Interview: Tory Burch
Designer Tory Burch opens up her home and gives us a glimpse into her New York life.
She is charismatic. Despite her petite frame, you can sense the strength and determination within her that fills the air. She invites the L’Officiel Singapore team into her living room, with its warm orange hues and spectacular view of Central Park. There are shelves and shelves of books, trinkets collected from all over the world, family photos, and on the coffee table, an extraordinary bouquet of peonies. Burch apologizes for the beautiful mess. “It’s not usually like this!” We are here for breakfast and she has prepared a superb platter of pastries and fresh fruit. In her hand, she holds a Starbucks latte brought to her by her assistant. I take a look around; her apartment is full of life and warmth. She shares it with her three sons, Henry and Nick – the 17-year-old twins – and Sawyer who is 14.
The Preppy Bohemian
“I start my day early. I go to the gym; we have a small one in the building. Then I’ll come back and wake the boys up for breakfast. I drop off my youngest at school at 8.10am, then I rush to work.”
Wide shot of the Burch library
Burch and her three sons at Machu Picchu (above) and (below), with her sons when they were younger
Tory Burch, who entered the fashion industry 10 years ago, did not disappoint. In a decade, she has built a three-billion-dollar empire. Her brand is currently available in over 50 countries through 150 boutiques, the latest being one in Paris’ Rue Saint-Honore which opened in June.
“We started out with three people in one room, out of this apartment,” Burch recounts her humble beginnings. “When I got the office space at 19th street six years ago, I was not sure I could afford the rent for the whole floor.” Today, she occupies nearly the entire building. I asked her how she launched her eponymous label. “It was back when they offered me the position of CEO at Loewe US. I was working with designer Narciso Rodriguez, expecting Sawyer at the same time when I already had the twins. It would have been impossible. So I took a few years out to devote myself to my sons and had the idea of creating a brand producing classics with modern elements – kaftans, ballerina flats… It would cater to the active woman who travels. At the time, the term ‘lifestyle’ was not as overused as it is today!” Thus, the preppy bohemian style was born, and continues to thrive today. Today, the 49-year-old single mom reveals five collections each year, has a line of jewelry, accessories, perfume, lipstick, home décor and a new sports line.
Burch in her own library
Commitment and Dedication
Burch has always been inspired by art, having graduated from Art Penn at the renowned University of Pennsylvania, in the state where she grew up on a farm with her parents. Her travels also influence her work; she was most recently captivated by a visit to Japan. “But my clients remain my boss. I pay a lot of attention to what they want.” In 2009, she started a foundation dedicated to empowering women entrepreneurs. “I had always wanted to do it from the beginning but I waited until my company is able to afford it… I did very little to promote because I needed to achieve results first.” Today, the Tory Burch Foundation helps women entrepreneurs with affordable loans through Bank of America and finances education programs to manage small business with investment banking firm Goldman Sachs.
She also supports forgotten talents such as Dodie Thayer, the potter – whose collectors in the ’60s included the Duchess of Windsor, Jackie Onassis and C.Z. Guest – with whom she collaborated to relaunch the latter’s lettuce-shaped dinnerware. Burch is one who is in total control and admits being stronger on her own than with anyone. I ask her what the key to her happiness. “I am an optimist by nature and if my children are happy, I am happy. They are my absolute priority and what matters is that we’re healthy.” She admits dreaming about living in Europe one day even though she loves New York. With boutiques in Rome (opened in remembrance of her late father who passed away seven years ago, and with whom she discovered The Eternal City), London and Munich, this could quite easily come true. What about Paris? She is still trying to understand the French market “cautiously”.
Burch’s home in the Hamptons
As our breakfast comes to a close, she shows me around the house and found the twins studying for exams in the dining room. As it’s time for Burch to go to work, her chauffeur takes us to the Flatiron district where her office occupies no less than five floors of the building. Inside, the décor echoes the atmosphere of her apartment. Racks of vintage clothing occupy the hallway – her constant inspiration. I ask her about Hillary Clinton. “I have a great deal of admiration for her and she was an excellent senator.” Are Americans ready for a female president? “I sure am!” she replies enthusiastically. Is there a recipe for success? “You have got to choose your domain and try not to do everything at once.” Burch is focused on working towards her ambitions, although she admits not knowing what “having it all” really means. Life is, indeed, full of contradictions!
Burch wearing a dress from her Fall-Winter 2015 collection
Tory Burch’s Guide to New York City
- Florist: Dutch Flower Line (www.dutchflowerline.com)
- Cakes and pastries: Sant Ambroeus (www.santambroeus.com)
- Coffee: Bottega del Vino (www.bottegadelvinonyc.com)
- Theater: The Angelika (www.angelikafilmcenter.com)
- Art Galleries: Gagosian Gallery (www.gagosian.com) and Salon 94 (www.salon94.com)
- Antiques: B4 (www.b4decor.com) and BK (www.bkantiques.com)
- Bookstores: Dashwood Books (www.dashwoodbooks.com) and Crawford Doyle Booksellers (www.crawforddoyle.com)
- Restaurants:Indochine (www.indochinenyc.com) and Milos (www.milos.ca)
- Take out: Serafina (www.serafinarestaurant.com) and Kelley & Ping (www.kelleyandping.com)
Backstage at the recent Fall-Winter 2015 show (above and below)
Text by Caroline Suganda
Photography by Clement Pascal