The Tory Burch/Christopher Burch Lawsuits & “Drunken WASPs”

Hello-Hello, it is definitely a “morning after” here at the Prepatorium. That is said with apolitical intent, it is simply the aftereffect of everything that precedes a national election: all the hope and hype, the campaigning and coverage and phone calls followed by the inevitable joy for those whose candidates and ballot measures performed as hoped, and the disappointment for others saddened by results. That is a very long-winded way of saying we are moving a little slowly today, having watched returns into the wee hours, like so many others.

Our primary story today involves the Christopher Burch/Tory Burch lawsuits, we have definitely moved into the “It’s Getting Ugly” zone.  A brief backgrounder via the Times On The Runway’ blog:

At the heart of the dispute is whether Mr. Burch, in creating his own store concept, called C. Wonder, veered too far into the retail territory of the wildly successful Tory Burch business, which the Burches founded in 2003, by copying some of her signature preppy looks and the interior designs of her stores. (They divorced in 2007.)

The ‘monogram shop’ at a C. Wonder store.

C. Wonder Facebook

Things became heated when Mr. Burch filed suit in October, alleging that Ms. Burch & her board are sabotaging his new brand, C. Wonder.  Then Tory Burch countersued, a Women’s Wear Daily story shares some of the claims in that filing:

“….the “copying” of the Tory Burch “brand image,” according to her attorneys, who provided a litany of examples in which media outlets have confused C. Wonder with Tory Burch. One such instance was when Gayle King on her CBS morning program told Chris Burch that she mistook his brand for Tory’s brand at first glance.

Tory Burch’s counterclaims also detailed how C. Wonder was able to “copy” her image through installing similar lacquered front doors, store fixtures, furnishings, area rugs and wall treatments.”

Below, the new C. Wonder store at the Time Warner Center.

C. Wonder Facebook

Back to Eric Wilson’s piece from On the Runway:

But some of the sharpest points came in Ms. Burch’s countersuit. It includes examples of designs that the Tory Burch company considers to be knockoffs, including sandals with the similar placement of logos, khaki cardigans, leopard-print wallets and even clogs. The similarities were noted down to the lacquered doors of both retailers – orange at Tory Burch and green at C. Wonder – and the pintucked upholstered poufs with pleated trims used for décor.

Below, C. Wonder’s Saffiano Wallet and a Tory Burch Coin Purse.

C. Wonder Facebook/Bloomingdale’s

It wouldn’t take long to pull together any number of similar items from the two retailers, if given time I think most of us could dig up many pieces from other designers/retailers that bear the same traits, coloring, logo placement, etc., fashion is filled with merchandise that isn’t always original. Vanity Fair makes the case much better than I could, also putting things in historical context, in a piece titled “Knockoff. Who’s There?

“Friends of Tory Burch are criticizing her ex-husband’s line, C. Wonder, as a down-market version of her signature uptown-downtown boho blend. But she too has stood on the shoulders of—and undersold—giants.”

Here is one of the slides illustrating the sidebar story.

Vanity Fair

Another Vanity Fair slide.

Vanity Fair

To see all of the comparison images Vanity Fair put together, click here. For the magazine’s story about the litigation and acrimony, click here.

As we mentioned, one of the more intriguing aspects of the entire situation is Judge Leo Strine, and his comments surrounding the case. More in Alexandra Steigrad’s WWD story:

At a scheduling conference on Thursday, Strine, of Delaware Chancery Court, weighed in….for some reason, I get all the preppy clothier cases, because I’ve had J. Crew. I’ve had — I think because I’m culturally steeped in it since I was nine years old and learned what was hard for a kid from Baltimore, duck shoes? What’s a duck shoe? You know, and then you see all these freaks wearing this really ugly — I like L.L. Bean, but those duck shoes are ugly. I mean, there’s no way around it.

The Judge certainly isn’t shy in sharing his opinions.

On the shopping habits of WASPs: “Real WASPs actually don’t go and pay full Polo price. They don’t pay full Polo price at Macy’s. No way. They actually will find a bargain. That’s how they got to be, you know, WASPs.’

One more group of comments from the Judge, again, from WWD.

“I’ve been deep in it, in an autumnal Cheever phase. I’ve been reading all kinds of Cheever. I’ll have to just keep that up through the — through the case. Have you read your Cheever lately? You know who he is? I mean, it’s — you know, and ‘Mad Men’ will be coming back at some point in time. I think if you read Cheever, go see the new Virginia Woolf revival and watch ‘Mad Men.’ We’ll be all geared up and in the mood for this sort of drunken WASP fest.

There’s not much I can add to that, is there? Other than a hope the Burches can settle things amicably, these situations really become very nasty quickly and it looks like we’re headed down that path.

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10 Comments

Filed under preppy, Preppy clothing & brands, Preppy Fashion

10 responses to “The Tory Burch/Christopher Burch Lawsuits & “Drunken WASPs”

  1. I was actually just thinking the other day that I hadn’t heard much about this case and wondered if it had been settled. Guess not!

  2. OK, I’d love to be in that courtroom just for more of the judge’s bon mots. I’ve always thought Tory Burch was a knockoff of 70’s designer trends anyway.

  3. I adore Judge Leo. He’s a hoot! I agree about his comments on WASP shopping habits. I rarely pay full price for anything!

  4. Hi, I am back and so happy to be back in blogland. Missed it so! Its been a long 10 days! Sounds like we have not heard the last of Tory vs. Chris…yes the looks are quite simliar, but then again so do many other brands have the same feeling. I am not at all impressed with C Wonder, maybe from a distance it seems like a neat store but upon closer inspection, the quality is REALLY bad. There wasn’t a thing I would have taken home there. Tory on the other hand is a regular stop for me..love almost everything she designs. She has a great eye. The judge’s comments are a riot and right on the money!

  5. “On the shopping habits of WASPs: “Real WASPs actually don’t go and pay full Polo price. They don’t pay full Polo price at Macy’s. No way. They actually will find a bargain. That’s how they got to be, you know, WASPs.’”

    I think I love this man.

    I wonder if this would be an issue if it wasn’t her ex husband?

  6. Of course it would make a difference if he were not her ex-husband. One example if the cap toed ballet flats; I cannot even count the number of fashion labels I have seen them in.

  7. That Judge Stein makes me laugh. Though I might not be a WASP, I do love a good bargain. I am not ashamed to admit I have a closet full of Tory Burch shoes and not a single pair was purchased for full retail price!

  8. Oops, I meant Judge STRINE. Just thinking about bargains makes my eyesight blurry and my ability to spell check goes right out the window!

  9. I sort of wonder if they weren’t previously married if it would be such a big deal? There are so many “imitators” out there…afterall isn’t a form of flattery?

  10. jan

    This is continued bad publicity for her…makes her seem petty and makes me think her stuff is way overpriced. She ripped off other brands. His stuff looks cheap and really looks more like Target stuff than hers, so why is she complaining? Could this be a way to get publicity for him? Keeps both brands in the public eye.

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