Tory is also an avid promoter of women’s rights through her charitable organization, named the Tory Burch Foundation, where she helps empower and encourage women to take part in improving the country’s economy by engaging in business and entrepreneurship.
Daughter of a Wealthy Businessman
Tory was born in Valley Forge on June 17, 1966. She is the daughter of Ira Earl Robinson (nicknamed Bud), a wealthy businessman; and Reva Schapira Robinson, an actress who once dated Marlon Brando and Steve McQueen. Tory has three brothers, namely: Robert, James, and Leonard.
Ira Earl Robinson was born in a wealthy family and inherited his father’s paper cup company as well as the shares on the stock market. Prior to meeting Reva, Earl was heavily involved in his business, but at times dated a few actresses, such as Grace Kelly and Joan Bennett. He was an eligible bachelor and many women went after him. However, upon meeting Reva, Earl finally decided to settle down and focus on his work and having a family.
Tory’s childhood was something that many of us would envy. She grew up in a wealthy family. They set their home in a 35–hectare land filled with possibly any child could wish for, plus a tennis court and swimming pool, surrounded by her loving parents and siblings. Her love for fashion and designing started in her childhood, being inspired by her mother. Since Tory was the only girl among Earl and Reva’s children, she received such special attention and love that would greatly influence Tory in starting her own charitable foundation later on.
Tory first studied at the Agnes Irwin School in Rosemont, Pennsylvania. At a young age, Tory already demonstrated exceptional skills by excelling in her class, riding horses, and becoming the captain of their school’s tennis team. By the time she graduated from high school, she was among the top students of her class.
After graduating from high school, Tory attended the University of Pennsylvania, where she majored in art history. While at the university, Tory became part of the sorority Kappa Alpha Theta, whose fellow sisters she still managed to maintain friendship with up to now. She graduated in 1988 as one of the most successful students of the university.
After her graduation, Tory went to New York to find work. She started a career in designing by applying as an assistant to Zoran, a famous fashion designer from Yugoslavia. Through Zoran’s mentorship, Tory was able to expand her knowledge and skill in fashion designing and be open to various aspects of the trade. Aside from Zoran, Tory also worked with Vera Wang, another popular fashion designer who is known for her clientele of elite figure skaters—being a figure skater herself once. She also became a contributor and, later on, an employee of Harper’s Bazaar Magazine.
Copywriting for Polo Ralph Lauren
Tory was also a copywriter for Polo Ralph Lauren. After gaining enough experience, Tory finally decided to begin her own fashion line, which was based on her childhood fashion designs and what she had learned from working with her mentors.
Although Tory experienced great success in her fashion career, she did encounter some personal challenges. In 1990, she met William Macklowe, son of the widely-renowned real-estate tycoon, Harry Macklowe. After dating for several months, the couple finally decided to marry in 1991; however, issues between them caused strain in the relationship and six months later, their marriage ended in a divorce.
Tory Marries and Starts Her Own Label
Despite this great disappointment, Tory did not sulk in depression. Instead of being discouraged, she continued to focus on her fashion career, which helped her to cope with her break-up with William. In 1997, she met Christopher Burch, a wealthy investor in the Internet Capital Group, whom she married in the same year. Tory and Christopher had three sons: twins Henry and Nick (born 1997) and Sawyer (born 2001).
In February 2004, Tory launched her own fashion label, which she named “TRB by Tory Burch.” Although the company had humble beginnings, Tory’s hard work and persistent attitude enabled the company to grow steadily. Later on, it was renamed “Tory Burch” by Tory herself. Her artistic and creative designs caught the attention of many, including famous people.
Tory’s connections enabled her to spread the word about her fashion designs and by late 2004, she became a celebrity in the fashion world. The following year, her fashion line was endorsed at The Oprah Winfrey Show by Oprah herself (which included an interview with Tory as well), which pushed Tory further into the spotlight of success. That same year, Tory received the Rising Star Award for best new Retail Concept from the Fashion Group International.
Tory Burch’s styles are often described as “Preppy-boho” and “Preppy-bohemian luxe,” a design that transcends generations for being easy to wear. Tory’s designs often appear on the television show, “Gossip Girl,” and have since attracted numerous fans of all ages. In fact, there were numerous times when her fashion designs were in wait lists, which pay homage to the 1950s and 1960s fashion eras.
Her clothing line suits a wide variety of women users—from the working-class women and sports-oriented ladies to the socialites and the elite. Tory is also credited for being one of the world leaders who helped turn the T-Shirt into a fashion item, with her designs having the T-logo medallion.
The year 2006 saw a continuous stream of success in Tory’s fashion career, but it also saw a great disappointment in Tory’s personal life. Christopher Burch, Tory’s husband of ten years, divorced her and left their children under her care. Although the separation was devastating for Tory, it did not stop her from designing. That same year, the Tory Burch line started to go overseas. It was also in this year that Tory further engaged in her charity efforts by becoming a chairperson in that year’s gala for the American Ballet Theater and being part of the board of the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center.
Backed up by the success of her clothing and accessory line, Tory also launched her bags in 2007. She also co-chaired that year’s spring gala for the American Ballet Theater. For her excellence in fashion designing, the Accessories Council of Excellence awarded Tory the Accessory Brand Launch of the Year. She was also rumoured to have dated athlete Lance Armstrong that year. However, Tory experienced a painful loss as her father Bud Robinson died in the same year she had accomplished so much career-wise.
In 2008, Tory received the greatest award in her career yet, the Accessories Designer of the Year from the Council of Fashion Designers of America. She also participated and won in many other fashion awards, making her one of the most successful fashion designers in the world. She was also featured in “Inheriting Beauty,” a book written by celebrated fashion author, Roger Moenks.
In November of that year, Tory participated in a charity program by compiling a list of her favourite songs into one album and releasing it to the public, with all proceeds given to Save the Children, an organization that seeks to promote the welfare of children throughout the world. This activity inspired Tory to further engage in charitable organizations, which would eventually help her start her own.
In 2009, Tory Burch’s success grew further as her clothing line entered the Asian market and was warmly welcomed by many of its customers. This was also the year when she launched her eyewear line, called the Tory Burch Eyewear. This collection combined the vintage designs with the modernity of today’s eyewear and made the brand a one-of-a-kind product. It became an instant hit.
Tory also made a cameo appearance on the popular television series, “Gossip Girl,” and started writing about her travels to India for Vogue magazine. She also attended a luncheon sponsored by the Colleague Helpers in Philanthropic Services where she was honoured for her continued philanthropic work in helping children and women.
It was also in 2009 that the Tory Burch Foundation was launched, with the cooperation of Los Angeles Mayor Villaraigosa. It was through this foundation that Tory was able to fully pour her heart into charity work, providing economic opportunities to the women and their families through offering microloans to female entrepreneurs and giving programs that encourage and empower women to engage in business and entrepreneurship.
Tory Starts Her Foundation and Opens Outlets
The Tory Burch foundation has since partnered with ACCION USA to provide starting money to low-income entrepreneurs in the country. Tory also started selling products in her stores with their proceeds going directly to her organization’s needs. She also sold a minority stake in her fashion company to Tresalia Capital, a Mexican equity firm.
By 2010, the Tory Burch fashion brand was being sold at 25 of her own boutiques and over 450 stores worldwide. Tory also declared her intentions of opening 100 stores, which was met with criticisms, with others claiming that she was simply indulging her vanity. In an interview made with Tory by Bloomberg Businessweek, Tory defended her statements by saying:
"There were a lot of eyebrows raised when I said I wanted to start this company and many people thought it would be a vanity project, But I had an idea that something was missing in fashion."
Tory Customizes Product for Neiman Marcus’ Christmas Book
In October of that year, Tory worked on a customized Worksman adult tricycle for Neiman Marcus’ annual “Christmas Book” that cost 4,500 dollars.
Today, there are around 70 to 80 Tory Burch boutiques in the world. Her clothing, accessory, bag, and eyewear lines are carried and sold to over 1,000 stores, making her one of the most successful fashion designers and women entrepreneurs. Yet in spite of all her successes and her wealthy roots, Tory exemplifies the type of person who never turns a deaf ear to the cries of others. Aside from her own charitable organization, Tory also supports a number of foundations that promote the welfare of women and children all across the globe.
Organizations and Programmes Supported
- Tory Burch Foundation
- ACCION USA
- Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center
- Children’s Institute, Incorporated
- Strides for Life
- The Lung Cancer Research Foundation
- Save the Children
Awards and Achievements
- 2005: Appears in the Oprah Winfrey Show
- 2005: Received the Rising Star Award from the Fashion Group International
- 2007: Received the Accessory Brand Launch of the Year Award
- 2008: Designer of the Year at the Council of Fashion Designers of America