TORY BRUCH'S SURVIVAL SKETCH-BOOK
Forbes Indonesia|December 2020
Amid a luxury fashion apocalypse, one of the century’s greatest entrepreneurial retailers (and one of America’s richest self-made women) brought us deep inside the battle to save her brand.
DENIZ ÇAM

AFTER seven long days and sleepless nights in March, Tory Burch’s impeccably decorated library in her red-brick home in the Hamptons officially became a war room. Pierre-Yves Roussel, her husband and the chief executive of her eponymous fashion company, claimed the patterned green couch. Across from him, Burch—the company chairman, clad in leggings—took the desk by the window overlooking their seven acres. The couple barely stepped outside the room for three weeks.

“One day went into the next, and one week went into the next,” says Burch, who left her Park Avenue apartment with a small suitcase on March 6, thinking a quarantine would not last long. “I don’t think we had a break for a solid month. It was a very scary time—2008 happened, and we saw our business change overnight. But this was nothing like 2008. This was much, much worse.”

Luxury fashion is fickle even in the best of times. The coronavirus has been an especially virulent pest. Stores around the globe shut down amid stay-at-home regulations. Chinese travelers—whose purchases account for some 30% of luxury-goods sales in Europe and North America—put away their travel bags. J.Crew, Neiman Marcus and Brooks Brothers all filed for bankruptcy. Revenues at Gucci parent Kering and LVMH, Roussel’s former employer, fell around 40% in the second quarter. Ralph Lauren sales tumbled by two-thirds.

Burch and Roussel realized quickly how dire the situation was. Within weeks, they were closing many of their 315 Tory Burch stores across the globe, furloughing most of their retail employees and shelving expansion plans, and coping with a longtime employee’s death from Covid-19. They then began formulating new plans to make sure Tory Burch LLC didn’t unravel.

Throughout this disruptive moment for the world, for business and for retail, Burch and Roussel let Forbes ride along on their eight-month navigation of this apocalypse. They’ve had to improvise, shutting stores, rerouting supplies and revamping e-commerce efforts, all in the hope that the business, which generated almost $1.5 billion in revenue in 2019, with a profit margin Forbes estimated at 11%, could survive. “We didn’t know how we would be able to pivot and be agile,” Burch says. “The unknown was so difficult.”

But jumping into the unknown also offers lessons, both good and bad, on how to pilot through a monsoon, at a time when shoppers are wary of leaving home and the threat of deadly disease lurks in every public space.

Burch had a fairy-tale childhood growing up in a grand old home in Valley Forge, Pennsylvania, the daughter of a former actress and a financier, both of whom prized dressing well. Upon graduating from the University of Pennsylvania in 1988 with a degree in art history, Burch moved to New York with a passion for fashion. She worked for Zoran, a Yugoslavian designer who was her mother’s favorite, then had public-relations and editorial stints at Harper’s Bazaar, Ralph Lauren and Vera Wang. After she married investor Chris Burch in 1996, the couple built a portfolio of investments that not only helped them financially but also gained them a spot in New York high society.

The first Tory Burch boutique opened in February 2004 in Manhattan’s Nolita neighborhood, run by the couple and based on her idea for an affordable luxury and lifestyle brand. In 2005, the day after she appeared on Oprah Winfrey’s show, the Tory Burch website got 8 million hits. Retail riches followed: That year, the brand hit $17 million in revenue. Two years later it grew to $113 million, its gold T logo inching its way onto the exclusive global list of luxury badges.

Then came troubles at home. In 2006, Burch initiated the end of her marriage; the divorce was finalized two years later. Legal trouble arrived in 2012, when Chris started his own fashion company, C. Wonder, which Burch claimed was informed too much by the premise of the brand they had launched together. They settled in early 2013, when Tory Burch LLC had $800 million in sales and 54 stores—and Forbes first declared her a billionaire. Chris stepped down as a director and sold most of his 28% stake to new minority investors General Atlantic and BDT Capital for $650 million. Burch describes her very public divorce as one of the toughest periods in her life.

The next year she began dating Roussel, who as chief executive of LVMH’s fashion group oversaw global brands such as Céline, Givenchy, Kenzo and Marc Jacobs, and was a special advisor to LVMH’s billionaire founder, Bernard Arnault. Burch had met Roussel in 2012, when LVMH briefly expressed interest in investing in her company. For about four years, Roussel split his time between New York and Paris. The couple wed in December 2018 at Burch’s home in Antigua, a renovated estate that once belonged to heiress, horticulturist and fashion icon Bunny Mellon. “We got married, we wanted to live together and wanted to be in the same country,” Burch says. So she approached Roussel with a plan: What if he became the next CEO of Tory Burch? It took a bit of convincing, but he agreed. “Even before the pandemic, working together was a question mark,” Roussel says. “Obviously, I come from a different world, different culture, different continent.”

Continue reading your story on the app

Continue reading your story in the magazine

MORE STORIES FROM FORBES INDONESIAView All

LONG BET

Pandu Sjahrir Bets on Unicorn IPOs on the Indonesia Stock Exchange

9 mins read
Forbes Indonesia
April 2021

Japan: the Land of the Rising Stocks

The Japanese equity market is the 3rd largest in the world and responds to global economic conditions more sensitively than other developed markets. Many international investors still associate investing in Japanese equities with “Japan lost decade “ and the narrative of Japan as a country with no growth and a stock market that chronically underperformed the US and even European equities. The coronavirus pandemic has done what seven years of Abenomics could not: push Japan’s Nikkei 225 benchmark above the 25,000 marks for the first time since 1991.

2 mins read
Forbes Indonesia
April 2021

Indonesia to Establish Electric Battery Corporation

Indonesia is gearing up for establishing an electric battery company to meet the country's prospective development of electric vehicles including motorcycles, cars and buses. The State Owned Enterprises Ministry has been preparing a holding company, Indonesia Battery Corporation (IBC) that will build a battery industry for electric vehicles, which was expected to be completed in the first half of 2021.

2 mins read
Forbes Indonesia
April 2021

Room for Recovery

RedDoorz books growth amid pandemic

5 mins read
Forbes Indonesia
April 2021

Infrastructure Review

The World Climate Change Conference, COP26, will be taking place in November 2021 in Glasgow, Scotland. Following a period of US indifference to such global discussions as espoused by its predecessor, the new administration's decision to immediately re-join the Paris Accord will help to bring a stronger emphasis and commitment from major global economies to the concrete actions which are needed to address the impacts of climate change on the world's ecosystem. A strong delegation is expected from Indonesia to set out what has been done towards its commitments to cut back carbon emissions as well as to help shape the discussions for future actions.

2 mins read
Forbes Indonesia
April 2021

Researcher - Adi Utarini

Professor Adi Utarini is an Indonesian public health researcher fighting dengue in Indonesia. She worked with the World Mosquito Program (WMP), a joint initiative between Monash University and Gadjah Mada University research team, and has successfully utilized Wolbachia bacteria to fight dengue fever disease - one of the country's major health problems. There were nearly 96,000 infection cases in 2020 in Indonesia with 661 fatalities.

1 min read
Forbes Indonesia
April 2021

Credit Card Killer

Millennials were shunning plastic and supposedly wary of consumer debt. AFFIRM ’s MAX LEVCHIN saw a way to repackage buying now and paying later for younger folks—and it’s made him a billionaire.

7 mins read
Forbes Indonesia
April 2021

Sjamsul Nursalim Clears Wanted List

The Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) decided to stop its investigation on graft cases surrounding Bank Indonesia Liquidity Support (BLBI) that named Sjamsul Nursalim and his wife Itjih Nursalim as suspects since 10 June 2019.

1 min read
Forbes Indonesia
April 2021

EV in Indonesia–Execution is the Key

Indonesia is rapidly becoming the citadel of Electric Vehicles (EV) in the Region. The media has been abuzz with news of leading car manufacturers like Hyundai and Toyota exploring to set up their EV factories in Java and, of course, the on-again-off-again news of Tesla setting up their EV battery facility locally.

3 mins read
Forbes Indonesia
April 2021

Agrarian Reform in Cities: Options by the Government

Agrarian reform is a goal of the government since the promulgation of the agrarian law of 1960. The agrarian reform concept has also expanded, it's now beyond the redistribution of farms to the farmers but also land to the non-farmers. In cities like Jakarta, farmers are certainly not an essential subject. Instead, illegal houses and illegal occupancies that create slum areas are more problematic. Those are people who live in a building on a land plot that he does not own or cannot prove legal ownership. Never-ending legal disputes involving many parties claiming land ownership are a huge problem to be resolved.

2 mins read
Forbes Indonesia
April 2021
RELATED STORIES

Asuntos de familia

Toda saga tiene un relato, pero la historia de éstas, sin duda, las trasciende. Han conseguido perpetuar un modo de entender su vida, articulando una envidiable manera de concebir los negocios y dejando una huella crucial en el mundo de la creación.

8 mins read
Harper's Bazaar en Español
Noviembre 2020

DEFYING THE STATUS QUO

Since the late 1960s, the Defy has been Zenith’s go-to recipe for a progressive take on watchmaking. WatchTime takes a look at the current state of the Swiss brand’s collection.

7 mins read
Watch Time
May - June 2020

RAÍCES

Influenciada por su herencia cultural, Supriya Lele transforma sus diseños en nuevos preceptos de feminidad.

2 mins read
L'Officiel México
No. 73 Mayo 2021

Outsized ambitions

Ricardo Guadalupe, CEO of Hublot, took a Swiss watchmaker that was only known among a select few and transformed it into a larger-than-life phenomenon. Here’s how he did it

5 mins read
Gulf Business
April 2021

DIGITAL LOVE

The year’s maiden trade show, the LVMH Watch Week 2021, was presented to us in the comfort of our homes

10+ mins read
World of Watches
Spring 2021

WHEN ONLY THE BEST WILL DO

Two Maldivian resorts that are out of this world

2 mins read
Business Traveller Middle East
March 2021

A Match Made In Rome

The scents we wear define us. But some brands are taking this concept even further by introducing layering fragrances that alter the entire experience

2 mins read
Tatler Singapore
March 2021

‘COVID-19 SPED UP EXISTING TRENDS IN THE MARKET'

Jean-Christophe Babin, CEO of the Bvlgari Group, on the impact of the pandemic on the luxury sector

5 mins read
Forbes India
March 12, 2021

Tory Burch's Survival Sketchbook

Amid a luxury fashion apocalypse, one of the century’s greatest entrepreneurial retailers (and one of America’s richest self-made women) brought us deep inside the battle to save her brand.

10+ mins read
Forbes Africa
February - March 2021

Caroline Hu

New York-based, China-born designer Caroline Hu launched her eponymous label in 2018 and quickly became famous for her romantic dresses in sophisticated fabrics, which earned her the inaugural Business of Fashion China Prize and an LVMH Prize nomination in just two years. She was also recently selected as one of 10 Asian Designers to Watch by Fashion Asia Hong Kong. Popular demand has led Hu to expand her range for the first time this season—her designs are now stocked by retailers like Moda Operandi.

2 mins read
Tatler Singapore
February 2021