Tory Burch and Pattie Sellers Discuss Business, Power & Entrepreneurship | Summary and Q&A

June 4, 2014
Stanford Graduate School of Business
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Tory Burch and Pattie Sellers Discuss Business, Power & Entrepreneurship

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In this video, Tory Burch discusses her background, career, and the growth of her company, Tory Burch. She talks about starting out in the fashion industry, working for designers like Zoran and Ralph Lauren, and eventually launching her own brand. Burch also shares insights into her business philosophy, including the importance of hiring talented individuals and maintaining a positive company culture. She discusses the challenges of being a working mother and offers advice to other entrepreneurs. Burch also talks about the expansion of her company and her plans for the future, including the development of a men's line and potential partnerships with other businesses. She also touches on the importance of philanthropy and the work of her foundation.

Questions & Answers

Q: Can you talk about your background and how it influenced your career in fashion?

I grew up on a farm in Pennsylvania and didn't really care about fashion until later in life. My parents were fashionably dressed, but I was more focused on sports and family. However, watching my parents and being surrounded by fashion had some influence on me.

Q: What did you study in college and what were your career ambitions at the time?

I studied art history in college and loved it. I also did a summer internship at Christie's auction house. At that time, I thought I might pursue a career in the art world or maybe even become a designer.

Q: How did you end up working for Zoran, and what was that experience like?

I cold called Zoran, a designer my mother wore, and asked him for a job. He agreed and I started working for him right after graduation. It was a crazy experience, as he was a minimalist designer who dressed iconic women. My job was to do odd jobs and help run the office.

Q: After Zoran, you worked for Candy Pratts Price at Harper's Bazaar. What was your role there and what did you learn?

Candy offered me a job as an assistant sittings assistant at Harper's Bazaar. In that role, I worked on photoshoots with well-known photographers. It was an amazing experience and gave me insight into the world of styling. I also learned a lot about the fashion industry and the importance of branding.

Q: How did you end up working for Ralph Lauren and what did you learn there?

I joined Ralph Lauren in the PR department and eventually became the copywriter for the company. It was a fantastic training ground and taught me a lot about branding and creating a fantasy world for customers. I also made lasting friendships and learned the importance of a strong company culture.

Q: Can you talk about your partnership with Vera Wang and how it shaped your career?

Vera Wang asked me to run advertising and PR for her bridal company, which she wanted to turn into a ready-to-wear brand. It was a great opportunity to work with a talented designer and gain experience in marketing and public relations. It also showed me the entrepreneurial side of the fashion industry.

Q: After working for other designers, what made you decide to start your own brand?

I had always wanted to work in philanthropy, and I saw an opportunity to combine my love for fashion with my desire to make a difference. I noticed a gap in the market for high-quality, accessible luxury clothing, and I wanted to create a brand that filled that void.

Q: Can you talk about the challenges you faced in the early days of starting your own company?

Starting a company from scratch is always a challenge, especially when you have no design or business experience. However, I was raised to believe that I could do anything if I put my mind to it. I also faced skepticism and negativity from some people, but I learned to ignore it and believe in myself and my vision.

Q: How did you decide on the name "Tory Burch" and what was the thinking behind it?

I originally wanted to use a different name for the brand, but I couldn't get the rights to it. Eventually, I settled on "Tory by TRB" using my maiden name, Robinson. However, a friend advised me to change it because it didn't sound appealing. So, we shortened it to "Tory Burch" and it stuck. It wasn't about ego or vanity, but rather finding a name that resonated with customers.

Q: How did you finance the growth of your company and how did you decide on your business strategy?

We started the company with one store and about $1 million in initial investment from myself and my ex-husband, Chris Burch, along with additional funding from friends and family. The business strategy was to offer high-quality, beautifully designed clothing at affordable prices. We focused on creating a lifestyle brand and building a strong company culture.


Tory Burch's journey from a farm in Pennsylvania to founding and growing her eponymous fashion brand is an inspiring story. Her background in art history and experience working for designers like Zoran and Ralph Lauren provided a strong foundation for her own business ventures. Burch's focus on creating a company that she would want to work for has been key to her success. Her commitment to hiring talented individuals and fostering a positive company culture has helped build a loyal and dedicated team. Burch's emphasis on philanthropy and supporting women entrepreneurs is an important aspect of her brand and has allowed her to make a positive impact in communities around the world. Overall, her story serves as a reminder that with determination, passion, and the right team, anything is possible.

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