Tory Burch has created an American brand that’s both aspirational and attainable, and she’s become a billionaire in the process. In the 10 years since she started her business, she’s opened stores around the world, most recently in Shanghai, launched a fragrance, dressed tastemakers in the White House, in Hollywood and beyond and formed the Tory Burch Foundation to support female entrepreneurship.
And she’s done it all by telling a story through color.
A new book, “Tory Burch: In Color” (Abrams), brings readers into her world through 11 color-themed sections. The cover displays the Damien Hirst spin artwork “Beautiful, Primal Urges Rug,” which he gave Burch permission to use free of charge because all the proceeds of her book’s sales go to benefit her foundation.
The book is social media come to the printed page, with images of favorite artworks (by Richard Diebenkorn, Agnes Martin, Henri Matisse), family and travel snapshots, along with table settings and Billy Baldwin interiors from Burch’s lavish homes in Manhattan and Southampton. Interspersed throughout are snippets of poetry, playlists, recipes and tips from accomplished people including model-entrepreneur Liya Kebede and Hillary Rodham Clinton.
“I didn’t want to do a fashion book, as in, ‘wear this with that,’” Burch said over coffee in Beverly Hills last week. “We started on a chapter book instead, and it wasn’t working, so one day, I took all the pictures and threw them on the floor and started sorting them by color. Suddenly, it came to life.”
The book begins with orange, which was the brand’s signature from the beginning and is still a motif in store design, packaging and the new Tory Burch Watches, created in collaboration with Fossil. Orange is the color of the library where Burch spends most of her time in her apartment. On another page, there’s an image of an orange Rothko painting, then a photo of the designer and her son, Sawyer, holding giant orange starfish while on vacation in the Bahamas, then a runway shot of a model in an orange block print dress from one of Burch’s collections.
Together, all the images function as an inspiration board, showing how designers accumulate ideas and influences and translate them into a collection.
Burch also shares the specifics of how she started at the kitchen table and how she got the idea for her famous tunic top from a vintage piece she found at a Paris flea market. Her big break came when she appeared on “The Oprah Winfrey Show” in 2005, after the media mogul received a Tory tunic from a friend as a Christmas gift and fell in love with it. A week after that TV appearance, Burch had 8 million hits on her website.
The book also showcases Burch’s lifestyle, just as her brand is expanding into that arena, with the first Tory Burch dinnerware and table linens in stores now. At home, Burch has a penchant for mixing unexpected elements — blue Mexican pottery with Turkish table linens, for example.
And she has a passion for collecting green lettuce ware pottery by Dodie Thayer, the Florida-based craftswoman whose work was a favorite of 20th century society icons Jackie Kennedy, the Duchess of Windsor and C.Z. Guest.
Burch even persuaded Thayer, who is 92, to collaborate with her on a collection of ceramics to be released in 2015.
Now that her book is out and Tory Burch Watches have launched in time for the holidays, the designer is gearing up for 2015. She plans to open boutiques in Milan and Paris, as well as working on getting the word out about her foundation, which has partnered with Bank of America to grant loans to female entrepreneurs.
But her biggest initiative will be the new Tory Sport line debuting for fall 2015, a project she characterizes as “another startup.” “We’re looking at clothes for running, yoga, tennis and golf, but also for the weekend,” she says. “Because that’s the way I’m seeing women dressing, wearing yoga pants all day, and putting on a great blazer at night.”