How Tory Burch Turned Her Personal History into a Billion-Dollar Brand

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ach week, we present an influential woman whose career and style has inspired the Silkarmour team to aim higher and dress better. This week’s Silkarmour woman is businesswoman, fashion designer and philanthropist, Tory Burch. 


Inevitably throughout our lives, our parents become a passing source of influence. Being raised by ‘consummate entertainers’ however, including a ‘dandy’ father who lined his suits with Hermès scarves and a mother who embodied bohemian glamour meant that Tory Burch’s childhood was never short of style inspiration. It comes as no surprise then, when Burch struggled to find chic, quality clothing to cope with the demands of motherhood, the decadent memories of her parent’s style came flooding in as inspiration; the catalyst of what Burch would eventually turn into a billion-dollar brand in under a decade.

Storytelling is at the core of the Tory Burch empire, stemming from a desire to “create a new way of looking at retail.” Founded on a vision of ‘affordable luxury’, Burch built her collection of tunics, printed dresses, costume jewellery and famous elasticated ballet-flats straight from her mental archive of her parent’s style. The blend of clipped, formal clothing with the free-spirited elegance of bohemia produced the brain-child that her legion of customers now calls “preppy-boho”. Flying off her website – and later emptying out her first store on launch day -  the Tory Burch brand is now positioned at the core of American style, offering the housewives that Burch aimed to serve, the same stylish luxury that socialites look for. The turning point however was the Reva flat, launched in 2006. Named after Burch’s mother, the elasticated flat shoe, finished with a gold double-T medallion made Burch as a household name in American fashion; selling 250,000 in its first two years, totalling at 5 million sales by 2013.

Woman of the Week: Tory Burch

Although fashion is yet to shake-off it’s cut-throat stereotype, Burch has risen through the ranks with grace and decorum largely down to her effervescent personality. “It was ingrained in me to be gracious” says Burch, a trait that didn’t go unnoticed by the media. “Tory is not…monstrous…she is an incredibly liked, well-respected woman” Cosmopolitan’s editor Joanna Coles said, “people love her”. Like the eternally happy colleague who always lifts your spirits, Burch wanted to ensure that the feel-good factor her brand offered would be extended to her retail space. Complete with orange lacquered doors, mirrored surfaces and colourful, patterned furnishings, her 160 stand-alone stores and 3,000 global boutique spaces all serve as an extension of her personal taste and home-environment. "You feel like you’re getting a peek inside Tory’s house," says Matt Marcotte, former executive VP of Burch’s global strategy, "It’s warm and happy."

Woman of the Week: Tory Burch

Shop the look: Slim-fit Floral Shirt by Sophie Cameron Davies | Quellio Wave A-Line Midi Skirt by Rose & Willard | Twinning Crystal Scarf by Beatrice Jenkins | Pink Pearl Pendant by ORA | Swift Lipstick Red Heels by Chillerton | Fenestra Garnet Ring by House of Demu | Fenestra Topaz Ring by House of Demu | Small Drawstring by Baia

Naturally the transition from home-maker to working mother fuelled Burch’s mission to empower women within her own company. “I wanted to create an environment where people feel that they can have a family life and a fulfilling career” Burch told the Business of Fashion, “we want people to have the flexibility to take their children to the doctor or watch them in an after school basketball game”. A balanced lifestyle is at the core of the corporate culture, built on the simple philosophy that a great personal life “breeds creativity and happiness”.  Today, 80% of Burch’s 2,500-strong workforce are women, proving that an office environment in which  “it’s ok to leave for a lacrosse game or a doctor’s appointment” can exist. Going one step further, Burch paves the foundations for supporting female entrepreneur’s future projects with The Tory Burch Foundation; providing micro-loans, mentoring, grants and retail consulting since 2009. “Women have a much more challenging time getting loans, being in the workforce, having confidence; so many things” Burch said in discussion with NY Magazine’s The Cut, “but when you help a woman, you help the world, and I truly believe that.”

Although Burch burst on to the fashion scene in a seemingly instantaneous stroke of luck, she is adamant to brush off the label of her “overnight success”. Although it was her website that got 8 million hits after a day-time feature on Oprah, she focuses on “the 20,000 hours we put into building the business up to that day” and the years of learning prior to her launch, to educate herself on the business; “we may live in an age of instant messaging, instant gratification, and Instagram, but there is no way to short circuit the path to success. It takes hard work, tenacity and patience.” Now closing in on a $3.3billion valuation, and leading new ventures in funding female-founded companies, it would seem the All-American woman has achieved the American Dream.

Career Golden Nuggets:

On being patient: “It’s good to be patient. It’s good to really make sure that you’re doing something that is good not only for the future of the company but also the employees as well…. Every decision we make is about the long-term and about how it will affect the brand five, ten years from now.”

On having thick skin: “Being a sensitive, thoughtful person opens you up for criticism and being affected by it. I heard and tried not to listen to a lot of negativity.”

On remaining optimistic: “One of the best pieces of advice I ever received from my parents is to think of negativity as noise.  Believe in yourself and what you’re doing.”

On aiming high: “If it doesn’t scare you, you’re probably not dreaming big enough.”

Woman of the Week

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