Five years after their official divorce, designer Tory Burch and ex-husband Christopher Burch are still embroiled in a bitter battle over each other’s billion dollar brands. Now, it seems the whole hot mess will come to a head and made public in court very soon.
It all started when entrepreneur investor Chris Burch decided to invest some seed money in his wife's fashion dream a la Kimora Le Simmons. In case you were wondering Kimora’s marriage to Russell Simmons also ended in divorce but very amicably and she was handed over complete control of the sister brand (Baby Phat) to his (Phat Farm) contingent that he retail his position as one of the owners of the label and that she run the whole show by herself. Fair enough.
After nine years of marriage, three children and three step children from Chris’s previous marriage, the pair decide to head their separate ways. Deciding how to divvy up their stake in the by now super successful Tory Burch label was a whole other story entirely. Christopher Burch still owns one third of Tory Burch LLC.
In retaliation Tory attempted to sell Chris’s stake in Tory Burch to the tune of $600 million dollars which valued the company at around a hefty $2 billion. Whether there were no takers or Chris just was not willing to sell his shares and move on in unclear, what we do know through interviews with NY Mag though is that Chris was deeply bitter over their split. It did not help that she soon started dating Lance Armstrong and continued to live in his former bachelor pad in New York City.
Chris continued to serve on the Tory Burch board, until in typical entrepreneurial fashion he decided to once again launch a label, C. Wonder. Tory believes that the lifestyle label her ex has created bears a striking resemblance to her own fashion empire, right down to the logo. The New York Times wrote “it’s unclear whether this is an amicable homage or a hostile takeover” in its review of the first C Wonder store in SoHo. The queen of preppy, country club wear and gold logo-ed ballet flats was now rivaled by a similar “lifestyle” brand that veered dangerously into the realm of preppy chic. C. Wonder is a store where anything can be monogrammed and waspy glamour reigns supreme.
According to NY Mag, Tory Burch had heard so much about C. Wonder’s likeness to her line that she and her company’s president, Brigitte Kleine, decided to make the trip to Soho themselves. Even after being forewarned, they were shocked. Everything seemed familiar, from the buttons on the blouses to the C logo Chris had emblazoned on all of the items, which they could tell had been created by the same company that designed their double T.
“Tory must have wanted to puke when she went into that store,” says a former employee. “I’m sure she was really hurt.”
C. Wonder president Amy Shecter, a former Tory Burch executive, notes that the quantity of products the stores carry differentiates them from Tory Burch. “I mean, we have heart-shaped waffle-makers in our store,” she says. “We have pigs that are docking stations.” She starts to laugh. “They don’t have heart-shaped waffle-makers! They don’t have pig docking stations!”
Tory however is not one to take kindly to this sort of copy-cat retail wars. Last summer, a federal court awarded her company $164 million in a suit against online counterfeiters, believed to be the largest judgment ever awarded to a fashion company. According to WWD, After some public mud slinging and trash talking, Chris has decided to cut his losses and actually sue his own ex-wife as well as Tory Burch LLC. So he’s also in a was suing himself as well. He alleges that the defendants have impeded the running of his own business, C. Wonder, and interfered with his attempts to sell his shares in Tory Burch.
As for his ex-wife, he said her prior experience in the fashion industry was limited to public relations and marketing work in the apparel sector, and that she “never operated any business and had never been employed as a clothing designer.”You can’t teach an old dog new tricks it seems though. Despite all his woes regarding Tory Burch LLC, Chris Burch has a whole new girlfriend, Monika Chiang, for whom he has yet again provided seed money and helped launch a namesake brand. Some people just never learn.
C. Wonder logo vs Tory Burch logo
C. Wonder store
Tory Burch storeImages VIA NYMag
Tory BurchImage VIA TheGrindstone
Chris Burch & Monika Chiang