Self-made Tory Burch presented a strong case for the future of American fashion on Thursday night at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Her appearance marked the in-person return of “The Atelier With Alina Cho” after more than a year, though many more have connected through the livestream. Almost 17 years after setting up his flagship company, Burch has spoken of some of the peaks and valleys not only in his career, but also those brought on by the pandemic. With an estimated $ 1.5 billion business, the designer emphasized the importance of her team, “never being the smartest person in the room and hiring smarter people.” I want to take ownership of our success and celebrate it. But success is not my way of seeing things. It’s a journey and it can change overnight. We have all seen this.
She continued, “Anyone who has a business here knows that something happens every day – a new challenge or a big thing. You just take it for what it is. But you never congratulate yourself thinking that you are. Are here. [Laughs] I don’t know where is here. For me, it’s just a long trip and a great trip. It’s funny. I like to do what I do.
At the start of the pandemic, Burch lobbied politicians, asking for federal help on behalf of the fashion industry. The designer decided to act because no one was looking after the more than 4 million workers who could potentially lose their jobs. “When you think of the people who say, ‘Fashion is a light industry’, it’s exactly the opposite. It’s the heart and soul of America, after Wall Street, ”she said. “We wanted to make sure they had a voice. Also, we were lobbying for ourselves, for real estate and our owners because we are all in an ecosystem. If one group is not doing well, not all of us are doing well. “
Having been inspired for so long by her stylish parents and their travels, Burch said the pandemic break made her realize “there is so much in America that you can be in love with.”
Regarding the current state of consumer spending, Burch said retail is doing very well. “I see and talk to a lot of people and their businesses are doing pretty well. Having said that, it is a scary time. I always think of the possibility of being in a bubble. You do not know. Certainly with the macro environment and all the different things that are happening in different countries at any given time. We have COVID-19 in addition to political and international issues. ” she said.
She said she was thrilled to have one of her runway looks in the “In America: A Lexicon of American Fashion” exhibit now at the Costume Institute not far from a design by Claire McCardell, which inspired her spring line. “Claire McCardell is really the reason that sportswear exists today the way it does. She was one of the first people to put a zipper on a dress and pockets. She took a lot of time. ‘elements of work clothes and the way men dressed and created this freedom for women. I don’t think she really gets the credit she deserves. That’s why I wanted to put her into it. value, ”said Burch, who also funded a new scholarship for further research on McCardell.
Looking at a photo of McCardell’s “Popover” dress, which was accompanied by a potholder that fit in the dress’s oversized pocket, Burch joked, “It’s hard to believe, isn’t it?” The dress sold for $ 6.95 and 75,000 units were sold in the first season. “The interesting thing about her clothes is that they are hard to find because the women wore them in tatters. Couture was inspired by her in Europe. People were looking at her. There was never any question of a price.
“I just find it interesting that people are questioning the impact of American fashion on global fashion. If you think about the origin of sportswear, certainly with Claire McCardell, street[wear] and all the other things that so many places around the world have taken… ”said Burch.
Having thankfully handed the CEO title to her husband, Pierre-Yves Roussel, Burch said she was able to focus more on design and creation. “For so long, I have been so protective of my family and my privacy. I wanted to keep a very separate life. We have a lot of children [nine between the two of them] – modern family, ”said Burch. “But over the past four years, I have invested a lot more in the business. [With] Instagram alone, I wanted people to see what was going on during COVID-19, which wasn’t a happy thing. At first, we lost someone who was very dear to me. We had 300 [freestanding] stores closed for three months. It was something you had spent 16 years building falling apart. There was nothing you could do except people you love to get sick. It was the worst, ”said Burch, adding that no one knew when or how things would improve. “How do we take care of our employees? How do we keep their health care? There were so many things happening to you.
In March 2020, Burch and her husband scampered into her Hamptons home and crouched down, working 18 hours a day from her library. “We had just got married. He moved to New York from Paris and COVID-19 has arrived, ”she said.
On the business side, Burch said the company is doing pretty well and is back on track again. Partly pointing this out to women who want to dream and feel good, she said, “I’ve always been intrigued by how we make women more confident. How can we stand up for something that is not about price, luxury or not. It is a question of quality and beauty. I think people are tired of staying at home. They want to go out, party and enjoy life.
Starting a foundation for women was a boost to building a lifestyle business. Although Burch created the foundation in 2009, she has not spoken about it more publicly than she was five years ago, previously fearing that others might perceive it as marketing. His goal-oriented business plan fell flat with some. Burch said she was “laughed out of the room, especially by a lot of men,” for having a business plan that aimed to change the dynamics for women, Burch said. During fundraising, “I was told very concretely never to say ‘business and social responsibility’, or as they said ‘charity’, in the same sentence. “
To date, the Tory Burch Foundation has distributed $ 1.3 million in grants. Through a partnership with Bank of America, the creator has granted $ 65 million in loans to more than 3,500 women entrepreneurs. After Cho noted that 50% of entrepreneurs are women and only control 2.3% of venture capital, Burch said, “It’s just not a smart company. If women were more in leadership positions, we wouldn’t have the problems we have today. “