Anna Wintour may not be known for being the warmest of people but when she sees a talented designer in the fashion world being treated badly, she will defend them. In an article in the latest issue of Vanity Fair, Contributing editor Vanessa Grigoriadis writes about the nasty battle between designer Tory Burch and her ex-husband Chris Burch and his company C. Wonder. Not only is Chris being accused of ripping off his ex-wife’s remarkable style and design aesthetic but he is also personally attacking Tory and her business prowess. But Anna as well as design legend Diane von Furstenberg will simply not stand for it.
Anna told Vanity Fair:
“The person who has been at every single appointment over the years is Tory. Tory is the one who has always talked to us about her aspirations, and her ideas for growth, how she saw the brand, asked advice on people she might want to bring in—it’s always been, as far as we’re concerned, 100% Tory’s business, and we’ve never had anything to do with Chris.”
WWD reports that Chris has filed a six-count lawsuit against his ex-wife and former business partner as well as the boardmembers of Tory Burch LLC and Isla Capital, a subsidiary of a private equity firm with a stake in the company. According to NYMag, Chris is accusing Tory of something called tortious interference, a legal term for intentionally sabotaging his contractual or other business relationships.
Chris is accusing the defendants of interfering with his business, C.Wonder, and hurting his attempts to sell his shares in Tory Burch. He as well as Tory each own a 28.3% stake of Tory Burch LLC. But the other problem is that C.Wonder designs remind us of someone else’s. What do the designs remind us of? TORY BURCH. C. Wonder, was accused of trade dress infringement or usurpation of corporate opportunity, technically from his ex-wife’s brand, by Tory. Both companies sell preppy, colorful attire and promote a certain type of lifestyle. If he sells his stake then he can try to compete more with Tory Burch LLC but if he owns stake in the company, he won’t want to compete. This is why Tory is motivated to keep Chris on as a shareholder. “I don’t see any correlation,” he says to Vanity Fair. “I have said in various other comments that the interiors and products are quite different.” He adds, “C. Wonder is an experience . . . Tory Burch is an upscale women’s-wear destination.”
Diane von Furstenberg said:
“It’s not just credit. Everyone takes credit—that doesn’t really matter. What I find bizarre and nasty, and can’t possibly finish well for him, is that he is… hurting [her business] by sabotaging it, by copying it. I don’t understand.”
But even worse than all this are his personal attacks on Tory as a businesswoman. From Vanity Fair:
“The capital for that business was all mine, whatever anyone says, so it’s not us, or whatever,” he says of his $2 million initial investment. (A representative from the company counters that the start-up funds were joint.) “When it came to sourcing and product development and accounting and business finance and capital raising—all that I had to do,” he says. In addition, his representative maintains that Chris was involved in negotiating store leases, pricing, Web-site design and operation, and identifying factories to make the products. “In any business, one plus one equals a hundred. [Tory Burch] never could have existed without me, and it never could have existed without Tory,” Chris says. “It was a combination of my experience and Tory’s vision. That’s the truth.” A representative from Tory Burch says that Chris never had a day-to-day role in running the company, other than raising initial capital, interviewing some employees, and sourcing furniture in the early years.”
One person quoted in the article said part of the reason Chris is doing this to his ex-wife is because he wants to maintain power over her. “He’s mad as hell that she’s as successful and powerful as she is. It’s time for him to sell his shares and get out of her f*cking life,” said the source.
Yes, Chris may have helped his wife at the time get her business started but she was the one who did it. She took that business from her kitchen table and turned it into a $2 billion world-recognized brand in only eight short years. Tory Burch is available at 49 free-standing Tory Burch stores across the U.S., 24 international stores, toryburch.com, and over 1,000 select department and specialty stores worldwide, according to Business Insider.
And if Anna Wintour says she is in the right, then Tory is in the right. When Anna speaks, everyone listens.