The Aesthete: Tory Burch’s black book of style

The fashion powerhouse dreams about late-night furniture auctions, coconuts and an alternative career in the CIA. By Jessica Beresford

“My style icons are women of character,” says Tory Burch
“My style icons are women of character,” says Tory Burch | Image: Weston Wells

My personal style signifier is mixing high and low. Everyone always asks if I only wear my own clothes – and the answer is no. I could never imagine dressing head-to-toe in any brand. I like an unexpected flash – whether it’s a print or colour or something from a different century (I wear a lot of vintage). I love the idea of wearing LL Bean boots from high school mixed with a piece of ours. 

The best book I’ve read in the past year is A Life by Simone Veil. I didn’t have a sense of her historical impact before reading it. But her resilience and what she did for women – and men, I would imagine – is inspiring. 

Photographs of Burch with her husband, Pierre-Yves Roussel
Photographs of Burch with her husband, Pierre-Yves Roussel | Image: Weston Wells

A recent “find” is a book of 17th-century fabric swatches from an antique shop in Nara in Japan. It’s filled with all these Japanese textiles, but some look almost like a combination of shibori and batik, which I thought was an interesting dichotomy. kimono-sarasa.com/ootani

The podcast I’m listening to is Masters of Scale hosted by Reid Hoffman, who founded LinkedIn. He’s quirky and brilliant, and there’s a lot of irreverence in his interviews. It’s about entrepreneurship, but also a sensitivity to business and innovation. mastersofscale.com

Advertisement

I’ve recently discovered… that we are incredibly fortunate to be able to work from home. I am amazed by all of the frontline workers who are risking their lives every day to help others. Seeing this day in and day out is awe-inspiring and humbling. They are the real heroes and we all should be thanking them for the rest of our lives. 

The best souvenir I’ve ever brought home is my husband, from France.

Burch’s book of 17th-century fabric swatches from an antique shop in Nara in Japan
Burch’s book of 17th-century fabric swatches from an antique shop in Nara in Japan | Image: Weston Wells

The best gift I’ve given recently is a flower sculpture by Vladimir Kanevsky to my mother. He’s a Ukrainian artisan who has a little place in New Jersey. It’s a tall delphinium made of iron and painted – his work is so beautiful. From £2,466, modaoperandi.com

And the best gift I’ve received recently is a vintage Wagoneer that our friends gave us as a wedding present. I had one as my first car when I was 16, so it was a very meaningful gift. We keep it in Southampton on Long Island and it’s a lot of fun to drive. It has rust corduroy interiors and wood panelling. Similar from $39,000, autotrader.com

Tory Burch at home in New York
Tory Burch at home in New York | Image: Weston Wells

My favourite website is LiveAuctioneers. It’s an addiction. You type in what you’re looking for and it collates auctions from around the world, and then you can bid on everything live. You can find some great things for a great price, because it’s all about timing. I’ve decorated two homes from it, bidding in the middle of the night. I don’t sleep a lot.

A place I’d love to return to is The Sofitel Luxor on the Nile in Egypt. Winston Churchill had a room there, and it’s also where Agatha Christie was inspired to write Death on the Nile. It’s what I imagine the 1920s in Egypt would have been like – full of romance and nostalgia. sofitel.accor.com

Hell N Back by Bakar – the last album that Burch downloaded
Hell N Back by Bakar – the last album that Burch downloaded

The last music I downloaded is by the London artist Bakar, a song called Hell N Back. My boys introduced me to him – he’s a friend of theirs – and he’s absolutely brilliant.

I have a collection of  porcelain pottery, everything from Lucy Rie to Dodi Thayer to hand-me-downs from my mother. I’ve collected it since I was young. I really love French pottery, English, but also spongeware... I have a couple of Chelsea leaves from my mother that I love. We did a collaboration with Thayer. I always felt she never got the credit that was due to her; she was the original entrepreneur during the war. She taught women how to work and make pottery with their hands, then sold it to people like Jackie Onassis or the Duchess of Windsor through her shop in Palm Beach.

Burch’s collection of porcelain pottery, including hand-me-downs from her mother
Burch’s collection of porcelain pottery, including hand-me-downs from her mother | Image: Weston Wells

In my fridge you’ll always find fresh coconuts, and hot sauce that I make myself. It’s my babysitter’s recipe – it’s really good. 

The tech I couldn’t do without is a Peloton that my brothers gave me for Christmas a couple of years ago. It’s the quickest way to do a very good workout and it takes up minimal space. £1,990

A vintage dress from the 1930s belonging to Burch
A vintage dress from the 1930s belonging to Burch | Image: Weston Wells

During lockdown, I’ve been... reflecting about the importance of our company culture. Our team has never been closer, navigating through this crisis so we can come out of it stronger than before. I’ve been thinking a lot about a less-is-more approach for some time. Doing less of everything and making sure that everything we do has more meaning and more integrity. 

The last item of clothing I added to my wardrobe is a Geoffrey Beene dress from the ’70s that I bought at auction. I admire his cuts and simplicity in design. He was such a brilliant technician. Similar from £700, 1stdibs.com

Her flower pendant made by her father
Her flower pendant made by her father | Image: Weston Wells

An object I would never part with is a flower pendant that my father made for his mother. It’s all gold, and it has “Je t’aime un peu, beaucoup, passionnément” written in the middle. We turned the flower into the logo for the Tory Burch Foundation. 

With time on my hands... I wish I had time on my hands. Honestly, I have never worked harder. With everyone working remotely, communication is more important than ever, whether it’s email, phone calls or around-the-clock Zoom meetings. Everyone is showing their brilliance and resilience. My husband Pierre-Yves and I just recorded our first company-wide podcast. We are managing through this difficult time by making very tough decisions and making sure we communicate as we go. Showing our vulnerability is critical, as well as remaining optimistic. 

The Lee Radziwill Double bag from Burch’s own label
The Lee Radziwill Double bag from Burch’s own label | Image: Weston Wells

The last thing I bought and loved is our Lee Radziwill Double bag. She was such an interesting woman – clearly a style icon, but also extremely funny; she was a friend. We did a collection on her and this was the bag we designed with her in mind. £940

The one artist whose work I would collect if I could is Matisse – he’s my favourite artist. I adore his odalisques – there are so many. His work is beyond beautiful and I love his use of colour.

Advertisement

My style icons are women of character – anyone from Georgia O’Keeffe to Katharine Hepburn to Diana, Princess of Wales. Women who took risks with the way they looked at life more than what they wore. When you think that O’Keeffe wrote a letter to Eleanor Roosevelt asking for equal pay for women – it’s very inspiring, and to me that’s tied to style. Diana was also obviously incredibly stylish, but what’s more interesting was her compassion and kindness. 

My favourite room in my house is the kitchen because it’s where all the family congregates – in the morning, in the evening. We have an island that we sit around and I think it’s good for conversation – I get to hear what’s going on with my children.

If I had to limit my shopping to one neighbourhood in one city, I’d choose the flea market near Paris’ 18th arrondissement. I just like to get lost and walk around. It’s not necessarily about any one store; it’s always about timing. We found these incredible Tholly-esque shell planters from Italy; they’re super-stylish. marcheauxpuces-saintouen.com 

If I didn’t live in New York, I would live in Southampton or Antigua. I’m definitely more of a country person. I grew up on a farm in the middle of nowhere in Valley Forge, Pennsylvania, so I miss being in the country.

If I weren’t doing what I do, I would be in the CIA. I’ve always been obsessed with the idea. 

This interview took place in December but has been updated in light of coronavirus.

See also

Advertisement
Loading