Compared to three-and-a-half years ago, when the doors of C. Wonder — his supposed revenge line aimed at ex Tory Burch — closed, little noise come out of Chris Burch’s camp, officially named Burch Creative Capital. But the investor, behind a vast consumer brand empire reportedly worth upward of $1 billion, has, indeed, been busy.
Burch co-founded Tory Burch with then-wife Tory in 2004, selling an undisclosed portion of his final 28.3 percent stake in the company in 2013. He’s since sold C. Wonder — a knockoff of the colorful, preppy line, according to Tory’s lawsuit — to Xcel Brands. In the years following the couple’s fiasco, which Burch said caused him a “massive breakdown,” he’s been dropping money into a range of companies with “special” founders. “I invest in the human,” he said — a common tune among investors. “And fashion is my favorite business, by far.”
He currently owns, among others, a 55 percent stake in swimwear brand Solid and Striped; 30 percent in Reformation alum Sarah Staudinger’s fashion brand Staud; around 40 percent in ED by Ellen Degeneres, which launched a fashion line at Walmart in September; 10 percent in men’s shorts company Chubbies; and 10 percent in accessories brand BaubleBar, the NYC headquarters of which shares space with his office in NYC’s Flatiron District.
At the same time, he’s built out his portfolio in industries from travel to health care to wellness, taking on a large leadership role in some of the companies, a smaller role in others.
Burch spoke with Glossy about the new wave of copycat brands and the first-to-market companies he’s investing in now.
We know what you’re investing in. What are you avoiding? What’s over, as you see it?
I think everything is over. There are a lot of copycats — everyone saying I want to be the Uber of this or that. And there’s a whole trend of being direct-to-consumer — but brands are realizing they’re going to hit a wall; they can only buy so much digital marketing. Digital marketing has reached its peak, same with influencer marketing. And there’s a tremendous churn of brands, because brand loyalty is gone. With some of the big brands — Gucci or Hermès or Louis Vuitton — there’s loyalty, but with people now proud to say they’re wearing Zara, that idea of brand is going away.
Where do you see consumerism going? Is there a trend or a market you’re really buying into?
The reason Nihi [Sumba, Burch’s Indonesian resort] is doing so well and why we’re opening more resorts is because they provide a great experience. There’s a shift happening: Whether it’s someone going to a restaurant or going to Iceland for three days, people want an experience — it’s not just things. And so housing is going to become very small — we’re launching Cocoon apartment spaces. We’re just in a very weird place in life — things are going to be very fast or slow, no in-between. But luxury is going to continue to be critically important. Nature, travel and experiences are the new luxuries.
I know you’ve invested in Skin Laundry and Dirty Lemon. Are beauty and wellness areas you’re interested in?
I like luxury, and I like women. I spend 95 percent of my time thinking about what could make women happier; I love making people feel good about themselves. What’s happening in the world is cool, but it’s all moving too fast. It’s exhausting, and stress is a big issue. I’m interested in things with known effects: I’m involved in a pretty exciting pill [being developed] at Mount Sinai — it’s a diet pill, but it’s all herbs, and it’s currently being tested in China. And I’m partnering on a company called Elite Body Sculpture — it’s a new version of liposuction that takes one hour, and there’s no pain. The skin-care business is also interesting to me — the fact that it’s now about how you feel. One thing I missed, 100 percent, is the whole facial laser business. I know nothing about that, but [now] I’ve invested some in it.
How are you managing maintaining active roles at many brands and scouting out new investments?
You have to be intense. I don’t know how people sleep knowing they have something to do; it’s so much easier to just intensely get to it. I can’t live if all of my emails and texts aren’t answered. People take too long — they love to-do lists. I think they’re scared of making a mistake and losing their job, and it’s debilitating. But a fast decision with a few mistakes is better than a slow decision. I’d say I’m impulsive, to a flaw; it’s a good way to be, except when people’s feelings are involved.