In late September, Hailey Bieber announced her arrival at Paris Fashion Week like most celebrities these days: on Instagram. “Bonjour,” she captioned the post, twirling around the streets of Paris. But the star of the post? A bubble-gum pink mini-dress with a hoop skirt line. It was sweet, it was edgy, and it was a hit, given the more than 1.3 million people who liked the photo. And it was Tory Burch.
Just weeks prior, the piece had had its own fashion week debut, as one of the finale dresses at the designer’s Spring 2024 show. Bieber’s stylist, Dani Michelle, was quick to snap it up: Over the past few seasons, Burch has quietly become the go-to brand for It Girls all around the world once again.
“I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been wearing Tory Burch when someone asks what brand I have on and when I tell them, they say, ‘Tory Burch is so cool now,’” Emily Ratajkowski tells me. “Tory has undeniably evolved.” Says Alix Earle, “I love that Tory Burch is making collections for the modern woman who wants to look cool, chic, and confident. The looks lately feel elevated, nodding to different women over different eras, like the coats we saw on this last runway, but yet the looks are still strong and a bit sexy, without being too revealing or try-hard.”
Both Ratajkowski and Earle were in attendance for the show, with Ratajkowski walking and Earle sitting front row — and that’s just the tip of the It Girl iceberg. Look on Instagram, in the checkout line at Trader Joe’s, on the streets of Brooklyn, and beyond: Everyone is wearing Tory.
The reason for the Toryssaince is simple: For the first time in years, Burch herself is in the driver’s seat of design, pedal to the metal.
This February, Tory Burch will celebrate 20 years in business. When Burch first launched the company, it came after years of working in the fashion industry but marked her first time on the designing end. “In the beginning of the company, it really was about design and trying, not knowing anything, but trying to design,” she says. “The creativity was what my passion was.” As the company grew, however, so did Burch’s role, particularly on the business side, acting as both CEO and designer. “Over the years, I realized that I was running the business, and in the end, that wasn’t my passion,” she says. “But for so long, I didn’t have the time to make it a real personal expression of me.” Enter 2020, a forced time of reset and reflection for all. It was during that time that Burch instated her husband, Pierre-Yves Roussel, previously the chairman and chief executive officer of LVMH Fashion Group, as CEO, allowing herself the ability to refocus her time on her passion: design.
The first hint of the change came in October of that year with her Spring 2021 collection, which she refers to as the “Shaker Collection”. The serene lookbook of wearable, streamlined clothing was shot at the Hancock Shaker Village in Western Massachusetts; Vogue declared “a noticeable shift” praising the “elimination of some of the sweeter flourishes of TB outings past in favor of cleaner, crisper lines, and a more reduced sensibility.” “That was the first collection that I really dedicated 100% of my time to design and the product. Before, I was designing maybe 20% of my time,” Burch says. “I went back to a more personal reflection of me. It was very austere, and it was kind of like a palate cleanser of everything and reassessment of the essence of what I thought I wanted the collection to be. That was more of a personal reflection.”
The words Tory Burch have become synonymous with prep over the past two decades, but Burch, the woman, is happy to keep you guessing. “I hope there’s a lot more to me that people will understand than [what’s] at the surface,” she says. Recent collections have included unexpected street and punk influences, seen in studded flats and deconstructed denim. “I am obsessed with music and always have been,” Burch says. “I have a lot of interests and passions that I’m more apt to share now, quite honestly, because [of] my kids. I just wouldn’t want to determine my children’s life in any way, and I was wanting to protect them. I’ve always had inspiration from all kinds of things. I think maybe it’s a surprise to people who don’t really know me, but when people know me, it’s not that much of a surprise.”
And like all good designers, Burch’s inspiration comes not just from her own interests but those of the people around her. She credits her design teams, children, and women she sees on the streets as major influences in the clothes she sets out to create. “I would say I’m not designing for what I would wear necessarily; it’s my vision of what women would wear,” she says. “I think everyone’s intrigued with the zeitgeist and what’s happening, but I think I have a touch with what women want, or at least I hope I do.”
“I like the way that she explains everything [she designs], and it’s wearable,” says Liana Satenstein, a former editor and current contributor to Vogue and host of the viral series, #NeverWorns. “When I saw this [recent] collection, there are these kind of pieces where you don’t really have to think about wearing them. You just put them on and it makes the outfit. There’s a reality to her clothing, which I think sometimes we just don’t have.” For Burch, seeing how real women style her clothes is one of the best parts of the job. “I love seeing how different women of all ages wear it,” she says. “Certainly we have a younger customer [and] if you look at [them], it’s really fascinating the way they put it together. [The goal] is to create this palette of self-expression and have people take it and make it their own.”
Ask someone about their earliest memory of Burch and you’ll probably get one answer: the monogram flats. “I remember begging my parents for a pair of black flats with the classic gold emblem [in middle school] after seeing some of my friends wearing them,” says Earle. Recently, Satenstein purchased a used pair, which she eventually ended up wearing on her wedding day to the reception. “I used to intern at Women’s Wear Daily. At the time the office was in Midtown, so I was always like, ‘It’s the corporate girlie, “I’m going to my job” sort of flat,’” she says. But after a former Vogue colleague began working at the brand, she was re-introduced to them in a new light. “I thought, ‘Wait, but this is actually a f*cking incredible flat. I’m going to wear it with everything I have.’”
As the ballet flat has become the go-to fall shoe for the past years, Burch has remained a leader in designing effortless everyday versions. The Runway Ballet, an elasticized style with a hammerhead toe, was an immediate success, worn by the likes of Bella Hadid, Zaya Wade, and about half of Dimes Square. “I couldn’t wait to redesign it,” Burch says. “I started with something that I felt would throw the idea of where we were and be a contrast to that. I am interested in things that aren’t as expected. I like when people say, ‘Wait, that’s not what I was imagining.’” Accessories remain a high priority for Burch. In recent seasons, she’s created some new classics alongside the flats, including pierced mules, heels made to look broken, and last season’s mismatched sandals. This season she turned her eye toward bags, particularly a brand new clutch designed to mold against a woman’s body. “That was not easy,” she says. “We worked a lot with 3D printing to get it right. It took a long time to figure that out— how to make it function properly and still look extraordinary.”
While the classic Tory Burch medallion can still be seen on plenty of commercial pieces, when it comes to the runway, Burch enjoys the challenge of rethinking what a logo means in 2023. “Even from the beginning, [it] was meant to be a design element, not a logo” she says. “The last few seasons, I’ve really worked with it, broken it down, and used it in different ways. I’ve always intended on doing that. I just, quite honestly, never had the time.”
This May, Burch was an early arrival on the Met Gala red carpet. Joining her were the current face of the brand, Ratajkowski, and indie hero Phoebe Bridgers. The latter was dressed in a custom mesh and satin gown complete with beading to mimic the singer’s beloved skeleton motif. By all accounts, the trio were the life of the party. “Tory is truly incredible,” says Ratajkowski. “Looking at her, you’d say she is the epitome of uptown chic. But when you get to talk to her, you understand she still is that, but without all the pretentious posturing. Tory is tough, hip, and unassuming. And she is funny.”
Part of the genius of the recent rebrand has been in this sense of humor. “She’s the kind of woman I want to go and get a drink with,” says Satenstein, who hosts the brand’s Ladies Who Lunch Instagram series. For the Spring 2024 show, Burch and her team enlisted content creator Reece Feldman — aka @guywithamoviecamera — to create social videos from the show. The result is a very tongue-in-cheek ’fit check where — surprise, surprise — everyone is wearing Tory. “Working with companies that large can be stressful, just hoping you’re going to get taken care of and that they’re going to listen to you,” he says. “They were wonderful. They let me do what I want to do in the vein of Tory, which was really cool. They were very happy to let me lean into that more comedic side. It’s nice to just be able to smile and not have everyone be so self-serious.”
Feldman had plenty to work with, thanks to a stacked front row that included Suki Waterhouse, Madeline Argy, Emma Roberts, Taylour Paige, Hari Nef, Lori Harvey, and Maddie Ziegler. It was a wide-ranging showing, running the gamut from up-and-coming podcasters to indie darlings. And yet, you could all imagine them wearing Tory Burch for their next red carpet or errands run. “I hope to be able to give women options, but a lot of it is also about confidence and making women feel beautiful,” says Burch. “It’s obviously such a complicated world right now. To give people ways to celebrate and feel beautiful is a very exciting thing for me to think about.”