Tory Burch Launches in HNL

FASHION DESIGNER TORY BURCH is truly an inspiration for women around the world-and not just because she makes them look good.

The 45-year-old CEO of her namesake luxury brand and mother of three boys (10 and 14-year-old twins) and three stepdaughters (in their 20s), also is a visionary leader in empowering women for success.

“Balancing work and family, that’s my challenge and every women’s challenge if you’re a working mom,” she says. “And I think that, No. 1, it’s doable but it’s a tremendous amount of work. It’s about time management and prioritizing.

“For me, my children come first and they know that. If I wasn’t a great mom, I wouldn’t be a great CEO. I take them to school every morning and I’m home by dinner regardless of what’s going on.”

Tory Burch, the brand, launched in 2004 and quickly became a highly coveted designer label for women. Starting with ready-to-wear, handbags, jewelry and shoes, including those signature logo ‘Reva’ ballet flats, Tory Burch has since added eyewear in partnership with Luxottica Group, and will soon launch fragrance and beauty with Estée Lauder in 2013.

Then there are the stores-lots of them. Her pieces can be found in more than 1,000 department and specialty stores worldwide. Burch, who was in Hawai’i earlier this year to celebrate the opening of her Waikiki and Ala Moana boutiques, has 64 stores with 20 more opening in the next year, including in Beirut, Toronto and Singapore.

“What’s exciting about our retail stores is we make each one a little different,” says Burch, noting that she works with Daniel Romualdez on the store’s design. “You can tell it’s us, but each is a little unique. In Hawai’i, the Waikiki store has more plums (in color) and the Ala Moana store is more orange. Also, in terms of the layout, these two aren’t as different but, for example, in Rome, the store is much more modern inside, and then we have East Hampton, which is our beach concept.

“For Hawai’i, color was a big part of it because I think women here really embrace color, and there’s an ease to how women dress here and that’s something I love personally. I wanted you to come into the stores and be relaxed.”

Burch, who was named one of Forbes‘ Most Powerful Women in the World in 2010, also has received several awards from the fashion industry, including 2008 Accessory Designer of the Year by the Council of Fashion Designers of America, 2007 Accessory Brand Launch of the Year from the Accessories Council of Excellence and 2005 Rising Star from Fashion Group International.

“I’m definitely a tomboy-so sport, and the idea of combining femininity with that-is a part of almost every collection,” says Burch, an avid tennis player and horseback rider.

“My inspirations come from my parents. And also, everything in life-such as art, music, theater. My parents always had this incredible, and still do, sense of style. It was just effortless. My father designed all of his own clothing.

I often said he should’ve been a designer because his detailing was really beautiful.

Hopefully we’ll incorporate into a men’s collection. Not a full-fledged men’s line, but more gift-giving.”

In addition to running a multimillion-dollar business, Burch also devotes her time to helping other women achieve their aspirations as entrepreneurs. In 2009, she created the Tory Burch Foundation, and during her recent stay in Hawai’i, she met with local businesswomen for an evening of mentoring and discussion.

“Originally, it was through microfinance. But we’re expanding it to empower women and girls in general through different initiatives,”

she says. “There are so many causes and I’m very involved in other charities as well, but this is my initiative because I think women are the backbone of our society and often single mothers. As far as microfinance, they repay their loans, they are taking care of multiple children and husbands sometimes, and they have a harder time getting loans and a harder time in the work force.

“I grew up with strong parents who made me believe I can do anything, and I think to empower women like that is very important for our economy and for our country and for women in general.”

Born and raised in Valley Forge, just outside Philadelphia, Burch earned a degree in art history from University of Pennsylvania and moved to New York to pursue a career in the fashion industry. There, she worked for some of the world’s most influential American designers, including Ralph Lauren, Vera Wang and Narciso Rodriguez at Loewe.

Even then, she says she never knew she wanted to be a designer until she tried it with her own company. Eight years later, she has 1,200 employees, as well as a brand that is highly recognizable and reputable.

“It definitely seems like this is very quick growth- and it has been-but it’s very strategic and thought out and we really hope that it continues to grow,” says Burch. “It’s awfully flattering to see that women are loving our clothes and responding to our clothes because there are a lot of options out there. For them to choose our collection is something I’m really honored by.”

Burch concludes by sharing that her goal is to build an incredible company, in order to foster a platform to give back.