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How Tory Burch became a fashion billionaire in less than 10 years

AsiaOne | Tuesday, Mar 4, 2014

SINGAPORE - Fashion designer Tory Burch may have celebrities and Oprah Winfrey endorsing her brand but just 10 years ago, she was sketching fashion designs on her kitchen table, said news site Business Insider.

Today, the 47-year-old runs a billion-dollar fashion empire and is currently the second youngest self-made billionaire in the United States.

With a product line that includes the popular Reva ballet flats and "preppy-boho" T-shirts, said Business Insider, Burch was also named the Accessory Designer of the Year by the Council of Fashion designers of America in 2008, beating top designers Marc Jacobs and Michael Kors.

Her designs today are seen on celebrities like Megan Fox and Anne Hathaway, and even worn by Anna Kendrick and Zoe Kravitz on the red carpet, said Business Insider.

Burch started her fashion career as a copy writer for Harper's Bazaar and Ralph Lauren, said Business Insider. After receiving a US$2 million (S$2.5 million) capital from her then-husband, Christopher Burch, Burch launched her brand after designing sketches from her kitchen.

According to Forbes, Burch said she was initially dismissed as a socialite with a "vanity project". She took her parents' advice and "thicken(ed) (her) skin", and opened her flagship boutique in the trendy neighbourhood, NoLita (North of Little Italy), in Manhattan, New York City.

A year later, television mogul Oprah Winfrey propelled the brand to fashion "must-have" stardom when it listed the Reva ballet flats, named after Burch's mother, in her "Favourite Things" episode. Burch told Forbes that Oprah's mention gave her website a whopping eight million hits the next day.

In interviews, Burch said that when she first started her label in 2004, she only had a three-year plan to open five stores. The brand grew to over 60 boutiques globally in just six years. Burch revealed in 2013, when she visited Dubai to open her first store in the Middle East, that the label currently employs close to 1,800 people worldwide.

Just how did the Tory Burch label grow to a billion-dollar brand in less than a decade? Other than the celebrity endorsements and a strong fashion line, Burch revealed that social media was also critical to the growth.

Speaking at a social media conference in 2011, Burch said that her team tapped on social media to facilitate two-way communication between their customers to get real-time feedback and to deliver responses. On online sites Facebook, Tumblr and Twitter, the label used a "real voice" and created a platform which was not only about promoting the label, but to be part of the fashion world.

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