Designer and philanthropist Tory Burch founded her brand in 2004, and what began with a boutique in New York and an e-commerce site has since grown into a leading American luxury lifestyle brand with an estimated revenue of $1.75B in 2022. Her trajectory has been remarkable—yet it is still often regarded in the context of her gender. Burch is routinely described as a “female CEO,” and in an early interview, a New York Times journalist asked if she was “ambitious.” Would he have posed the same question to a successful male entrepreneur?
With the exception of figures like Jeanne Lanvin and Gabrielle "Coco" Chanel, many women designers from the past century, as well as the workers who created clothing (such as seamstresses), remained unnamed or lesser known. Consider the story of Adèle Henriette Negrin Fortuny, wife of Mariano Fortuny, who was renowned for the revolutionary pleated Delphos dress he designed in the early 1930s. It turns out that Negrin Fortuny actually created the iconic garment, but her husband was credited as the inventor because it was easier for him to file the patent.
Both Burch and Negrin Fortuny are included, along with approximately 70 other makers of the last century, in Women Dressing Women, a new exhibition from The Costume Institute at The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Sponsored by Morgan Stanley, the exhibition explores the creativity, entrepreneurial spirit and artistic legacy of women fashion designers.