NEW YORK—Tory Burch is now in the beauty business, the latest in a string of designers expanding their labels into a full face-to-toe look.
Burch’s approach is measured—just a body lotion, shower gel, perfume, and single shades of lip color, cheek color, and bronzer to start. It seems in line with the well-plotted growth of a business of ballet flats into an entire lifestyle brand.
The beauty products were at least five years in the making, says Burch, and there were no giant hiccups in that timing. It just takes that long to get it right. “There was so much science. It was an incredible process to learn. … For two years, we had weekly meetings just to try different combinations of notes for the fragrance,” Burch says.
Everyone in her life became a tester. “If you walked into my house, you got spritzed,” she adds. And this is a woman who lives with three sons.
Burch learned she was a consistent fan of the scents of tuberose and mandarin, but didn’t know she liked sweet alyssum until it was in her face. She also likes the typically masculine note of vetiver, which her father used to wear, and she had such fond memories of her grandmother using her lipstick as blush—picturing her dabbing it right in the center, like a doll, as she sat at her vanity—that her cheek color is officially a joint lip-cheek tint in a rosy shade.
She thought delicate, pink-shaded bottles would look nice on women’s dressers and in their bathrooms.
Burch says she enjoyed each step of the development process—perhaps with the exception of the photo shoots that resulted in her print and online video ads.
“Model” isn’t something she’s eager to add to her resume, Burch says. Despite her name on the label and a very quick rise to the top of the fashion industry, she seems a fairly private person, soft-spoken, and almost shy in interviews. Even at the conclusion of her runway shows, she takes one of the quickest bows in the fashion business.
But, Burch allows, it was nice to have real ads: a first for her 9-year-old brand. “We’ve never had the budget to do ads before, but a fragrance lets you do that.”
A perfume deal—Burch’s is with Estee Lauder Cos. Inc.—has become the next notch in the belt for designer companies, typically after handbags or shoes, and it’s known to boost the bottom line. If you can get color cosmetics or bath products, too, that’s even better. Michael Kors and Marc Jacobs have launched many more beauty products in the last few months, and Proenza Schouler plans to collaborate with MAC Cosmetics next year.
Burch isn’t much of a product junkie, though. “Too much makeup is aging. … I love makeup, but I don’t wear a lot,” she says.