Tory Burch in Shanghai

Whether for business or pleasure, fashion designer Tory Burch, pictured here in Shanghai, carves out time to travel once every other month, finding inspiration in culture, architecture and style around the globe.

Around the World With Tory Burch

Discover how the American designer's wanderlust and love of travel influences her lifestyle brand.

It’s hard not to be bitten by the travel bug when you grow up hearing stories of your parents’ journeys around the world. As a child, Tory Burch was enthralled with the adventures of her parents, Buddy and Reva Robinson, who for six weeks every summer set off by steamer ship for Morocco, Italy, France, Greece and beyond.

They instilled in Burch a desire to travel, explore and learn.

My parents raised me with the knowledge that the world is a wonderful place. The more you learn, the more you want to know. – Tory Burch

The designer hopes she has passed that same curiosity on to her three boys – twins Henry and Nicholas, and Sawyer.

While the demands of her growing global company have her travelling mostly for work, she carves out time as often as she can to go off the beaten path. This is often where she and her team find inspiration for the collection, known for its bold and modern use of colour and print. Read on to see how Turkish Iznik tilework, Paris café culture and Indian mirrors have influenced Burch.

Made in Marrakech

Burch’s love affair with Morocco stems from her childhood. The designer grew up listening to her parents recount fond memories of exploring Marrakech. The pair honeymooned in the ancient city and then returned year after year, bringing art and antiques found in the souks back to the family’s Pennsylvania farmhouse.

Moroccan tiles
Today when travelling, Burch and her design team fill their phones with images like this one – a splash of Moroccan tile they were drawn to because of its vibrant colours and dancing patterns. Photography courtesy Noa Griffel

Later, as Burch studied art history and started working in fashion, her expectations for the city grew. “It’s said that Alfred Hitchcock [was inspired to create] The Birds after staying at La Mamounia and hearing the crows every morning,” she says. “Matisse was inspired by so many of the country’s vibrant colours, which all filtered into his own work.” And, of course, the country’s mark on fashion is eternal, having been a sanctuary for Yves Saint Laurent.

Happily, Burch was not disappointed. “On my first, and every trip since, the city lived up to my imagination,” she says.

“Everywhere you go, there’s a hotel, store or street with a story about how the city, the people and the culture have inspired someone to create something unforgettable.”

Morocco’s brilliant Majorelle blue, especially when set against crisp white, has influenced colour combinations in the designer’s own collections. “And in one resort collection a few years ago,” notes Burch, “we translated a straw hat I found in a Marrakech souk into a conversation print we used on tunics, dresses and swimsuits.”

En vogue à Paris

It’s fair to say that Burch owes a bit of her success to the City of Lights. After all, it was in a Paris flea market that she discovered the green floral tunic that inspired the Tory Tunic, a staple that’s been in every collection since Burch’s first season. More than a decade later, she continues to visit the iconic city to explore new places, while stopping by her long-time favourites including the Deyrolle, a 185-year-old curiosities shop, and Café Marly, which overlooks the Louvre.

“Paris never ceases to inspire me.”

“Just walking through the streets or sitting at a café, you notice the incredible Parisian sense of style,” says Burch. “It’s in the city’s DNA.” Burch’s Fall/Winter 2016 collection is evidence of her love for the city, having taken a cue from the café scene in Éric Rohmer’s 1972 film L’amour l’après-midi, where stylish women passed by the restaurant, each flaunting a unique look.

Tory Burch Fall Winter 2016 Runway Look
The Tory Burch Fall/Winter 2016 collection took inspiration from Éric Rohmer’s 1972 French film L’amour l’après-midi, which translated into a celebration of classic seventies sportswear on a New York runway. Photography courtesy Tory Burch

“On the runway, that meant that every look was different, whether through print, length or silhouette,” she explains. “But they all had the same subtle nod to great, classic ’70s sportswear.”

All eyes on Istanbul

“Istanbul is one of those cities where you can stand in one place, whether inside or outside and take in an extraordinary, 360-degree view,” Burch says. The designer opened her first boutique in the Turkish city in 2013, having visited once before.

“It’s magical – from the sultans and pashas to the mix of old and modern architecture, it has such an incredible history and culture,” she says. The self-admitted history and art aficionado appreciates Istanbul’s past, preserved in the city’s streets and buildings, as it blends with the area’s new, vibrant art scene.

“You don’t have to know anything about architecture to appreciate [it],” she says. “If I could go back in time and learn from the Romans, Byzantine and Ottoman artisans . . .”

Blue Mosque, Istanbul
“My design team and I have spent hours in the Blue Mosque, studying patterns and colour combinations,” says Burch. Photography courtesy Noa Griffel

Through the years, as Burch and her team spent time at the Blue Mosque, Grand Bazaar and Topkapi Palace, the colours and graphics in Turkish tile work, textiles and architecture found their way into the collections. The designer is especially drawn to the “colourful florals of Iznik tiles, layered textures of Azerbaijani rugs, hammered copper accessories and tassels” found in the historic spaces.

Colour collision in India

“When I’m in India, I’m a tourist in the best sense of the word,” Burch says. “I want to soak up every second.” During her time in south Asia, the designer often fills her days exploring area temples, museums and shops, forgoing sleep in favour of immersion in the local culture.

Tory Burch in India
Inspiration abounds in India, where Burch appreciates the melding of culture and history. Throughout the years, her collections have been inspired by classic Indian patterns, embellishments and techniques she finds throughout the country. Photography courtesy Tory Burch

On one such whirlwind vacation to Rajasthan in 2009, Burch took an elephant ride to the grand Amber Fort, where she and her fellow travellers got more than they bargained for. “At the top, there were several young men who we thought were selling beautiful woven baskets,” she says. “Turns out, they were snake charmers.”

“When I’m in India, I’m a tourist in the best sense of the word. I want to soak up every second.”

Burch’s love for the country is clear in her clothing designs, though it’s hard to pinpoint what she finds most inspiring – the pace of life, the landscape of mountains and jungle, or the artisan details tucked into India’s historic architecture. “Every trip to India offers something new,” she says.

A Tory Burch Design Inspired by India Icon
Burch snapped the photo at left during a trip to India, capturing an intricately carved sculpture dressed in flowers. The icon inspired the design at right, a red floral appliquéd tulle dress. Photography courtesy Tory Burch

Faithful followers of Burch’s designs will recognise the classic Indian patterns, embellishments and techniques appearing on the company’s tunics and totes throughout the years. For example, she says, “The mirror-work details in one season reflected the ornamented rooms in the Sheesh Mahal.”

Celebrating the past in Ginza

Though she spent a whirlwind week in Japan when opening the first Tory Burch boutique in Ginza, the designer admits that her stay wasn’t nearly long enough. “We packed a lot into a short amount of time, but we barely scratched the surface,” she says.

During her 2010 excursion, the designer explored Tokyo-area markets and temples, including the Senso-ji, a Buddhist temple where smoke from incense burners is said to bring good luck. “It’s a popular and spiritual place for young couples to get married,” she says. “I remember vividly seeing one young bride in a stunning traditional kimono.”

A few seasons ago, Burch found inspiration in a blue woven samurai suit she saw during this trip to Japan, which made its way into a collection of armour-tinged knits and patterns.

Japanese Samurai Suit
“It reminded me of the suits of armour my father and grandparents collected on their travels,” explains Burch, who captured the intricate detail in this samurai suit during a trip to Tokyo. Photography courtesy Tory Burch

On her next visit, Burch hopes to day-trip around Japan’s countryside, learning more about local culture and enjoying the cuisine.

Created in partnership with Tory Burch

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floral art installation at Four Seasons Hotel George V Paris