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!”
This may not be enough for Tory Burch, who is serious about protecting the exclusivity of her brand. 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. A lawsuit against C. Wonder has almost certainly crossed her mind. Given Chris Burch’s position on the board, the company could sue him for breach of fiduciary duty. It is already compiling photographs of C. Wonder products juxtaposed with Tory Burch products in a large binder—a kind of corporate burn book. But suing her ex-husband, the father of her children and the co-chairman of her own board, may be much more trouble than it’s worth for Tory Burch. Since the beginning, she has kept the details of her business private, and a lawsuit of this kind would expose the inner workings of Tory Burch to everyone, including competitors who aren’t relatives. The company would have to release minutes of its board meetings, for instance, at which Chris and Tory were both present—catnip to the fashion gossips who have followed her golden rise. “The family dynamic, or the former family dynamic, will absolutely rivet the consumer,” says Scafidi.
For now, they’re trying to deal with the problem quietly. Barclays Capital has been engaged to help sell off his shares, shopping them at a price that reportedly values the company at an aggressive $2 billion. Meanwhile, Tory Burch has been pressuring her ex-husband to reconceptualize C. Wonder. His daughters from his first marriage, who remain close with their stepmother, are also said to have asked him to make changes.
When I bring this up at the Crosby, Burch deflates like a helium balloon. “I don’t want to talk about that stuff,” he says so miserably that Elissa Lumley reaches out and rubs him on the shoulder. But then he brightens, insisting that he wishes Tory Burch well—both the person and the brand. “I’m so excited by the success of Tory,” he tells me. “I’m so excited by the success of C. Wonder, of Monika Chiang, and of the brands I’ll build in the future.”
Speaking of: He’s due to meet Monika at the movies. “I guess I’m just the luckiest guy alive,” he says as he stands up. “That somehow I get to attract the most exciting entrepreneurs in the world, work with incredible women, and have amazing ex-wives.”
It’s a classic Chris Burch line: cheerful, odd, immodestly modest. The sort of thing that could drive an ex-wife crazy—or make a new partner giddy with anticipation. “Tory Burch was Tory Robinson when she met Chris Burch,” Cutrone points out. “She was a publicist. Now she has a billion-dollar company. I don’t know what the beef is. But I’m hoping he’s able to continue his track record of turning publicists into billionaires, because I’m next in line.”