Bitten by the travel bug as a young girl, designer Tory Burch still keeps one eye on her international fashion brand and the other on the far horizon.
Since launching her namesake label— and billion-dollar lifestyle brand—11 years ago, all of Tory Burch's collections have been inspired by the same thing: her love of travel. "My parents instilled in me a sense of wanderlust at a young age," she explains. "They always taught me to embrace all kinds of people and cultures, and to really see that firsthand is breathtaking."
As avid travelers, Burch's parents took their daughter and three sons on fascinating family vacations. "I remember going to Rome with my parents. It was my father's favorite city, and I remember just getting lost," she says. Later, as an undergraduate at the University of Pennsylvania, she became involved in a program called Semester at Sea. "It was a boat trip that started in Spain and ended in Japan, and it really opened my eyes up to the world," she continues. "Many of the countries in between were developing countries, whether it was Egypt, India, China, Malaysia or the former Yugoslavia."
It's no wonder that trinkets from far-flung locales became a Burch trademark, beginning with an Egyptian beetle talisman in her debut collection. Over the years, Moroccan straw hats have been a recurring accessory, last seen in her resort 2014 collection. One spring collection was inspired by the 1960s-era French Riviera, followed by a prefall collection based on that same decade's London's Carnaby Street scene. "I am really proud that we are an American brand, but really our reference is women globally. We look at every country you can imagine for our design ideas, so to me, traveling is an endless source of inspiration," Burch explains. Her wildly popular swim label, a mainstay on Florida beaches, draws inspiration for its latest collection from graphic patterns found in the American Southwest.
What is her favorite travel destination? "Morocco!" She exclaims without hesitation. While growing up, she was enamored by her parents' description of this most magical place, and she was lucky enough to go there with her mother 50 years later. "A friend gave me great advice for exploring the medina: 'Don't be afraid of getting lost; you'll eventually find your way out.' There's always something new to discover, from the unique architecture to unexpected shops. And while you're wandering around, always look up. From the minarets to the doorways, you will invariably see something remarkable,"
Brazil and Hawaii also rank high on her list of favorite places, and she loves exotic travel sites. One past trip stands out in her mind—the ancient, mystical, relatively untouched country of Myanmar. "It was one of those magical places I had read about and always wanted to see for its crafts, architecture and unique combination of cultural influences from neigh boring countries China, India and Thailand, as well as British colonials. Every place we stayed—from Yangon to the beach resorts of Ngapali and Ngwe Saung— was incredible. You can't help but be awestruck looking out over the thousands of ancient pagodas, temples and stupas in the ancient city of Bagan, or walking into temples like Yangon's Shwedagon Pagoda, which is covered in gold," she says.
As a designer, Burch is most inspired by the colors in India, which she describes as "vibrant and more diverse than you can fathom. And then you see the embroidery, embellishment, prints and textiles. Every flower, fruit, street, building and doorway has a detail that is worth photographing. Even the buses are painted beautifully," she says as she flips through photos from her last trip to the stirring country. A treasure trove of travel mementos fills her New York City apartment. In one room, there's a menagerie of Imari porcelain from Japan; in another, a chandelier from Argentina. Elsewhere are tables inlaid with Syrian bone and mother-of-pearl, and woven baskets from Marrakech and Haiti. Given her eclectic design sensibility, this melange of styles and influences makes perfect sense.
So what distant shore does the fashionable traveler hope to conquer next? "I'm dying to go to Bhutan," she says. "I would also love to go on a safari in Africa with my boys." And you can be sure that the colorful motifs from these inspiring lands will make their way onto the Tory Burch catwalk.