LONDON — ‘Twas the night before Halloween, and the tricks were raining down during a dinner hosted by Tory Burch and Jane Hartley, U.S. ambassador to the U.K., at Winfield House in London on Monday night.
It wasn’t the average fashion — or diplomatic — affair.
The young French magician, illusionist and mentalist David Jarre made silver coins and wine bottles disappear and reappear; passed mysterious stacks of cards around the table, and played telepathic games with guests.
“Don’t worry, I’m not going to saw Yana in half,” said Jarre, the son of Charlotte Rampling and Jean-Michel Jarre. He was referring to his friend Yana Peel, the global head of arts and culture at Chanel.
During one trick, Burch, whose eyes were closed, felt a tickle on her nose as Jarre passed a white feather near her husband Pierre Yves Roussel’s face.
Jarre’s tricks may have been gentle, but he did leave guests, including British first lady (and investor) Akshata Murty, Elizabeth Debicki, Saoirse Ronan, Sarah Burton, Philippa Perry and Emma Walmsley, stumped.
“I think I’m going to be up all night” trying to figure them out, said Hartley, who is the first female ambassador to the U.K. in 50 years, and the second in 200 years. Before Hartley arrived, the last woman representing the U.S. in London was Anne Armstrong, who served under President Gerald Ford.
“I understand all too well that glass ceilings remain, and I’m interested in finding ways to inspire the next generation of women who aspire to leadership,” said Hartley during the dinner in honor of women thought leaders, entrepreneurs and creatives.
She was speaking at a long table which had been laid by Burch with napkins, glasses and dishes, all with a delicate twisting vine pattern. Bowls of cream and lavender flowers echoed the colors on the table, where guests dined on ricotta-filled ravioli, fish and a very British apple crumble.
Hartley said her guests, and especially Burch, “have widened the ladder of opportunity in their own fields,” and urged the mostly female crowd to “use our voices to tear down those final barriers,” and build a society where the only limit to a woman’s success is the height of their ambition.
She quoted her hero Madeleine Albright, and urged women to speak up “because no one can read your mind.”
Burch took up the torch, arguing that “women’s leadership has never been more essential. The fact that Jane has brought us together in this historic space — long a man’s domain — shows just how far we have come.
“But clearly, we have a very long way to go. We have not only the responsibility, but the resources, the networks, and the numbers to make a difference in ways that our foremothers could only dream of,” she said.
Murty, too, spoke about the importance of investing in female-led businesses, and also revealed how Burch’s designs have long been a part of her life.
She said that one of the first gifts her now-husband, U.K. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, bought for her when they were first going out was a pair of red Tory Burch flats.
Over dinner, Hartley and Burch said they were cooking up a project together, but didn’t give any details. Burch and Roussel, the brand’s CEO, were also mum on a report this week in WWD about their plans to explore strategic options for the company.
It’s clear that both Burch and Roussel are happy with the company’s progress since Roussel took over management of the company. Burch said she now gets to dedicate 100 percent of her time, rather than 20 percent, to design while Roussel keeps an eye on the shop.
Roussel, formerly chairman and CEO of the fashion division at LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton, said he loves his job.
“I’m used to working with creatives” and protecting them, too, he said, adding that his wife’s imagination and creativity have soared now that she’s no longer burdened by the day-to-day business.
It’s a partnership founded on cooperation, and hard work, rather than any magic formula.