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Catching Up With Tory Burch

It was less than a decade ago when Tory Burch launched her eponymous label, but it feels like that emblem has been ingrained in our Gossip Girl-laden

It was less than a decade ago when Tory Burch launched her eponymous label, but it feels like that emblem has been ingrained in our Gossip Girl-laden brains for eternity.

Now that the age of the ballet flat is falling behind us, what’s next for the brand? Burch sat down with Fashionista to talk fashion, business and how not to be a flash-in-the-pan.

Fashionista: It feels like the rise of “ Tory Burch, The Brand” was pretty fast. One season your signature shoes appeared in the pages of Vogue and the next season they were on every woman’s feet. Did you feel like it was a quick climb up the ladder?

Tory Burch : The collection was actually years in the making. Before we even thought about launching, we had done so much research on both the creative and business sides. We launched the collection as another option for women. Prices in fashion were so high at the time and I wanted to offer something that was beautifully designed, well made and accessibly priced.

Every season, my team and I work really hard to control prices and maintain quality while pushing the collection in new directions. We have been extremely fortunate that the industry and our customers have been so supportive of us.

Your customer ranges from high school graduates to grandmothers. Why do you think your pieces have such a broad appeal?

I wanted to design a collection that was cross generational. I wanted pieces that my mother or my stepdaughters could wear or looks that you could hold on to for years. When we’re putting together a collection, I constantly ask my design team, “Would you wear this?” The design team is made up of real women—different ages, different shapes and different styles—so all that personal input is invaluable. 

The Fall 2010 collection was really “cool” in a way we haven’t seen from you before. (Those leather cargo pants were to die for–definitely on our list for fall!) What was your inspiration, and why is it important to evolve the brand from a design standpoint?

Our customer is evolving, and we’re evolving ourselves as consumers, so the collection has to expand and grow. I think it’s natural for any company.

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When designing fall, we kept thinking about the kind of girl you see in art galleries in every city. She has an effortless way of dressing, of mixing color and texture in unexpected ways. She has a tough, utilitarian edge but with feminine details. Our colors and prints were inspired by Picasso’s Mosqueteros exhibit and Gerhard Richter’s abstract paintings.

A lot of young designers struggle to achieve two things that seemed to come to you easily–strong branding and the ability to let your aesthetic evolve. How do you approach these two elements of your work?

Everything we do from top to bottom has to be on brand and true to us no matter what is happening elsewhere in the market. If we don’t feel 100% confident in something, we keep working on it until it’s right.

Business has to grow organically. Things have to happen at the right time and in the right way. Before we do anything new we do the research. That’s not to say we haven’t made mistakes, but fortunately they’ve been ones that we were able to quickly resolve and learn from.

The business side of fashion is something that a lot of designers don’t really think about much. You’ve been smart about seeking outside investors but not overreaching, either. To that end, do you have any advice?

It’s a combination of careful decision-making and patience. Long-term relationships have to be the right fit both commercially and culturally.

What’s next in the world of Tory Burch?

We’re continuing to evolve and expand the collection from ready-to-wear to accessories and jewelry. We launched eyewear last year and are now going to be offering optical looks as well. As a brand, we’re now thinking globally—we just opened our first two stores in Asia, in Japan and the Philippines, and are planning to open more in the next few years.