The (C.) Wonder years

Chris Burch attracts shoppers, Fidelity investments

By Georgette Gouveia

Maverick entrepreneur Christopher Burch likes to bring out the animal in us, with python-embossed totes and clutches, butterfly-print pants, elephant-decorated trays, a menagerie of belt buckles and, of course, leopard-print ballerina flats, heels, wallets and iPad covers at C. Wonder, now a year old at The Westchester in White Plains.

Indeed, so enamored is Burch of leopard print that he has a version just for spring – a pop color leopard silk shirt that comes in pistachio, peach or lilac.

Apparently, we’re not the only ones delighted with Burch, WAG’s February 2012 cover guy. Fidelity, the investment firm, has bought a 10 percent piece of the C. Wonder pie for a cool $35 million. According to fashion bible WWD, Fidelity’s FMR unit is no stranger to fashion investments with stakes in Lululemon and Michael Kors, so it’s all en famille.

And speaking of famille, Burch had been in the news recently over a dustup with ex, Tory, over who borrowed from whom in their dueling retail empires. Sure, some of Chris’ stuff looks Tory-ish. But then, Tory, you are still using your ex’s last name, n’est-ce pas?

Fortunately, the dust has settled and its onward and upward for everyone, with Burch – who has 10 stores, plus pop ups – planning to add 50 to 100 stores by the end of 2014 in countries such as Germany and Japan and cities like Dubai, home of the international shopping festival.

Even a brief visit to a C. Wonder will enable you to see what Fidelity liked. It’s not just the pops of color in the merchandise and the décor or the Odd Couple pairing of items. (It’s not every store in which motorcycles and tableware meet happily.) It’s the way you feel in a C. Wonder – contentedly ensconced on a lime-green sofa with a glass of lemonade as the helpful sales clerk boxes, bags and wraps your gifts and hands them to you, along with your credit card and receipt. Or the way staffers and shoppers alike pause to admire a woman trying on a pair of ballerina flats.

C. Wonder encourages chitchat. A woman trying on a snazzy pair of black patent leather loafers with leopard-print tongues asks what we think. She’s not fashionable, she says, and is worried they may be too much so.

They’re stylish and they’re you, we pronounce.

She goes off  to contemplate this as we get back to the business of note taking.

Others may think primarily about product, but Burch told WWD, “All we care about is our customer.”

At C. Wonder, that’s no wonder at all.


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