When Tory Burch was a child, growing up in Valley Forge, Pennsylvania, her parents would take annual trips abroad. They’d travel to far off destinations by cruise ship and return with colourful stories of exotic places, and even more colourful, exotic souvenirs. These collectibles, both in stories and knick-knacks, made a lifelong impact on the designer. Being privy to such culturally inspired decor, as well as witnessing her mother’s chic resort ensembles, has never left Burch. In fact, it has continually influenced the eponymous label of which she still owns and is estimated to be worth more than US$1 Billion.
Foremost for Burch, this deep-set aesthetic re-emerged in her adult years in the form of emotive print. Prints and patterns that have gone on to become synonymous with the Tory Burch brand. While some designers tread print with an immense fear of polarising their audience, Burch has exercised such precision in the crafting and re-imagining of hers that they now form a delicious, anticipated staple.
While some designers tread print with an immense fear of polarising their audience, Burch has exercised such precision in the crafting and re-imagining of hers that they now form a delicious, anticipated staple.
The vibrancy for which her collections have come to be known, always sensitively blends seasonal textiles with contrasts of stark simplicity. Quite simply, Burch epitomises ethereal resort couture. And hers is a resort of the most literal nature. Glamorous, wearable, intrepid pieces you can picture wearing on a fancy trip overseas. This is the traveller we believe we can be. A whimsical version of ourselves, frocked in caftans of textural webbing stripes, or oversized organza shirt dresses casually garnished with golden sequins. Or peaking our international personality in a silk pyjama suiting plotted with parrot motifs and a haute, burnt orange geometric.
Whether we recognise it or not, patterns ignite the artistic side of our brain. Being drawn to a swirl of colour or a graphic repeat is the same as becoming fixated on a piece of art. Colour and contrast either in abstraction or symmetry pleases the most intrinsically creative parts of our persona. It conjures a mood or a memory or a sense of anticipatory excitement that, innately, we all desire. While basic plains are fashion’s utility, prints and patterns are its wonderous creativity. Prints can set place and time, revert us to retrospection and honour other cultures. Imagine if the Incas of Peru or the Aztecs of Mexico or even the traditionalists of 16th Century Europe had opted for plain-washed neutrals instead of their embroidered wools or their rainbowed chevrons or their illustrated Toiles. Prints form the basis for cultural costuming, a tradition that has continued, albeit diluted, across the centuries.
While basic plains are fashion’s utility, prints and patterns are its wonderous creativity. Prints can set place and time, revert us to retrospection and honour other cultures.
Every season, all forms of décor, be it fashion, architecture or interiors, celebrate prints of specific trend. We clash them, relish them and spruik them as though they are the momentary celebrity of design. Designers become the pioneers of their resurrection and their execution forms the way in which we wear them. It could be an original graphic designed for head-to-toe or a neo-paisley hinted at through accessories or even an ironic return of a garish illustration.
If communicating print to the modern-day fashionista is a specialist language, then Tory Burch invented her own dialect. To range collection after collection that features plentiful recourse in prints of varying style is a confident feed to our left brain’s desires. Patterns are a tangent, and if not done correctly, can be easily dismissed for a minimalist alternative. However, if they form a narrative or sentiment that urgently infiltrates the season’s je ne sais quoi, its power goes far beyond that of a black, white or beige. Its handsomeness becomes memorable, and you’re transported to the place the designer conjured, somewhere exotic, somewhere colourful, somewhere fabulous.
Just recently Tory Burch released the latest in her range of ceramics and homewares. If prints and textures are budding within her fashion arm then they are in full bloom in her interiors. Cutesy, kitschy pieces that include lettuce-shaped dinnerware, poppy printed table covers and even twee Chinese porcelain vegetables that serve no purpose other than to decorate. The 52-year-old mother to 9 (Burch has 3 children to ex-husband J. Christopher Burch, and 6 step children) is aware her eye for both interiors and fashion gravitates to the more-is-more. She recently told high fashion trunk show site Moda Operandi that she’s “always been drawn to unconventional pieces that have a story: They are all over our home.” And that she finds inspiration for her table-scaping from both her passion for florals and her heritage. “I love going to the market early in the morning—you can always find the most unusual flowers. I like unexpected and out-of-fashion elements. For instance, I love carnations and the flowers from vintage magazines or Old Master paintings—mixed and un-manicured. I was lucky to have grown up with a mother who would design the most extraordinary tables: The only rule we lived by was to try new things and never be boring in your approach. I like a bit of imperfection…”
It seems then, that Burch’s vibrant design temperament services all areas of her business, her spring summer fashion collection notwithstanding. This season ‘Something Wild’ is a technicolour rainforest collage inspired by specialist travel scrapbooks and Burch’s mother’s love of birdlife. The hardy, preppy ‘Webbing Stripe’ has foundations in the traditional market bags her parents would return home with and is ribboned by hues of yellows, blues, reds and browns. ‘Poppy Floral’ is a painterly, romantic hand-drawn print that decorates 50s shaped day dresses while ‘Gemini Links’ is a particularly personal graphic, both for its astrological connotation and for its luxurious gold links that pay reference to her love of the numeral two (she has twin boys, for example).
So, can we expect the fashion season ahead to celebrate the printable glory of a life-less-boring? Absolutely. Prints and patterns are set to become a neo-neutral as the simplicity of minimalism demotes to a support role. Burch’s playground of textile decoration brings resort into high fashion, and whether you’re prepping for an adventure-a-la-mode or just rushing your own locale, investing in the reckless whimsy of wild textiles and intrepid threads will make for a brazen, exciting brush stroke across anyone’s new season’s wardrobe.
‘Twas a normal day in the land of Monochrome,
As the townspeople bustled on their regular roam.
They shopped and they worked in garbs of blank space,
In dresses and trousers that suited the place.
Colours were meek and cottons were plain,
The choice of uniform was always the same.
White, black and denim down to the core,
No feathers were ruffled in Monochrome’s law.
When out of the crowds emerged a shocking sight,
A woman swathed in prints both coloured and bright.
Oranges and purples swam with blues, reds and green,
As the minimalist townspeople stopped to take in the dream.
She parted the crowd like a royal procession
With her florals and golds forming a rainbow transgression.
Suddenly the people saw their errors of ways,
Plainness was fine but prints would brighten their days.
“To heck with this bore” could be heard high and low
As the girl turned the streets into an electrical show.
Chain prints and ticking, herringbones and stripes
Splashed suiting and dresses into the night.
T-shirts and jeans were packed up and lidded,
Making way for prints that they’d never considered.
The story goes the party went for weeks, even years
So strong was the power of her prints on these peers.
Threads could be seen dancing on rooftops for miles
With Ginghams and Ikats smashing the tiles.
And never again did the townspeople choose
An outfit just fit for a yawn and a snooze.
Overnight Monochrome’s fable changed from boring to chinz,
Then forever people flocked to the town of Wild Prints.