Tory Burch’s first store opened 20 years ago last week; it marked the start of her brand. A spate of profiles timed to the milestone have appeared across the media. In the interview she gave this publication, she said, “I think I’m more apt to explore my vulnerability now than I ever was before—vulnerability from a design perspective and putting myself out there taking risks.”
She gathered us at the New York Public Library tonight and sent out a runway full of experiments. Though still rooted in practicality, she pushed out of her comfort zone, both in terms of fabrications, which she made great efforts to keep light, and in terms of shapes, which were spare and geometric, or as effusive as pom-poms. Risk is too strong a word for it, but there was daring in what Burch was up to. Let’s just say she’s come a long way from the people-pleasing crystal embellished tunics and Reva flats that were her earliest successes.
She made her ambitions clear from the first look, a sequined fringe dress that looked conventional from the waist up, but was shaped by bonding and wire through the skirt so that it retained the trapezoidal shape of a lampshade. Then she went on to apply the same technique to a pair of sleeveless top and skirt combinations, the first in a brown faux croc and the second in a tan jacquard woven with the word ‘sublime.’ “I was thinking: ‘How do you make the everyday sublime,’” she said backstage.
Other investigations weren’t as extreme, but still signaled a desire to be playful, like the shiny tinsel coats (stand-ins, of a sort, for the fur coats of old), and the trio of smocked nylon taffeta dresses printed with polka dots and four-leaf clovers that were modeled on shower caps, of all things. In a week that’s been short of color, Buch had vivid orange and sky blue lampshade skirts, and all sorts of glossy surfaces, including an intriguing distressed vinyl that will crinkle and fade the more it’s worn that she used for bodysuits.
She played it straight too, with tailored men’s pants cinched at the sides via velcro closures and slender zip-front jackets, but the story here was her appetite for the oddball gesture. It’s a new side of Burch we’re seeing. “I feel like in a way, we’re just beginning,” she said in our interview. “I don’t really look back at the last 20 years at all, I look at it as a journey, but I feel like we’re just starting where I want to be.”