Tory Burch's clear vision is setting her path

By Samantha Critchell

Associated Press

Published: Thursday, Oct. 6 2011 7:45 a.m. MDT

Fashion designer Tory Burch is shown in her flagship women's clothing store on Madison Avenue in New York, Tuesday, Sept. 20, 2011. Since the launch of her label eight years ago, Burch has offered a consistent mix of everyday outfits, including printed tunics and tailored trousers, big handle handbags, strategic sequins and ballet flats.

Kathy Willens, Associated Press

NEW YORK — The Tory Burch woman takes something ordinary and makes it extraordinary. She lives 24-7 with effortless ease, elegance and style.

The result: a complete package of intelligence, confidence and wit.

That's the muse Burch created eight years ago when she launched her label. Since Day 1, she has offered a consistent mix of everyday outfits, including printed tunics, tailored trousers, big handle handbags, strategic sequins and ballet flats.

She says it was important to not just think about how this woman would dress, but also how she would live.

Now Burch says she has the privilege of seeing her come to life all over the globe. San Francisco, Nashville, Rome, Beijing and her new Manhattan flagship are among the places she has set up shop. Soon, she'll be in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, and Waikiki, Hawaii.

"I see a lot of it for working moms, but also for women who are younger and older," Burch says. "I love to see how each woman puts her personal spin on it. I love to see how they put it together."

Burch described herself during a recent interview as "a shy person" — one who is still adjusting to media attention — but she'll stop someone on the street when she sees her graphic double-T logo. She says she is so flattered that women whom she has come to respect, even if she knows them by type instead of name, choose to spend their money on her collection instead of all the other things they want. Hmmm, maybe family vacations or home improvements, she muses. "It's very passÉ to think women want to spend a fortune on clothes."

She adds, "Our goal from the beginning was to design the most stylish clothes we could for the least amount of money."

This isn't fast-fashion, however, and definitely not cheap. Burch has found her niche in the contemporary market, with dresses largely in the $300-$500 range and sweaters $200-$350. Her famous flats cost mostly $150-$300.

Burch, 45, staged her first formal runway show last month at New York Fashion Week, attracting all the right retailers and editors. The theme was the seaside French resort of Deauville, which, she says, captures the right mix of polished and sporty. There was a striped sequin cocktail dress, daytime dresses with dropped waists and pleats and knit short suits.

The inspiration came — as always — from her parents and the trips they took. "When I'd look at old photos, everything seemed so optimistic — and chic, and glamorous, and they always looked like they were having fun!"

Now, with so many seasons under her belt and, she hopes, many more in front of her, she just wishes they had taken even more vacations. (Photos of mother Reva and her late father, Buddy, hang on the walls of the Madison Avenue townhouse shop.)

Her parents gave her more than ideas, though. They encouraged her to do her own thing, she says. "They gave me the ability to believe in myself, they gave me early on the confidence to take risks."

Her mother was that chic blonde sitting alongside the catwalk when Burch came out to take her bow at her fashion show.

Burch grew up in Valley Forge, Pa., and graduated the University of Pennsylvania as an art history major. She had an internship at Christie's auction house. Landing a job afterward in the fashion industry wasn't planned, she says.

"I'd say I've surprised myself and the people who knew me then. I had a different style at Penn, I was a tomboy — and I still am a little bit of a tomboy. ... I didn't know this would happen. "

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