Foundation to support the economic empowerment of women entrepreneurs and their families in the US. We offer affordable loans, education, mentoring and network events.” (Earlier this year, Burch also teamed up with the Bank of America to launch the Elizabeth Street Capital initiative, which provides access to low-cost capital to women starting businesses. How awesome is that?)
Her largest flagship is the 9,000 sq ft store in Kerry Centre, Shanghai
Always Have More to Come
“I am so grateful for the success we’ve had so far, but in many ways, I feel like we are just beginning – and that’s key. We have several things to look forward to in the next few months alone: our watch launch (her first, which includes seven vintage-inspired styles – $650-$1,750 each – debuting this month); the opening of our Milan and Paris flagships… There is so much more we hope to do.”
This article was originally published in Female October 2014.