It's time to vote Tory
Mother's Day is extra special this year for designer Tory Burch. She was named Mother of the Year by the American Cancer Society, and this week her limited-edition, leopard-print tote bag goes on sale in Ireland to raise much-needed funds for two cancer charities here.
Sadly, it's a topic close to the heart of the 43-year-old mother-of-three whose lifestyle brand took off like a rocket after Oprah tipped her as the Next Big Thing in Fashion in 2005.
"My father sadly passed away of cancer two-and-a-half years ago and I've also been touched by so many other people who have had cancer of some sort," said Tory.
"I'm on the board of the Memorial Sloan-Kettering hospital and have been involved in cancer charities for a very long time. The inspiration for the tote was to create an easy bag to carry and the objective is to raise as much money as possible.
"I liked the two logos next to each other and I think women like leopard [print] because it is a classic; a great print that's always new."
Especially close to her mother Reva, after whom she named her signature flat shoe, Tory is a very driven woman who often gets up at 6am to go skateboarding in the park with her three sons -- 12-year-old twins Henry and Nick, and Sawyer, nine, with whom she is going skiing in St Moritz after her visit to Brown Thomas in Dublin this coming Friday.
For a sporty tomboy who grew up in Philadelphia with three brothers, Tory has created a very feminine brand which includes shoes, handbags, womenswear, jewellery, eyewear, towels, candles, umbrellas and small leather goods, all branded with her double-T logo medallions which, she explains, was inspired by the work of 1960s/1970s interiors guru David Hicks.
While the Oprah exposure in 2005 led to eight million hits on Tory's website the next day, the impact of her involvement the Gossip Girl TV show, which regularly features her clothes has been "pretty extraordinary", Tory said. "We are seeing a younger customer come in based on that show and they are looking at ready-to-wear as well as shoes and bags.
"They filmed inside our Elizabeth Street store and Blake Lively (who plays Serena Van der Woodsen) and Leighton Meester wear a fair bit of our clothes. I did a cameo role on the show. Blake interviewed for a job and I, sadly, had to turn her down."
Tory told me how her latest runway collection, shown at New York Fashion Week last month, explores how fashion and art are constantly inspiring and influencing each other. "It's about the girl in an art gallery and that cool, chic way she dresses, experimenting with tomboy meets feminine. The neutral palette has shots of colour such as tomato red and cobalt blue, and one standout print was inspired by a wall I photographed on holiday in India."
Tory's style icons are her parents and she loves to collect old books "and adores reading and listening to music. Favourite artistes include Van Morrison and the designer is quick to tell me to check out a brilliant new Canadian singer, Melanie Fiona."
Though she is divorced from Chris Burch, with whom she launched her lifestyle brand, the two remain amicable and he is still involved in the business.
Home for the single mum is an apartment on New York's Upper East Side, overlooking Central Park. Luxury is not something you can buy, she advises. "It's about having personal style and living your life based on your individual aesthetic. It's not about spending money, but about having taste and understanding how to apply it to every aspect of your life."