Stand­ing out

Sit­ting be­tween the lux­ury mar­ket and High Street, fash­ion la­bel Tory Burch has found it­self in the en­vi­able po­si­tion of tak­ing the best of both worlds. Kitty Go re­ports in­Hong Kong.

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Fash­ion la­bel Tory Burch finds it­self in the right po­si­tion.

Many fash­ion brands are strug­gling to find that qual­ity that will make them stand out in what has be­come a mo­not­o­nous and crowded re­tail en­vi­ron­ment. Some look to her­itage, oth­ers to crafts­man­ship. Some fea­ture ex­otic lo­ca­tions with ev­ery cam­paign. But amid all th­ese as­saults on our sense of style, the US sports­wear brand and its founder and de­signer, Tory Burch, stand out with both fash­ion and busi­ness sense. The pri­vately held com­pany started in 2004 with the Tory tu­nic, a top in­spired by a $6 French flea-mar­ket smock. The busi­ness is now worth an es­ti­mated $3.5 bil­lion. With a stellar per­for­mance and dom­i­nant mar­ket share in fewer than 10 years, many older lux­ury goods com­pa­nies are prob­a­bly be­gin­ning to won­der whether age does mat­ter.

Al­though Tory Burch is not as ex­pen­sive as a true lux­u­ry­brand, it is not as in­ex­pen­sive as a High Street or fast-fash­ion brand, ei­ther. Therein lies the brand’s strong po­si­tion. At its prices, wealth­ier women can choose to wear Tory Burch ev­ery day while oth­ers can as­pire to wear them for spe­cial oc­ca­sions.

The vel­vet flo­ral navy and cream jac­quard group­ing for fall 2013-14 is a great ex­am­ple and hap­pens to be one of Burch’s fa­vorites. The long “Day­ton” coat from this group can be worn to work by a man­ag­ing di­rec­tor over her suit, yet her as­sis­tant could wear the very same thing over a black dress for an evening out. The con­sis­tently best sell­ing Reva flat in this sea­son’s cracked me­tal­lic leather can be worn by day with jeans and a trench or at night with satin trousers and a silk bow blouse, one of Burch’s must-haves in ev­ery work­ing woman’s wardrobe.

The Tory Burch style, which is in­ex­tri­ca­bly linked to its founder’s taste and life­style, is mostly in­spired by the per­sonal style of Burch’s par­ents, Buddy and Reva. Travel, art, mu­sic and cul­ture are also strong influences but not the only ones.

This fall, Burch found in­spi­ra­tion for prints and deep, rich col­ors like muted gold and sil­ver, plum, navy and gray, from the dec­o­ra­tive and cur­sive styles of art deco artists Gus­tav Klimt and Rene Lalique.

Films from all pe­ri­ods also in­spire Burch. Spring 2014 was based on Romy Sch­nei­der in La Piscine, shot on the glam­orous French Riviera in the ’60s. El­e­ments of na­ture were car­ried from fall with drag­on­flies and scarabs on prints, jew­elry and even shoe heels to spring, where flo­rals and gar­den lat­tices abound ev­ery­where, in­clud­ing hand­bags.

No de­tail is too small for Burch and that ex­tends to her free­stand­ing bou­tiques. They are the most ex­pe­ri­en­tial part of her brand af­ter the clothes and they pre­cisely sum up the life­style that Burch projects.

The brand is po­si­tioned to make cus­tomers feel such prox­im­ity to Burch’s life­style that walk­ing into a Tory Burch bou­tique is like en­ter­ing a beau­ti­fully dec­o­rated sit­ting room of her home in­stead of a bricks-and-mor­tar re­tail shop as we know it.

A trade­mark of ev­ery bou­tique is its vis­i­bil­ity from the out­side but “just so” that there is the de­sire to en­ter yet enough pri­vacy in­side to linger.

Push open the orange lac­quered doors and you are greeted by glam­orous mir­rored walls per­fect for view­ing a bag or hold­ing up a dress, chan­de­liers, lucite fixtures, heavy drapes and muted vel­vet up­hol­stery. There are so­fas any­one will be happy to sink into but also cush­ioned stools to do a quick shoe tryon. The dress­ing rooms are sump­tu­ous, very pri­vate and well­lit. Mer­chan­dise dis­plays are as ac­ces­si­ble as the prices.

Burch started the busi­ness with $2 mil­lion from her then-hus­band, Christo­pher Burch.

“I no­ticed there were cer­tain things miss­ing inmy closet — beau­ti­fully made, well-de­signed pieces like the per­fect trench or a cig­a­rette pant — that didn’t cost a for­tune. Our cus­tomer base has grown since the be­gin­ning — it in­cludes women of all ages and per­sonal styles around the world.”

Burch re­al­ized she was on to a big thing when nearly all of her in­ven­tory sold out on the first day of the open­ing of her first bou­tique, on El­iz­a­beth Street in the hip Nolita neigh­bor­hood of New York City, in 2004. In 2005, Oprah Win­frey chris­tened her brand “the next big thing in fash­ion”.

“I could have never imag­ined our com­pany would be where it is to­day when we started,” she re­calls. “I had a vi­sion, a pas­sion for what I was do­ing and a lit­tle bit of blind faith. I was un­aware of just how much hard work it would be and kept push­ing for­ward no mat­ter what.”

In 2009, Tory Burch opened its first in­ter­na­tional flag­ship store in Tokyo’s Ginza dis­trict. To­day the com­pany has 106 free­stand­ing bou­tiques and is avail­able in more than 1,000 depart­ment and spe­cialty stores world­wide. Prod­uct cat­e­gories are ready-to-wear, in­clud­ing evening gowns, hand­bags, shoes, fash­ion jew­elry, home ac­ces­sories, beauty and fra­grance by the Es­tee Lauder group and eye­wear by Lux­ot­tica.


The “Day­ton” coat can be worn to work and for spe­cial oc­ca­sions.

Queen Anne’s lace minaudiere.

Robin­son printed satchel.

Sa­van­nah wedge san­dal.

Vars shoul­der bag.

Gar­den tote.

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