Tory Burch is obsessed with pottery and fascinated by the power of meditation, and has always had a thing for countryside glamour. At the age of 50, the Philadelphia-native designer is still a fan of boyish looks, and her family members are her biggest style and work icons. In this exclusive interview, she shares all the details of her creative process and how she turns her ideas into fashion
This interview originally appeared in Marie Claire Brazil:
My three brothers and I grew up on a farm around Philadelphia, but I’ve lived in New York since I was 22. Even though I’ve had this cosmopolitan life for a while, I’m a country girl at heart. My next fall collection, for example, was inspired by the movie “The Philadelphia Story,” and it has a lot of this outdoor glamour.
My first job was in the 1970’s as an assistant to Zoran, a Yugoslavian designer. Then I worked in the marketing department of Ralph Lauren, where I learned about storytelling. I was also part of the PR team at Loewe. Every job was inspiring in different ways.
I collect pottery. I’m obsessed with them! It’s a love that comes from my mother and grandmother. I have tons of them around the office and in my apartment. I like designs from different periods, but the contemporary ones not as much. I buy them when I travel, at flea markets or auctions.
Her first dollar
I started my work life folding sweaters at Benetton. My parents told me to get a job if I wanted to spend money. My brothers and I have incredible work ethic because of them. I worked at Christie’s over a few different summers. For a moment, I thought I would end up in the art world, since I was an art major.
I’ve been through a lot of challenging times, but I never gave up. I think some of the hardest experiences teach you the most. I learned how to handle a lot and try to keep things in perspective. You have to be patient and be a good leader by letting others know that as well. It’s a trickle down effect, because if you’re frenetic at the top and not managing things, the rest of the company won’t either.
My father is incredible and a mentor to me. My older brother Robert Isen is, too, and he works here with me (I like to work around family). Eric Schmidt, the ex-Google CEO, is part of our board and a mentor as well.
I learned how to meditate last summer. I’m calm naturally, but I do feel it’s important to give your brain a rest. It’s important to find time to relax. Sports is also good for that. I love tennis and I started practicing yoga again. I’m also exercising by riding with the Peloton, an internet-connected fitness bike.
My mom is my biggest icon. She was always glamorous. My entire wardrobe and jewelry collection are from my mom. One of her necklaces with a sunflower pendant was a gift from my dad, and now it’s the logo of Tory Burch Foundation.
We have five annual collections. The inspiration part is easy. That said, the hard part is the manufacturing process. The products need to look new and original in every delivery.
I always try to balance feminine and masculine. It’s a nice dichotomy. I like that because it’s also how I am, a little tomboy. I think I never put on a dress until I was 17, going to a prom.
Thirteen years ago I decided to embrace the word ambition. I’m determined to take away any negative connotations around women and ambition.
If I wasn’t a designer, I would probably be Secretary of State. I love politics and I think it’s important to know what’s happening in the world. It’s a tough and challenging time to live in the U.S. We all have to be accountable for reuniting the two broken parties and embrace everyone.
Maternity and entrepreneurship
Don’t underestimate your endurance. Never doubt how much you can handle and take on. It’s hard to raise three boys and build this company, but it’s doable. I always heard that the busier you are, the more you get things done. The important thing is to keep your integrity, curiosity, and tenacity.