“This is probably the most personal store to date,” said Tory Burch, giving a tour of her new multilevel, 6,000-square-foot flagship that opened Thursday at 151 Mercer Street in New York.
The store’s distinctive decor, combining folk art, basketry and pottery, gives it a homey vibe, reminiscent of Burch’s own house and lifestyle.
Situated a few blocks from her original NoLlta store on Elizabeth Street, which she opened when she launched her brand in 2004, the new SoHo store is surrounded by Balenciaga, Lanvin, Prada and Marni. It reflects a progression of Burch’s retail concept, while adhering to the brand’s design codes and history of the neighborhood.
“I could not be more excited about our Mercer Street store. It is an evolution of our retail aesthetic, and I have loved the creative process, combining a modern space with signature decorative elements and details that are personal to me. The downtown location feels like a homecoming, just a five-minute walk from where we opened our first boutique on Elizabeth Street,” said Tory Burch, executive chairman and chief creative officer.
The new boutique offers the Tory Burch collection of ready-to-wear, footwear and handbags, as well as Home, the new 151 Mercer handbags and a series of limited-edition Lee Radziwill Double Bags exclusive to this location.
Pierre-Yves Roussel, chief executive officer and Burch’s husband, added, “We believe in the strategic value of retail paired with our vibrant e-commerce channel. We want to continuously evolve our store experience and expand our omnichannel capabilities. We are excited for our customers to discover our storytelling and our beautiful products at Mercer Street. As a New York brand, we will be contributing to the local community through partnerships, events and donations — we are committed to playing our part in our city’s resurgence after an incredibly tough year.”
The boutique was created in partnership with Curiosity architect Gwenael Nicolas, a France-born designer living in Japan, infusing Burch’s distinctive aesthetic with a modern point of view. The store mixes old and new, minimal and maximum, and architectural and decorative elements. Nicolas was introduced to Burch through Roussel, who worked with Nicolas when Roussel was chairman and CEO of LVMH Fashion Group.
Known for his minimal, airy spaces, Nicolas has designed such stores as Louis Vuitton in London, Moncler in Dubai, the Versace boutiques in Paris, Florence and Beijing, Fendi Ginza Six, Berluti in Paris and Tiffany & Co. in Sydney.
“Pierre-Yves had told me about him, and he’s known for his minimalistic approach, and I thought that would be an interesting contrast to me,” Burch said. “I also love Japan, and I’m very inspired by that culture. You look at this and it’s definitely the concept of being respectful to traditional SoHo and having a store that has presence, but also blends in, and that was something we wanted to be very aware of with the neighborhood.”
She said she met with Nicolas in Tokyo when she was opening their Ginza store, “and we had a great conversation about creativity and design and architecture.” Burch had a couple of meetings with Nicolas when they began working on the store pre-pandemic (the store was slated to bow in early 2020, but internal construction due to the pandemic delayed the opening), and they ended up doing a lot of the design work virtually. “I think we both learned from each other,” said Burch, noting that Nicolas hasn’t seen the final result yet. “But we FaceTimed last night,” she said.
Burch said she would apply his design elements to her other stores, as well. “I think especially for retail now, people want to have an experience when they go into a store,” she said.
While e-commerce is growing and accounts for one-third of Burch’s business, she said she’s seen a return to shopping in-store again. “A lot of younger people want that experience of going into stores. They want to feel the quality and they want to feel the product. They want the experience of going out shopping with friends,” she said.
Burch has New York stores at Hudson Yards and Brookfield Place, but, not prepared to sign another 10-year lease, closed its Madison Avenue store last April when the lease was up. The company has 322 freestanding stores, including multilevel stores in such cities as London, Shanghai, Ginza and Rome.
According to Roussel, “New York is a little bit slow to restart compared to other parts of the country.” He said they’ve seen a lot of action in the SoHo area so they’re excited to be in that location. “On the weekends, it’s extremely busy. We’ve seen a lot of great energy here.”
The store devotes one floor to handbags, one floor for footwear and home, and one floor for rtw. Handbags and accessories account for the majority share of the volume, Roussel said. Burch said they decided not to carry Sport at the store. “I just think sport is an e-comm concept. It was always that. We tested a couple of stores and confirmed that it should be that,” Burch said. The Tory Sport store on Lower Fifth Avenue has since closed.
Roussel said each of the categories are important. “They all play a different role. Tory created the brand as a lifestyle concept. That’s why having Home is very important. That’s really part of what the brand is about, it’s not just handbags, footwear and ready-to-wear,” he said.
Roussel declined to give expectations for sales per square foot or first year sales volume.
In a walk-through of the store, brand codes such as oak, rattan and brass are reimagined in different finishes and tones, and humble materials are used in unexpected ways, creating the tension between high and low that Burch often references in her collections.
She hand-picked the pieces seen throughout the boutique, from copper resin-filled travertine tables to an Arts and Crafts chair, and pottery and art from her travels.
Burch said some of the items are her personal things, some she collected over the years and a lot of it she bought specifically for the store. “It’s a passion of mine — home,” she said.
The ground floor has four main areas and features. A specially designed parquet pattern floor, made from wood and ceramic, leads into the space. Baskets suspended from the ceiling form a canopy of natural texture above handbags and accessories. This detail comes from Burch’s memories of the woven baskets from all over the world that hung from the kitchen ceiling in her childhood home in Valley Forge, Pa.
A wicker honeycomb structure, inspired by Burch’s own bee apiary in Antigua was designed specifically for displaying handbags, small leather goods, jewelry and personal objects she has collected. Landscape artist Miranda Brooks created an outdoor garden space behind the store.
Discussing her inspiration, Burch said, “I grew up with a mother who’s an organic gardener since the 1970s. I’ve always been around bees and flowers. At one point we had 45 German Shepherds. I grew up outside. [The idea was] how do you bring a little bit of outside to a store environment?”
Featured throughout the boutique is work by female artists and local artisans. Francesca DiMattio, whose sculptures challenge traditional norms of femininity, was commissioned to create a striking chandelier suspended from the second-floor shoe salon, as well as hand-painted rails. A hand-hammered metalwork Tree of Life motif lines the underside of the staircase. Burch has always been fascinated by its symbolism of renewal, eternity and growth.
The second floor showcases footwear and the Home collection and the shoe salon is built in a circular room. The ceramic chandelier hangs above a divan de milieu that has been redone in vintage patchwork quilts found in antique markets. Pieces from the Home collection are featured in a cabinet inspired by a vintage armoire in Burch’s home.
The third floor, dedicated to rtw, is reminiscent of a living room with a geometric layout, graphic rug, floral chintz sofa and bold ceiling pattern. Burch said her favorite rooms are the two oversized dressing rooms on the third floor.
To celebrate the launch, Burch will introduce the 151 Mercer handbag interpreted in two shapes — a classic crescent and a deconstructed shoulder bag, available in leather, suede and snakeskin. They sell from $498 to $898. Exclusive to this location, a limited-edition series of Lee Radziwill Double bags, retailing for $2,298 for the small one and $2,498 for the large one, can be personalized with a monogram and date. Each bag will be numbered as there are only 25 of each style; there are three color combinations and two sizes.
Burch’s fall collection, currently in store, has the theme of a love letter to New York.
“New York has given so much to everyone. I felt watching it crumble was obviously quite devastating.” She said the collection was photographed at the Odeon (where they also filmed a movie) and was about making beautiful things that are timeless. “I think joy and optimism are super important,” she said.
The fall rtw collection features artisanal, dressy looks; minimalistic, long cotton poplin frocks; hand-knits; tunics and dresses, and a patent trench.
Burch has also revealed ICP X Tory Burch: A “New” New York, which is a partnership with the International Center of Photography that highlights the work of four women artists — Jutharat (Poupay) Pinyodoonyachet, Paola Fiterre, Lara Alcantara Lansberg and Williamain Somma — who focused on the reopening of New York City in 2021. The photography can been seen in the window and on the first floor of 151 Mercer, offering the artists’ perspective on how the city landscape has been altered by the pandemic, as well as a sense of hope in its renewal.
“I was thinking I wanted to support women artisans. I’ve always been intrigued by photography and Stefano Tonchi [who is on the board of ICP] was mentioning how wonderful the photographers are and what they were doing to commemorate New York coming back. When I saw them, I thought they were quite beautiful and we narrowed it down to four different photographers who all have all different takes on New York,” Burch said.
Burch also looks to become more involved with the neighborhood. She has booked several different events at the store so far. The company is supporting local downtown organizations, including The New School’s Parsons School of Design, where Burch has a long-term partnership fostering young design talent, innovation, diversity and inclusion and has a $1 million endowed scholarship fund, supporting student financial aid indefinitely; the Henry Street Settlement, where Burch supports their annual art benefit in November and will host cocktails at the Mercer Street store in October, and the Children’s Museum of the Arts, where Burch is developing a corporate partnership for fall and will host an in-store event supporting a female artist. The company’s short film, “Love Letters to New York” by Daniel Arnold, will play at the Angelika Film Center before films from Sept. 3 through Oct. 28.
Customers have to be masked to come into the store, and staff will be masked and regularly tested. The store is open seven days a week.
Since Roussel became CEO of Tory Burch in 2019, it has freed up Burch to focus on product and design. “It’s also what I’m passionate about. I hope you see it in the design of the product. People ask me if it’s hard giving up the CEO title, the answer is no,” Burch said. The company employs 5,000 people. “People don’t realize because we’re a private company, it’s a very significant business and operation. Doing them both [operations and design] is not smart. The biggest impact I can have is having Tory spending her time on product,” Roussel said.
During the recovery, all categories have been performing well, Burch said. “People still want to dream, and feel confident when they face so many difficult things.” She said customers are starting to dress up again, even though relaxed styles aren’t going away.
“The recovery has been far better than anything we were expecting,” added Roussel, noting that the elevated product and the innovation have resonated really well. “We’ve seen traffic being up every week and e-commerce is very strong,” he said.
While Burch and Roussel didn’t specify where they would like to open more stores, Burch said she’d like to renovate several stores, namely those in Los Angeles and Palm Beach. “When you work on a store like this, you kind of want to update,” she said. The two executives are content to keep growing the categories they have, rather than expand into other categories such as men’s wear or children’s wear. “I’ve learned that for me, focus is everything. We have so much opportunity within the categories we do,” Burch said.
Asked what Roussel’s experience at LVMH has brought to Burch’s business, the designer said, “quite honestly, Pierre-Yves has transformed our business. To have an expert in Pierre-Yves…he used to say we were international, and now we’re becoming a global business.”
“What Tory has created is unique in the fashion industry,” explained Roussel. “There’s nothing of the success or that scale in such a short period of time. It doesn’t exist. No one has achieved that, whether in Europe or in the U.S., or anywhere else in the last 20 years. Building a business that reached $1 billion in 10 years in unseen.”
“When I joined, it was already bigger than that. It is extraordinary growth and is unique. The brand and the business were probably bigger than the organization. What I have been creating is to reinforce the organization and way we operate. The biggest impact I can have is Tory having time to spend on product. No one else can do it. Having creative leadership really spending time on it is the biggest impact. The rest is really organizing the company at the scale we want to be. It cuts across everything, the way we operate stores and logistics, the way we manage people, I.T., the way we do collections, supply chain,” he continued.
Looking to the future, Roussel said he sees opportunities internationally, particularly in China and throughout Asia, and they are developing a beauty business with Shiseido. “We are growing in the U.S. very significantly,” said Roussel. “It’s the lion’s share of the business.” International accounts for one third of the business.
One thing that’s not happening is an IPO anytime soon.
“We’re very happy being a private company, and we’ll see what the future will be,” Roussel said.