Watch Your Back, Tory Burch

Your ex-husband is stealing your look.

It all looked a bit fishy from the beginning. First, there were the colors that nearly jumped off the New York Times ad, pinks and yellows and oranges, amid the heady proclamation that “Something wonderful is about to happen.” Then there were the items themselves, the purported “something wonderful”: women’s clothing and accessories, with some homewares mixed in. There was a hot-pink cable knit sweater, a pair of moccasins in mustard suede, round tortoiseshell frames, a stack of enamel and gold bangles, a vintage-looking orange bicycle. The bold patterns had Hollywood Regency leanings, the bright colors were all Palm Beach prep.

Hollywood Regency? Bold patterns? Palm Beach? Prep? Tory Burch, in a nutshell. Only it wasn’t a Tory Burch ad (so much could have been gleaned from the prices—$38 for a bangle? Psh). The ad was for C. Wonder, a new lifestyle venture that was, we soon discovered, helmed by venture capitalist Chris Burch—the man who, in 2006, was embroiled in what was rumored to be a nasty divorce with Philly-raised Tory Burch (and the man who put her brand on the map).

Burch, in an odd twist, is still on the board of directors at Tory Burch. We were flummoxed. Why unveil a new shop that basically sells the same stuff (at a lower price point) as the old one? While reps from both C. Wonder and Tory Burch had no comment on the issue, they did note that there isn’t a link between the two brands. And shoppers don’t seem to care either way: The Soho flagship—lacquered within an inch of its life and decked out in kelly green and chevron—has been praised by shoppers and style bloggers (“[It] radiates a cheerful and playful feel!” “C. Wonder is wonderful!”), and Burch is reportedly planning on opening another 20 to 50 stores nationwide, along with launching online shopping.

It’s still a gamble—will people want a watered-down Jonathan Adler/Tory Burch/Kate Spade mash-up? And will this seemingly divisive venture spell big bucks for Chris Burch and the end of the Tory Burch, bright preppy era? In any case, Tory, you should watch your back.