The Curious Case of Tory Burch
Tory Burch presented her S/S 2019 collection in the garden of the Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum, a venue she used last spring, and which compliments her runways well – even more so this time around as the location and collection acted as a nice mental break from the intensity of New York’s concrete, traffic, and noise. Inspired by her adventurer parents’ travels, the designer’s runway echoed their wanderlust via breezy kaftan-like tunics, relaxed trenchcoats, safari suiting, and a mix of travel-related accessories such as canvas sneakers, totes, stray bucket hats, and blanket scarves. Fortuitously, the weather was also in her favor, allowing her a rain-free hour for her open-air show.
Tory Burch at the end of her Spring/Summer 2019 show in New York. Photo by Guillaume Roujas for NOWFASHION.
Every summer, explains Burch in the notes, her parents, Buddy and Reva (which, by the way, are amazing names), boarded a steamer ship and spent six weeks sailing from Italy and Greece to Morocco and Spain, an adventurous life that became a constant source of inspiration. Yet, while wanderlust was an obvious first layer of this significance, associated with an overarching theme of escapism that emerged throughout NYFW, it seems that it was also – and possibly more importantly – an ode to her parents’ appreciation and curiosity which they passed down to their children.
“I inherited a cultural curiosity from my parents,” she shared with NowFashion. “They raised me with the knowledge that the world is a miraculous place to be explored. I love discovering new cities – from local markets and bazaars to ancient ruins and museums. It certainly informs our design approach – global influences are always part of the equation. I am always on the lookout for interesting objects when I travel, and I am constantly taking pictures. Inspiration is the most invaluable thing I bring back with me.”
This disposition to often muse at life and to seek inspiring points of reference has also come in handy over her many years and seasons as a creator of fashion. Burch seems to be one of those designers who tends to keep her inspiration personal, evocative, and wholesome, shying away from contentious, literal, or timely ones. Even if she is an active and important philanthropist in the industry, it’s improbable we’ll ever see, for instance, any direct or allegorical reference to anything remotely political or cultural in one of her collections. “I find inspiration everywhere,” she said, “books, films, art, interiors, architecture, and pictures of my parents from the Sixties and Seventies, travel….it can be anything, really. There is no shortage of ideas. The challenge is narrowing it down to create a cohesive collection. It’s an iterative process. We often start with one concept and end up with something entirely unexpected, which I love.”
Tory Burch Spring/Summer 2019 show in New York. Photo by Alessandro Garofalo for NOWFASHION.
In a way, her openness to the world and the manner in which she expresses her inspirations through the framing and aesthetic of her collections is an important part of the reason her brand has continued to stay relevant and successful. When asking her about it, she responded, “I am curious by nature. It is an integral part of the entrepreneurial spirit. It’s what drives innovation and forward momentum. We are always pushing ourselves to evolve and look ahead while staying true to who we are as a company. It sounds counterintuitive, but our growth has been fueled by patience and restraint. We don’t want to be the biggest company in the world and we would never compromise quality for the sake of scale.”
The manner in which Burch consistently turns her worldly inspirations into designs also seems like a defining factor in the relevance of her collections. If they key appeal of Tory Burch clothing is that it is relaxed and comfortable while still providing a graceful and polished look, another major appeal would be that her designs often pair bohemian sensibility and modernity. The clothes are comfortable and might have a touch of vintage feel to them, but they continue to be part of a modern wardrobe. “Modernity is reflected in the lifestyle of the modern woman. On a global level, women lead busier, fuller lives than ever. They don’t have a lot of time to think about what to wear. We want to give them easy pieces that look great and give them confidence,” she explained. “It’s about all kinds of women – from all over the world. The rise in activewear reflects a shift in the way women are dressing – they want pieces that fit seamlessly into their active lives and can go easily from the gym to lunch or on a plane. It’s all about great design that works with the way women live now.”