Review of Tory Burch

Spring 2021 Fashion Show

Review of Tory Burch Spring 2021 Fashion Show

“Classic Sportswear”

By Long Nguyen

“Designing SS21 was a completely new creative challenge – one silver lining was that we had time to reflect and think about the concept of restraint, simplicity and creativity. I was inspired by memories and my experiences over the years,” Tory Burch said on her Instagram as she posted a few pictures of her at work looking at the finished garments, preparing a model and overlooking the small pictures of the entire spring collection at her studio in preparation for the unveiling today. “The collection is about restraint, simplicity and the timeless clothing that defines classic sportswear,” Burch said in a subsequent post that accompanied the photos from the shoot of the spring clothes at the Hancock Shaker Village in the Berkshires.  

Shaker Village, Pittsfield MA

This spring 2021 season has been one where introspection was the main driver for many of the collections shown in New York, London, Milano and Paris. What am I as a designer? What do I stand for? What is now? What is the future? What clothes do women need today? These were the most asked questions as designers across the globe had time on their hands, time to look back and look forward and time to inspect their own aesthetics in relations to the rapidly changing world. 

It is inspired by memories – the purposeful craftsmanship of classrooms in my Quaker elementary school; woven baskets hanging in the mud room of our farm in Valley Forge; handmade quilts from Pennsylvania Dutch shops I used to visit in Reading, and hand-crafted details from the places around the world I have been to and hope to see again.

– Tory Burch

Burch expalined of the homemade feel clothes – an ecru linen long dress with tiered panels brown cotton trims; a black belted slim long coat and white sort pants; a light green plaid single breast jacket with brown plaid pant, hand knit cropped sweater and blight blue dress shirt; leaf green print tunic and matching jogger pants or a gold print shirt, long wrap skirt and a duo tone light brown suede shirt – clothes that are both familiar and are meant to be worn in city or countryside on all occasions. 

This is a strong collection for Burch simply because the clothes and the aesthetics are quintessentially hers without any needs to wrap the collection with added meaning and cultural caché.

Such as her fall show with the artist Francesca DiMattio who designed many of the floral prints used in the collection shown at Sotheby’s with a display of many of the sculptures in the actual show. Mixing in that art stuff didn’t feel as much of a necessity for a Burch collection but perhaps it was more designed to add credence and allure to the clothes. 

Now, a black knit sleeveless knit tank with fringes and tan linen pants, a plaid collarless large sleeve coat with white tank and navy pants, a cotton floral print dress with cinched waist, or a loose ecru caftan long dress don’t feel at all out of place against the pink or mustard painted houses, against an old wooden window and door frame, or against an old wooden drawers closet built into the wall of these houses on the ground of the village in the Berkshires. 

Burch mentioned her return to the ‘classic sportswear’. Classic sportswear is a category defined by the many American designers in the last half century especially from the late 1940’s to the 1980’s with names from Claire McCardell, Tina Leser, Vera Maxwell, Elizabeth Hawes, Bonnie Cashin, Anne Fogarty, Anne Klein to Perry Ellis, Halston, Calvin Klein and Ralph Lauren.  All of these designers worked and made clothes for women at a time of rapid social, economic and political changes and upheavals creating a collective style of wardrobe that prioritized the functional and practical over the frivolous. 

American sportswear was for the more modern woman at the time, one whose lives were changing as they entered the work force on a mass scale not seen at any previous timeframe. It was an aesthetic of a wardrobe that eschewed not only ornamentations and ostentatiousness but a wardrobe that embraced the practical, the rational and the versatility of the modern dress.

Then and also more important now, American sportswear was a counter punch to the influences of the more sophisticated and more refined French haute couture fashion of that era and perhaps of the perceived fashion ethos today coming from Paris and Milano. This useful and highly adaptable idea of sportswear fashion that American designers pioneered is more relevant now than ever as the pandemic and its impact have led to a reevaluation of fashion and of dress. So many of the spring shows urged the same restraint that Burch mentioned to her Instagram followers, the kind of restraint that makes a white lacy cotton long dress fine for now and fine for a while from now. 

Classic sportswear does not have to have the connotations of inexpensive clothes as Burch demonstrated here with her spring offering where the simplicity can also be the luxurious and where the realism can also be the main attraction. Clothes need not be at all so fashionable now to be right. 

Classic sportswear is a fashion terrain that American designers should reclaim and make anew. Here, Tory Burch may be on to something with this spring collection.