Yesterday, Tory Burch’s dog, Chicken, went missing in New York City. The moment she sat down to speak with Eva Chen, the director of fashion partnerships at Instagram, she gave the audience an update on the search. Her beloved pet had been found, and it was all thanks to the platform for which Chen works. “Instagram saved Tory Burch’s dog,” Chen told the audience. The news was a happy note on which to begin their conversation at Vogue’s third annual Forces of Fashion conference. It also got them talking about the various ways they both use Instagram: to meet people (Burch met Mindy Kaling through DM; Chen met Gigi Hadid and Kim Jones the same way), to measure the success of a product or a brand, to communicate directly with customers, and, well, to find a lost dog.
But the pair also spoke candidly about success—and the pitfalls, trials, and upsets that come with it. Burch discussed how difficult entrepreneurship was for her as a woman, how men laughed at her when she was first starting out and searching for capital for a lifestyle brand. Though the designer now helms one of the most successful fashion businesses in the world, she is sadly still one of only a few women to hold such a position. Despite being a household name, she also continues to have the exact same company motto that she did when she launched in 2004: “We’re just beginning.” Through the Tory Burch Foundation, she helps empower women in their own business pursuits, teaching them to be confident and to advocate for themselves.
She told Chen a story that she’d never told anyone publicly before, about being four years old during the early 1970s and sitting at the dinner table with her mom and dad. They were talking about the fact that, for the first time in American history, women were finally allowed to have their own credit card in their own name. “It’s about time,” Burch remembered her mom saying. “My mom always told me to be financially independent,” Burch added. “When I started the company, it was hard for women because they weren’t financially independent, and they wanted to be—women couldn’t get loans,” she said. “If I can help in any way make that journey a little bit easier, then I am proud of that.”
Below, here are four priceless and powerful pieces of wisdom from Tory Burch.
Success takes time. Be patient but stay motivated.
“There is no such thing as an overnight success. And I think people sometimes think that this company happened and it was easy. It has been the most excruciatingly hard journey that I have ever imagined. I am super passionate and I’m never complaining about it, but it’s a lot of work, and I think anyone who has a company here understands how much work it is, or anyone who has a role like yours. You go home and you don’t have weekends off, you don’t have vacations where you can just tune out—if you have a family you have to really learn to balance that. It’s really hard, but it’s doable, and if you have the passion and energy and guts to do it, you have to do it.”
Embrace the setbacks, learn from them, and always keep moving.
“One of the things about business is that you learn from a setback and figure out how [to] be agile enough to move quickly. And there’s so many—as you put in one of your questions—failures. One that comes to mind is when we were changing systems in our warehouse and it broke down, so we had no visibility of what was shipped, what was received. It was Christmas, so our customer was very upset, and we used social media to be real and authentic because that’s what people want, and at the end of the day, that helped us get through that extremely difficult moment. And it wasn’t just a moment, it was weeks. Every single person on our team—except for five pregnant women—went to New Jersey and were packing boxes and helping us get through this very hard situation because people wanted their presents, they didn’t care about the technical issues we were having.”
A cohesive and uplifting work culture is the key to any successful business.
“Work culture is everything. I’d seen a lot of different cultures, but when I started, I thought, How do we create a culture that, number one, is great for all of our employees.... If you’re happy, you do your best work. But also for a woman to be able to have a family and to have a career—because I had to give up my career, I had three boys under the age of four and I was offered a job at LVMH with Loewe, one of my favorite brands. At the time Narciso [Rodriguez] was designing for Loewe. But I realized having three babies and a career where I would have had to travel to Europe all the time would just be impossible. So how do we have a culture that, number one, is about transparency, about believing in our team, hiring great people, giving them autonomy. Grace under pressure, I always say, because God knows there’s a lot of things that come your way when you run a company, but being straightforward and honest and transparent…you can have difficult conversations if you do it in a way that is delivered in a kind way.”
Own your ambition.
“I remember the first interview [for] our company was by the New York Times and the reporter looked at me and he said, ‘Are you ambitious?’ And I thought, What a rude question, that is so incredibly rude. And a friend of mine called me and said, ‘Why on earth did you shy away from the word ambition?’ And for the next 14 years I have [worked to] reconcile that and I have learned how to embrace my ambition, but it doesn’t come naturally to women. I’m not sure why. I do think [with] young women now it’s a bit different. I think there is a sea change happening, and I think it’s about time. I would say, own your ambition.… Believe in your ideas and be strong enough to have the confidence to speak up and be your own best advocate.”
Go Behind the Scenes at the 2019 Forces of Fashion Conference:
Go Behind the Scenes at the 2019 Forces of Fashion Conference
Originally Appeared on Vogue