Entering a Tory Burch store feels like walking into someone’s private closet, whereas its rival, C. Wonder, feels like a candy store. It’s may be surprising, then, to learn that the stores’ owners—who used to be married—are embroiled in a lawsuit over accusations of stealing designs.
Tory Burch, the namesake of the wildly popular clothing brand, has sued her ex-husband, Chris Burch, and his company C. Wonder. In 2003, the two, then married, opened the doors at the first Tory Burch store. After divorcing in 2006, both Burches continued working at the company, Chris as a member of the board and Tory heading the design team. Each owns a 28.3 percent share in the company.
In October 2011, Chris sold his shares in the company and opened his own clothing store, which sells everything from dresses to shoes to home decor. According to Tory, the store sells her designs, which she claims C. Wonder copied from the her brand.
Wandering through the two SoHo stores—less than half a mile from each other—the similarities aren’t that obvious. The apparel appears fairly unique to each, with the exception of a few staple pieces, such as the white silk button-down.
Tory’s designs tend towards the simple, sheath dresses in blacks and burgundies and soft cashmere sweaters in plum and red. While the shapes are universal, the details often are unexpected, such as the clear sequins sewn over the twill pattern of a silk top. The clothing is gorgeous in its simplicity and execution, and even something as simple as a white silk button-down feels special.
C. Wonder’s style appeals to a more youthful audience, with the white décor hidden beneath the electric blue and hot pink oxford shirts and slacks. It tends to be more preppy, with V-neck sweaters in every color, and loafers in leopard and snakeskin print.
The comparisons become more apparent when one reaches the back of the store. Set against the back wall is the household goods section, where there is a display of black lacquer boxes. Their shiny exterior, punctuated by a large gold medallion handle, are almost indistinguishable from Tory’s famous logo.
It is here in the household goods section that the connection seems much more believable—the dark greys, tans, and blacks of the products sharply contrasting with the store’s more vibrant products, almost as if the section is in a different store.
But beyond the few outliers, the two stores seem fairly distinct. From the styles embraced by each store to their target audience, they appear to occupy separate niches in the fashion industry.
While it may be many months before there is a conclusion to the Burches’ legal dispute, for the average customer, C. Wonder and Tory Burch seem to be comfortably settled in their roles.