New York fashion designer Tory Burch gets up close and personal with BAZAAR on the eve of her first fragrance and beauty launch. By Sunitha Thayaparan.
New York socialite and fashion designer Tory Burch ventures into the world of fragrance and beauty
There’s an aesthetic that’s dipped in the halcyon daze of sultry Hampton summers and great American values, like family football on Sunday afternoons. A bright, vitamin shot of happy, it’s been captured by NYC socialite, entrepreneur, and mother of six (three boys of her own, three girls by marriage) Tory Burch. The definitive
BAZAAR girl – she’s an alum having done a stint at the magazine early on in her career – Burch slipped onto the fashion radar in February 2004. The brand of preppy bohemian American chic that thrives on pops of colour – orange and pink feature prominently – is now over 80 stores strong worldwide while her fashion line is available in the giants that are Saks Fifth Avenue, Bergdorf Goodman, Neiman Marcus, and Nordstrom, to name but a few. A little bon mot for those who already love the Tory Burch ethos, the chic label is making its way to our shores soon.
Just before the launch of her first ever fragrance and beauty capsule collection, I find myself sitting down to coffee with the icon herself in a luxury suite at the Four Seasons Hotel Hong Kong. In her midforties, Burch moves with the light grace of a 20-year-old. She credits a 45-minute spin class called Soul Cycle plus elliptical workouts for her trim silhouette. Slipping onto the couch, she shares: “I have to say I love Malaysia. I’ve been twice. The first time was in ’87. I was pretty young, in college, and on this thing called Semester at Sea where you literally cruise from Spain to Japan, anchoring at different ports as you do your course work. It’s a great way to learn and to gain international exposure; the world is a big place.” Though she speaks in cool, measured East Coast tones, there’s an underlying warmth to Burch, a juxtaposition that pops up consistently in the course of our chat. “The second time was a little more recent, en route to Thailand, but I expect it’s changed a lot more since then; it seemed really fast-paced that way.”
When Burch talks about her eponymous fashion line that runs the gamut of clothes and accessories, her incredible success story seems a surprise even to her. From cult status off the noughties hit Gossip Girl, where her T-logo made its mark, to a clear nod of approval from the Council of Fashion Designers of America when she snagged the Accessories Designer of the Year award in 2008, to “Oprah love” and endorsement on The Oprah Winfrey Show, Burch’s easy, relaxed style infiltrated the North American imagination with its inherent promise of the good life. Says Burch, “Effortless is a key word in everything I do. When you’re a mother and trying to run your own business or manage a professional life you need to reference a style that lets you feel and look beautiful without having to think too much about it. Between school runs and management meetings, who has the time?” she laughs. And there again, Burch has let slip another cornerstone of the foundations of her brand: family. Case in point, the hit Reva ballerina flat, named for the designer’s mother.
“Certainly, my own family has influenced a lot of the aesthetic of Tory Burch, from
the fretwork you’ll see in the bottle design – that was a huge design element from my childhood, growing up in a country home with all that vintage wickerwork – but more so in the character of my first fragrance and even in the beauty range.” The launch of the fragrance marks many firsts for Burch, including the first national campaign shot by Patrick Demarchelier in her home in the Hamptons, in which she stars. Even the soundtrack is personal, featuring one of her favourite bands: Scissor Sisters.
“It’s literally my childhood, my life, in a bottle. Also it’s kind of a reconciliation of my feminine and tomboy sides,” laughs the petite blonde. “I grew up with three brothers and we lived that classic American outdoor life. Even as my father was always getting us outside, my mother was that quintessential picture of femininity. feminini I wanted to capture both sides, so the fragrance reflects this and vetiver, a scent I strongly associate associat with my dad and brothers brothe is something that comes come across. Women who like lik the brand already will appreciate how vetiver engages with the more feminine accords of the scent and its floral sensibilities.”
With the new beauty range this very Tory Burch aesthetic translates. “Again I wanted something classic yet highly functional, so I went back to my childhood and referenced my mother. Growing up, I remember my mum’s dresser with all its atomisers, potions, and bevelled bottles. I used to climb up as a kid and play with everything. By the end of it,” she laughs, “I’d be a mess, and my mother would sweep me up in her arms and throw me in the bath. But then as I got older, she would come to me, and using her lipstick would add colour to my cheeks. And so the lip and cheek tint was born. I wanted women to have a small but beautifully edited arsenal of must-haves that could take them effortlessly from day to night. From this new launch, easily the scent and the Lip & Cheek Tint in Cat’s Meow are my two personal must-haves; they just take you everywhere.” When her team asked her to empty her cosmetics bag for an insight to her colour preferences, out came many different brands of lipsticks but all with the same pinky-nude shade. “So you see, the beauty range stays true to my personal taste, which has always informed the fashion side of things, g, too. It has to be easy and it has to be chic; there’s a c certain restraint and it appeals to women wh who like things natural.
A FASHIO FASHIONABLE LIFE
“Travel definitely d plays an important r role in my worldview,” reflects Burch Bur as she talks about entering the market in Dubai and embracing the th incredible strength of the women of the Middle East. “It never fails to in inspire and I try to make sure sur my boys travel with me as much as they can. We’ve been to Myanmar and n Peru, which were am amazing experiences, though last summer it was a little more mainstream: Montana and Italy. Dubai was pretty unusual. My first time there was seven years ago with my boys and we did all the things you do in Dubai when you have boys: indoor skiing, sand-surfing, name it. But my second time, I saw a whole different side of Dubai. I saw its depth, the really cosmopolitan aspect, and how that meets the old world and also women entrepreneurs.”
Women feature strongly as an influence in the designer’s life. “I have a great network of women friends who are all in their 80s. I gravitate towards them because of their stories and experience. Across the board, they speak of kindness and treating people well and there’s a similar vein in the sort of women I relate to. It’s part of why I started the Tory Burch Foundation; I learned early on you have to give back. The foundation was always part of the business plan, and some of the initiatives are access to capital, mentorship, and entrepreneurial education. Right now it’s only in the US and applies to businesses outside of fashion, too. We’re hoping to take it global at some point.
“I think what’s always kept me grounded is family. My twin boys are now 16 and my youngest is 12. Here’s a little secret: I’ve never told them who’s older; I figure it keeps the twin competition down to a minimum and while it drives them crazy I’ve said all will be revealed when they turn 21. Two of my girls are launching their own basics label called Trademark; I’m so proud of them. The boys have four mums, really, their sisters report back on Facebook all the time. In the end, it comes down to the people you love; your family,” says the new feminist who doesn’t shatter glass ceilings as much as quietly bend spoons to define her own reality. Welcome to her world. The Tory Burch Fragrance and Bath & Body Collection is available at all authorised Tory Burch fragrance counters nationwide from February 2014.
Burch on holiday with her sons in Porto Ercole
Tory Burch fashion leaps into the fragrance and beauty world
Vacation chic in Mexico
Tory Burch Spring/ Summer ’14 Burch’s parents Buddy and Reva Robinson
The Tory Burch Beauty Capsule Collection will be available in April 2014