Tory Burch on Her Foundation and Redefining Female Ambition
If you could dress in positivity, that outfit might look like something designed by Tory Burch. For 14 years, Burch’s bright prints, modish cuts and preppy tailoring have worked their way into most women’s wardrobes. For good reason: they’re cheerily chic. Faced with the gloom of the season and the doom of the headlines, draping oneself in Burch’s unapologetic glee is unquestionably a better response to the times than hiding under a comforter. So, today, we’re happy to announce a series of Nordstrom pop-up shops dedicated to the world of Tory Burch. Including her David Hicks–inspired pattern play in the spring ’18 collection, her new Sport styles and always adorable accessories, this carved-out space in selected stores will feature the designer’s accomplished aesthetic—let’s call it our new happy place.
In addition to the fashion, these pop-ups also feature products supporting Burch’s foundation, which promotes women entrepreneurs through education and loans. This International Women’s Day (March 8), the Tory Burch Foundation is encouraging women to #EmbraceAmbition. We spoke with the designer about this cause, her own struggles as a woman entrepreneur, and the best advice she received about her business.
Tory Burch at the close of her spring 2018 show.
Tell us about your foundation.
One of the reasons I started a company was to start a foundation, but I knew our business had to be successful first. In 2009, we launched the Tory Burch Foundation to empower women entrepreneurs by providing access to capital, education and resources. I’m thrilled that we have finally reached a point of real impact and scale. Since 2014, through our partnership with Bank of America, we have given out $35 million in affordable loans to 1,770 women entrepreneurs. More than 140 women have graduated from our education program with Goldman Sachs and more than 10,000 women have created business plans on ToryBurchFoundation.org.
Why is female entrepreneurship the focus of your foundation?
I knew our foundation would benefit women but I wasn’t initially sure how…. As I learned more about the challenges women entrepreneurs face—from accessing capital and networks to education—I realized that through our experience launching a startup, we had something unique to offer and could help other women do the same. We are also focused on one of the greatest obstacles women in business face: the cultural stigma that exists around ambition, which is often perceived as a negative in a woman yet is seen as a positive in a man.
Is being perceived as ambitious something you struggled with?
In one of my first interviews in 2004, when the reporter mentioned the word “ambitious,” I commented that the word annoyed me. A friend of mine said, “You should never shy away from that word.” She was right. If we are truly to achieve parity in the workplace, we have to own our bold ideas, celebrate our aspirations and embrace ambition. That is why on March 8, to celebrate International Women’s Day, we are launching our second annual #EmbraceAmbition initiative to address the harmful double standard that exists around ambition. Our focus this year is encouraging women to recognize and support ambition in each other. We are inviting people to design and send a personalized message honoring a woman or girl in their life that has inspired them to embrace ambition on EmbraceAmbition.org and share their inspiring stories on social media. We are also hosting our first-ever Embrace Ambition Summit in New York City on April 24, and inviting people to apply to attend. Now more than ever we need to confront the stereotypes that hold women back and create new norms, which benefit all of us, regardless of gender. Equality is not a men’s issue, it is not a women’s issue, it is an issue of humanity.
Who were some of the mentors that really influenced you? How?
I’ve had many mentors over the years—people from inside and outside the fashion industry. But the best advice I ever received came from my parents, Buddy and Reva Robinson. When I started the company, there were many naysayers and my parents told me to think of negativity as noise and focus on my work. It was great advice.
What were the challenges you faced starting out? How did you overcome them?
When I was working on the concept for our company, I had three boys under the age of four … so definitely balancing work and family. It’s actually still my greatest challenge. It comes down to setting clear priorities—my boys come first no matter what—and time management is key.
How has your personal style evolved with your brand?
It’s always evolving—as is our brand. We’re always pushing ourselves in new directions and looking at things in new ways while remaining true to our DNA.
Visit a World of Tory Burch pop-up shops March 5-25 at these store locations or shop online.
Nordstrom Dadeland Mall, Miami, Florida
Nordstrom Houston Galleria, Houston, Texas
Nordstrom Michigan Avenue, Chicago, Illinois
Nordstrom NorthPark Center, Dallas, Texas
Nordstrom South Coast Plaza, Costa Mesa, California
SHOP: Tory Burch