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Tory Burch Talks Expansion, in Europe and Beyond

The designer has launched her latest expansion arrow — Europe — from a quiver bulging with new projects.

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PARIS — Tory Burch has launched her latest expansion arrow — Europe — from a quiver bulging with new projects.

This story first appeared in the March 28, 2014 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

The American designer was in Paris on Thursday to ready her new pop-up space for its April 1 opening at Galeries Lafayette, the precursor to a permanent 300-square-foot shop-in-shop at the landmark department store on Boulevard Haussmann.

Construction has also begun on a 4,400-square-foot Paris flagship in a seven-story building at 412 Rue Saint-Honoré, which is slated to open in early 2015, with stockrooms and offices on the three top floors.

Burch arrived in the French capital following the official opening Tuesday night of a like-sized flagship in Munich — her first freestanding unit in Germany, and the one with the largest footwear department across her global network of 121 stores.

In an interview, Burch forecast that Europe could one day represent up to 20 percent of her business, and disclosed she is already scouting for boutique locations in Milan, Zurich, Frankfurt and Cannes, France.

At present, the company generates about 80 percent of its revenues in America, with Asia accounting for roughly 14 percent, and the Middle East, Europe and the rest of the world sharing the balance.

Burch already counts flagships in London, Rome and Istanbul, and has been present on the Continent via wholesale since 2009, when she also made her first international steps in Asia, starting with Japan.

She said the company would expand into Indonesia and Malaysia later this year, and also unveiled fresh details about other high-profile initiatives:

• The brand will make its debut in the men’s arena for spring 2015, starting with the Asian market and with accessories, including small leather goods, tech accessories, belts and possibly footwear, she said. As reported, Burch lured designer Jeffrey Uhl away from Coach Inc. to take on both women’s and men’s accessories.

• Her new activewear line is also targeted for a 2015 debut, launching in her historic Elizabeth Street location in Manhattan and online, with an initial focus on apparel and accessories for yoga, running, golf and tennis, plus casual wear for air travel and the like. “I find a lot of women wear what they wear to go to the gym all day long,” she observed.

Sipping coffee in the lobby bar of the Bristol hotel here, Burch stressed that she would take a measured, organic approach to growth in Europe, much as she had elsewhere around the globe.

“We’re not that well known in Europe yet, so I think it’s going to take some time,” she said, dressed in a turtleneck and pencil skirt, a Tribal pearl earring from Dior piercing one earlobe and a burgundy Robinson dome satchel plopped next to her on the banquette. “It’s about finding the right locations.… We never wanted to be in a rush; we want to take our time.”

That said, she mentioned she would “eventually” need to recruit a European president to manage a growing retail and wholesale portfolio. At present, 58 of Burch’s stores are in the U.S., 46 are international and 17 are in the travel retail channel.

“I think we have a lot of potential [in Europe],” she said. “Ready-to-wear is performing really well here.”

While retailers including Galeries Lafayette started out selling her handbags and shoes, Burch said dresses, sweaters and knitwear are selling briskly in Europe.

In a happy coincidence, her spring 2014 collection that will debut at the Galeries pop-up was inspired by the French Riviera in the Sixties, a glamorous period exemplified by Romy Schneider in the film “La Piscine.” The permanent shop-in-shop is to house rtw, bags, shoes, jewelry, small leather goods and accessories.

Burch noted bestsellers in Europe tend to echo what’s selling in the U.S. and Asia, although “the sexier part of our collection does better here.”

Flat shoes have been brisk sellers in Munich, which has been open since mid-December on Perusastrasse in the heart of the city’s luxury shopping district.

The American designer said European department stores were initially puzzled about where to showcase her brand, given its lifestyle approach and pricing in the contemporary range. More often than not, it’s hung next to designer brands.

The label is already well distributed in Italy, with more than 70 sales points, including shops-in-shop, plus e-commerce, she noted. Other international e-commerce sites include France, Germany, the U.K. and Japan.

Known for her colorful clothes with bohemian touches, Burch said she already designs with a global clientele in mind, and “I would love to do special products for specific countries. As we go ahead and learn the territories, we’re going to do exclusives for each area.”

The designer plans to create a few special designs for the French market, much as she did in Germany with a large Serina tote in a natural snakeskin, exclusive to the Munich store.

Likewise, she said store interiors vary “depending on the location,” while maintaining a residential feel and signature details like orange lacquer doors. The Munich location features oak and marble floors, gold-leaf light fixtures and mirrored walls.

While in Germany, Burch toured the Nymphenburg Porcelain Manufactory, which does not foreshadow a range of tableware. “It’s a passion of mine,” she clarified.

Her Paris highlights included a wander around Left Bank specialty stores; a visit to the “Dries Van Noten: Inspirations” exhibition now on at Les Arts Décoratifs — “I love the way it was curated,” she noted — and a tour of vintage stores with three members of her design team.

The designer was then headed to London to participate in the Vogue Festival, a consumer-focused event organized by the British fashion magazine.

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