Torys Hideaway by Michaela Cordes | 2nd December, 2022 | Personalities
Ocean blue is one of her favorite colors – per- haps this is why Tory Burch, the woman behind one of the world’s most successful fashion and lifestyle brands, found her dream home on the Caribbean island of Antigua. GG met with the power entrepreneur for an exclusive interview. A conversation about healthy ambition, achieving your goals and what to pack for a getaway to an island.
Her meteoric rise as a fashion executive and creator of one of the biggest global fashion and lifestyle empires for affordable luxury has turned Tory Burch into a true entrepreneurial super- star with more than 350 boutiques in 39 countries. On top of that, the successful business leader has made it her goal to support other women with her Tory Burch Foundation, offering help and expertise to those starting their own businesses. And when there’s a bit of time left in her busy schedule, the mother of nine children and stepchildren travels to the Caribbean and relaxes for a few days at her island home.
At the iconic residence originally built by Bunny Mellon, the pool is located in an inner courtyard.
How did you find your beautiful house in Antigua? Did you have a special relationship with the island previously?
I never planned to buy a home in Antigua, but you could say it was kismet. On a family holiday a few years ago, I visited the Mellon property with my mother, Reva, and sons Henry, Nick and Sawyer. I knew the home would interest my mother, who is an avid gardener, as Bunny Mellon was. As soon as I arrived, I was struck by an immediate sense of calm – it was almost as if I’d been there before, and I knew I wanted to return again and again.
What emotions connect you to your Caribbean home today and what inspired you while you were remodeling it for your family?
How do you improve on perfection? You don’t. Bunny had perfect taste, and it was subtle; she mixed humble and refined, antique and new. When lemons fell from the trees, she liked to leave them exactly where they landed. There was nothing frivolous about the house – it was all balance, beauty and integrity. I wanted to respect Bunny’s vision while making small up- dates to accommodate my family. We added a pantry to the kitchen and transformed the guesthouse into a den for our sons; between me and my husband Pierre-Yves, we have six, with my three stepdaughters. My friend Daniel Romauldez came in to make those changes, and Miranda Brooks helped me revive the gardens.
How would you describe your company to someone who – as unlikely as this sounds – wasn’t familiar with it? What makes it unique?
Empowering women is integrated into everything we do, from the foundation to designing collections that instill confidence. When I hear women say, ‘you make me feel like I can face anything, I feel powerful wearing your clothes’ – there is truly nothing better.
It all began 18 years ago when you opened your first boutique on Elizabeth Street in Downtown Manhattan. Today the whole world knows Tory Burch, and Forbes Magazine listed you as one of the most powerful women on the planet. Looking back – what were your biggest challenges?
There have been countless challenges since I started the company in 2004. Early on, I experienced the stress of being a working parent – I had three boys under the age of 4 – and I had a difficult time speaking up and truly owning my ambition. I encountered plenty of naysayers as well. My vision was to create a global lifestyle brand so I could start a foundation for women, and so many people doubted me. When I pitched the company to potential investors, I was told repeatedly never to use “business” and “social responsibility” in the same sentence. But I was undeterred – and always went back to the advice my parents gave me: “Negativity is noise.” So much has changed since then; today I am extremely happy that businesses are not considered innovative if they aren’t purpose-driven.
What would be your most important advice for women who are starting out, who want to create their own brands?
It’s important to establish your values early on, and every decision you make will feel intentional and purposeful. Trust your intuition, embrace your ambition, and have an incredibly thick skin! Resilience and grit are necessary qualities for any entrepreneur. People will say “no” to you a million ways, but you have to keep saying “yes” to yourself.
Your foundation helps women build their own businesses. What aspect of the Tory Burch Foundation makes you particularly proud?
The numbers speak for themselves: The women in our Fellows program outperform the average early-stage company in the U.S., and 30% have reached $1 million in revenue, a sign of a sustainable business. After participating in our Fellows program, our entrepreneurs go on to raise more venture funding, and they are staying in business far longer than the average small business. These women are inspiring – many of them are single mothers, they work multiple jobs and they’re active in their communities. I am incredibly proud to support them and help them follow their dreams.
Could you describe a typical day in the life of Tory Burch?
There’s no such thing as a typical day! I try to stick to a morning routine – I usually wake up around 6:30 am, do a quick workout and get to the office by 9:00 am. I often stay until at least 7:00 pm. We just had our spring 2023 show, so most of my time was spent in the design studio and atelier putting the finishing touches on the collection Now, it’s on to the next; we’re always working on multiple collections. An average day also includes back-to-back meetings with various teams, from merchandising to PR, creative, marketing, sales, the foundation, and more. By the end of the day, I can’t wait to relax at home with my family and my dogs Chicken and Slim.
Personally and professionally, you’ve achieved so much! Is there anything you still want to accomplish? Personally or professionally?
My dream is to help people everywhere live in full color with character, beauty and confidence. There is still so much more I want to do; we are rapidly scaling our impact at the foundation, and I am constantly thinking about how our collections can help women express their individuality and feel confident.
As this issue is dedicated to travel, what do you pack for a week on a Caribbean island?
I live in our tunics and caftans whenever I’m in Antigua. The silhouette is effortless, chic and unbelievably comfortable. One of the first pieces I designed in 2004 was a tunic, inspired by a vintage piece I found in Paris. At the beach, I wear them over my swimsuits, but there is something so elegant about dressing up a tunic or caftan with metallic sandals. When I was a kid, my parents both wore caftans to entertain at home in Pennsylvania. I always pack a few pairs of sandals, a sun hat and sunglasses; we just launched 100% recycled aviators that I can’t stop wearing.
Last question: Which dream destinations are at the top of your bucket list? Can you name three?
I’m so excited to travel, it’s difficult to choose just three places! I would love to go back to India for a few weeks, and it’s been years since I traveled through the Middle East. I’m also eager to visit Japan again; we just launched our new fragrance collection, the Essence of Dreams, with Shiseido, a process that was done almost entirely online during the pandemic. It would be wonderful to visit their head- quarters and meet more of the team in person.