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The World of Tory Burch

Tory Burch and trusted interior designer Daniel Romualdez talk about how style and inspiration created a flagship store that properly represented the woman behind the name

Tory Burch and trusted interior designer Daniel Romualdez talk about how style and inspiration created a flagship store that properly represented the woman behind the name

Filipino women can’t get enough of Tory Burch. The American designer’s kaftans and ballerina flats are staples in the closets of every chic and well-travelled Pinay. She has a soft spot for the Philippines, having visited the country as a student, and now finding a trusted and ardent Filipino collaborator in Daniel Romualdez, the interior designer of her Manhattan home and stores all over the world.

I had the privilege of meeting Tory and Daniel at the opening of the Tory Burch flagship store in Madison Avenue in Manhattan, New York.  In a recent interview with the dynamic design tandem, Tory tells me about her inspirations, the future plans for her eponymous label and her commitment in empowering women beyond charity, while Daniel shares some of the secrets behind the chic and stylish look of Tory’s home and store interiors.

MELO ESGUERRA: The Philippines loves Tory Burch. I see so many Filipino women who are comfortably walking in your signature flats and tunics. But who is really the Tory Burch woman and how is she similar (or different) to the lady behind the brand?

TORY BURCH: Our customers are women of all ages and personal styles who live busy, multi-faceted lives. We want to make getting dressed in the morning effortless, so we focus on designing pieces that will help our customer feel pulled together — a trench, a cashmere t-shirt, a cigarette pant — but that also have unexpected elements. My design team and I also think about what we’re missing in our closets and hope that other women are looking for some of the same things too.

ME: When we learned about your creative partnership with Filipino interior designer Daniel Romualdez, we loved you even more. How did your collaboration with Daniel begin?

DANIEL ROMUALDEZ: We met while Tory and I were working on her apartment in the city and she showed me the work she was beginning to do on her brand. Initially we agreed it made sense for her to work with an interiors person who specialized in boutiques. But as she got deeper into the process of attempting to translate her brand into an actual retail space, Tory asked me to get involved; she felt that I understood her aesthetic. Since then I have worked with the company on all 73 stores.

ME: I thought your Spring/Summer 2012 collection was so beautiful. What are the inspirations behind your collections? What inspired your latest Fall/Winter line?

TB: Thank you! We draw inspiration from many places each season, whether it’s photographs of my parents from the ’70s, a painting by Gerhard Richter or a great song. For fall, one of our inspirations was Wong Kar-wai’s In the Mood for Love. The looks are polished but with subversive undertones — nipped waists, slim cuts and a lot of leather.

ME: I fell in love with the old townhouse that is now your Madison flagship store in New York, which has a fantasy and heritage element that ignites nostalgia and imagination, and you mentioned that you were eyeing it before it was even on the market. Tell us about the history of the house, and how relevant and significant is the house it is to Tory Burch.

TB: It’s a townhouse that was built in the 19th-century. The space has had special significance for me for many years; I used to go to the diner that was on the ground floor with my boys when they were little, and there was a hairdresser above it. When Daniel and I saw the gutted space years later, we were drawn to it instantly. We thought of it as a restoration rather than a renovation, keeping many of the special details from the 1800s and adding references that spoke to the aesthetic of our brand. We also embraced new inspirations, like the work of the (late) renowned French interior designer Madeleine Castaing — we share a love of bold colors with her — and ideas from our feng shui master to bring great energy to the space.

DR: We saw the space together for the first time after it had been gutted; only the perimeter walls and the raw space were left.  We reconstructed it to largely resemble what the building most likely looked like when it was originally built, but it was more our fantasy of that than an academically correct restoration. We took some liberties to make it very Tory.

ME: You both did a fantastic job in mixing different elements of design to the interiors to make it look like a collection of a world traveller and adventurer. I saw Asian touches amidst a European grandeur in the forms of the wooden boxes with mother of pearl details and some Chinese antique ceramics. What was the design philosophy behind it?

TB: I collect Imari and Ming china, vintage books and artisanal finds from antique stores and markets as I travel. I love the idea of mixing pieces that don’t seemingly go together and making them work, like the green velvet walls with gypsum accents in the Madison Avenue living room.

DR: Tory loves to travel and has toured extensively in Asia. She had even spent some time in the Philippines as a student. When she comes home from a trip she always brings back a few treasures, like the Chinese and Japan porcelain she collects. Since the stores are a reflection of Tory’s homes, we make it a point to include such objects in them as well.

ME: Please share with us the future plans of the brand. Will there be expansion of the brand? Will there be Tory Burch Home one day?

TB: We recently signed a partnership with Estee Lauder and are thrilled to be launching our first fragrance in 2013.  We are developing the scent and bottle design now.  Creating a home collection is on my wish list, but we’re taking our time. In terms of our stores, we are expanding in Brazil, China, Southeast Asia and the U.S. in the next few months.

ME: What are the causes and advocacies closest to your heart, and the contributions and efforts you’ve done to advance these causes?

TB: We launched the Tory Burch Foundation three years ago. As a working mother and someone who firmly believes in empowering women, I wanted to start a foundation to help women and their families. We are currently focused on microfinance and mentoring for female entrepreneurs in the U.S., and we hope to eventually diversify our programs and expand internationally. We have given over 50 loans of $8,000 each on average, and we have hosted mentorship events in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles and Hawaii where entrepreneurs can get the advice they need to grow their businesses. It’s important to me that the Foundation is not a charity; it’s helping women help themselves. That’s incredibly exciting.

ME: Allow us to understand your thoughts on style. As one of the world’s most stylish women, how do you define style? For those who aspire to emulate your style, any specific advice for them?

TB: Great style comes from trusting your instincts about what’s right for you. It’s about finding pieces that look great and help you feel like the best and chicest version of yourself.  When women ask for style advice, something I always go back to is, “Try not to follow trends too literally.” Look for timeless pieces you not only love but that work for your life, and feel free to put your own spin on them.

ME: You love to travel and you mentioned that you’ve been to the Philippines before. What was your experience like?

TB: I went for the first time during Semester at Sea, a college program that allowed a group of us to travel the world for six months, experiencing new cultures. I was a life-altering trip; the program truly gave me a global sensibility and awareness of issues facing people in other countries. I would love to visit again with family.

by Melo Esguerra photography Noa Griffel 



May 10 – Cebu City  |  Step inside a world of opulence where gold shimmers and diamonds sparkle. BVLGARI, the renowned Italian luxury brand, is celebrated for its exquisite gemstone jewelry, thin watches, perfumes, and leather goods. With a legacy dating back to 1884, BVLGARI has become synonymous with elegance and craftsmanship. The newest BVLGARI boutique opened last week at the sparkling The Mall at Nustar Resort and Casino, fast becoming the shopping destination for discerning consumers.

Eva Gullas, Jeffrey Hang, Jaja Chiongbian-Rama and Butch Carungay

Jeffrey Hang, BVLGARI’s Regional Marketing Director for South East Asia, flew in from Singapore to welcome guests. “We are happy to unveil BVLGARI to the Cebu market. This is the company’s 140th year, and BVLGARI celebrates this landmark with the Aeterna High Jewelry Collection in Rome this coming May 20, attended by all our global ambassadors like Zendaya and Black Pink” Jeffrey shares with us. The collection will be available in SE Asia later in the year and in the Philippines at the end of the year.

Leading the ribbon cutting was Joseph Muñoz (commercial director of Bulgari Philippines, Jeffry Hang (regional marketing director of Bulgari South East Asian operations, Pia Wurtzbach-Jauncey (Bulgari Ambasadress and Ms. Universe 2015), Allan Teo (chief operating officer of NUSTAR Resort and Casino and May Adolfo (mall director of NUSTAR Cebu).

Pia Wurtzbach-Jauncey, BVLGARI’s local Ambasadress and Ms. Universe 2015

Sheila Osmeña-Go and Jaja Chiongbian-Rama

Spotted at the event was Joseph Muñoz, Commercial Director of Bulgari Philippines escorting Pia Wurtzbach-Jauncey, BVLGARI’s local Ambasadress and Ms. Universe 2015, Allan Teo, Chief Operating Officer of NUSTAR Resort and Casino, Howard Go, Summit Media’s CEO and his wife, Cebuana Sheila Osmeña-Go as well as some of Cebu’s young fashionable set like Claudia Bezza Yeung, Marjay Ramirez, and Danessa Onglatco.

May Adolfo, Danessa Onglatco, Marjay Ramirez and Claudia Bezza-Yeung

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The Qipao As Interpreted by Innovative Filipino Designers: PHILIP RODRIGUEZ

The Qipao, an iconic symbol of Chinese fashion, takes center stage as we celebrate the Lunar New Year of the Wood Dragon. This singular closely-fitted garment crafted from the most opulent silks originated in 1920’s Shanghai. ZEE fashion editor Oj Hofer, has sought the creative insights of some of the Philippines’ most innovative designers for their interpretation of the elegant Qipao, also known as Cheongsam.

Cebu’s esteemed designer, Philip Rodriguez, pays homage to imperial attire with this stunning yellow silk brocade qipao. While adhering to the traditional cheongsam silhouette, Rodriguez infuses a touch of sensuality by incorporating see-through silk tulle panels along the waistline. Known for his timeless designs and culturally respectful creations, Rodriguez’s attention to detail is unparalleled. His embellishments are intricate and exquisite, showcasing impeccable taste and luxurious design without veering into ostentation. Take, for instance, his cheongsam for the Year of the Dragon. While it may seem daring compared to traditional sensibilities, Rodriguez maintains elegance by delicately veiling the wearer’s skin with sheer tulle on the cutout side panels. The front slit of the dress is cautiously calculated to strike the perfect balance between modesty and allure “I design for women who possess sophistication beyond their years, “ Philip emphasizes. “My clothes are crafted to evoke a sense of beauty and allure, leaving her feeling exquisite and confident.” As a seasoned designer, Rodriguez consistently achieves harmony in his designs. His qipao for 2024 seamlessly blends elements of royalty and sensuality, luxury and practicality, reflecting his mastery of the craft and his ability to create pieces that are truly elegant and well-balance.

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The Qipao As Interpreted by Innovative Filipino Designers: JC BUENDIA

The Qipao, an iconic symbol of Chinese fashion, takes center stage as we celebrate the Lunar New Year of the Wood Dragon. This singular closely-fitted garment crafted from the most opulent silks originated in 1920’s Shanghai. ZEE fashion editor Oj Hofer, has sought the creative insights of some of the Philippines’ most innovative designers for their interpretation of the elegant Qipao, also known as Cheongsam.

JC Buendia, celebrated for his ability to tell a million style stories through minimalist details, is a master of clean, chic lines in fashion. Eschewing frivolity and nonsensical embellishments, every element of his designs contributes to their overall elegance.

Inspired by cinematic portrayals of Chinoiserie, Buendia’s first fascination with the Qipao began with Gloria Romero’s iconic portrayal of a Chinese princess disguised as a ‘sampan’ girl in the 1957 film “Hong Kong Holiday.”

“This admiration for orientalalia only deepened as I watched films like “The Last Emperor” and “In The Mood For Love,” JC recalls.

Buendia’s latest creation is a testament to this cinematic influence. His interpretation of the Qipao for the Year of the Wood Dragon features a cropped top crafted from silk Dupioni, embellished with diamond brooches on the reverse closure for a touch of glamour. Paired with a tea-length bouffant skirt made from frothy layers of delicate tulle, the ensemble exudes sophistication and timeless elegance.

With meticulous attention to detail and a keen eye for design, JC Buendia’s Qipao captures the essence of cinematic glamour while offering a contemporary twist on a classic silhouette. It’s a tribute to the enduring allure of Chinoiserie and the timeless beauty of the Cheongsam.

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