HER STORY
ELLE Singapore|October 2021
TWO YEARS AGO, TORY BURCH STEPPED BACK from THE BUSINESS SIDE to FULLY FOCUS on DESIGNING — and BY so DOING, BROUGHT HER EPONYMOUS BRAND into ITS NEXT CHAPTER
CAROLINE SUGANDA

Since the beginning of Tory Burch the brand, Tory Burch the founder has known she wanted to build something with a purpose, and that she wanted to set up a foundation alongside a global lifestyle brand. No one believed she could do it and she was laughed at when she spoke about it.

Today, perhaps Burch is having the last laugh. In the last 17 years, the 55-year-old has not only succeeded in her dream of building an eponymous billion-dollar global lifestyle brand and setting up a foundation, but has also managed to make her name one that is associated with empowering women around the world.

If there’s anything that Burch taught us, it is that life is always a work in progress. It all started during a career break. Burch has always had a foot in fashion — spending time doing PR and advertising work for some of the world’s top brands such as Ralph Lauren and Vera Wang. When she was offered the promotion of the lifetime, to be the President of Loewe, she turned that down to take a break to focus on being a mom. But that didn’t mean she had given up on her own dreams because it was during this time that she decided to start her eponymous label, despite the fact that she had zero design training. Her dream began to materialise with her first boutique in New York City in 2004, and later solidified when the Tory Burch Foundation was set up in 2009.

During one of the first few interviews as a designer behind her eponymous label, a journalist asked if she was ambitious. At the time she still bought into the idea that women shouldn’t be ambitious and so she shied away from the question. But as a friend nudged about this — as a businesswoman building a global lifestyle company from her kitchen, how could she not be ambitious?

Burch has won the hearts of many women not just with her clothes, but with the lifestyle that comes with the clothes, one that is infused with the energy of New York, full of colour, character and confidence. Everything that bears her name is classic but imbued with a spirit of modern sensibility and the personal style of Burch, whether it is an embroidered kaftan, a broderie anglaise dress or flattering swimwear. Her success is evident with more than 300 Tory Burch stores worldwide.

As Burch built her lifestyle empire, her foundation also grew and strengthened. Apart from empowering women entrepreneurs with low-interest loan and business networks, Burch also sets out to change the conversation and get women to #EmbraceAmbition, a global initiative by the Tory Burch Foundation.

Two years ago, the self-made billionaire let her husband, Pierre Yves, now CEO of Tory Burch, run the business side of things so that she could concentrate on designing full time. We spoke to Burch about life as a full-time designer, how she empowers women through her clothes and her foundation, as well as about life’s greatest lessons.

How have things been now that you’re fully focused on designing?

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