Tory Burch is a fashion designer who created a global apparel and accessories brand in a remarkably short period of time. After college, Burch began working for major fashion labels such as Ralph Lauren and Vera Wang. Although she had never designed clothing before, in 2004 Burch opened her own fashion line, which is known for its American, bohemian-preppy sportswear. Oprah Winfrey loved Burch's work so much that the young designer appeared on the show in 2005, making her an instant household name.
Today the Tory Burch brand is stocked globally in over 250 Tory Burch boutiques and over 3,000 department and specialty stores, driving an estimated $1 billion in sales. In addition to her success as a designer, Burch is also an avid philanthropist. In 2009, she launched the Tory Burch Foundation as well as a fellowship program to advance women’s empowerment and entrepreneurship in the U.S. by providing access to capital, education, and digital resources. She also sits on several boards, including the board of the Council of Fashion Designers of America, the Society of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, the Breast Cancer Research Foundation, and the Barnes Foundation. In 2020, she was listed as the 88th most powerful woman in the world by Forbes.
The University of Pennsylvania was Burch's first-choice college when she applied, so she was thrilled when she was accepted as an undergraduate. Although majoring in fashion was not an option at the Ivy League school, Burch showed an early keenness for clothes and accessories. On campus, she dazzled her roommates with an emerging style all her own. Burch told Vanity Fair in 2007 that her friend Patrick at the University described her style as, "Half preppy and half jock—or prock." It eventually came to be known as "Torywear." Another former classmate recalled Burch having, "this equestrian-Hermès thing going on as well. She was always accessorized, like a French or Italian woman." During her college years, Burch was also member of the sorority Kappa Alpha Theta and studied abroad at sea. In 1988, she received a Bachelor of Arts degree in art history from UPenn.
Burch manages to stay tied to her Pennsylvania roots through her numerous charitable works with her alma mater. Burch is currently a member of the Industry Advisory Board of the Jay H. Baker Retailing Center at the Wharton School of Business. Moreover, in 2009, along with several university leaders, the fashion designer hosted a shopping event to benefit a UPenn scholarship fund. More recently, in 2021, Burch was back on campus to take part in that year's Wharton graduation ceremony. As part of the public event, she sat down to discuss the biggest challenges in scaling an operation, advice for managers, and tips on starting a business to any budding UPenn entrepreneurs. As someone who has had a huge impact on the world since graduating, Burch serves as the perfect business role model.