C. Wonder's Magical Shopping Experience
by alexandria geisler
Wearing a pair of velvet smoking slippers, Christopher Burch arrives smiling wholeheartedly at his newest C. Wonder boutique, a Technicolor wonderland of preppy apparel, accessories, and home décor. When placed together, the slippers form the word pride, which is apt: The founder and CEO of this lifestyle brand certainly has much to be proud of. In just over a year, he has seen C. Wonder grow into 10 nationwide boutiques, a slew of pop-up shops, an e-commerce site, and most recently, be honored with the Specialty Retailer of the Year Award at the Accessories Council’s 16th annual ACE Awards gala.
Now, as the label gets ready to open its doors at our very own King of Prussia Mall, Burch couldn’t be happier about bringing his brand home. “I am excited to open C. Wonder at King of Prussia. This is my local mall, and I have so many friends and family [in Philadelphia]. The area is such an inspiration to me and has helped to shape the aesthetic of C. Wonder,” he says. “The Philadelphia shopper is a very savvy shopper, and I know that she will appreciate all that we have to offer. I cannot wait to see everyone’s reaction.”
Burch is no stranger to success, beginning a career in fashion more than 30 years ago, when he and his brother launched their first clothing label, Eagle’s Eye, while still attending Ithaca College. Especially popular among his fellow coeds, the brand’s assortment of embroidered sweaters reflected a classic, American way of dressing: a design aesthetic Burch proudly attributes to his childhood upbringing on the Main Line.
After starting the sweater company with an initial investment of $20,000 and making it into a $120 million business, the Burch brothers sold Eagle’s Eye in the late 1980s, at which point Burch began investing in other fashion and technology companies, including the eventual womenswear line he famously cofounded with his now ex-wife, Tory Burch. Recognizing a certain void in the marketplace, Burch made the decision to launch a brand of his own once more, unveiling C. Wonder in late 2011. “I wanted to create a store that made you happy. So often shopping is a chore. I wanted to create a store that evoked happiness and had great product and amazing prices in a really fun and inviting setting,” Burch explains.
Rife with brightly colored clothing, printed pillows, colorblocked totes, and gold jewelry, each C. Wonder boutique features whimsical merchandise in a series of themed-rooms complete with things like printed wallpaper, rainbow rugs, and, in the brand’s New York City flagship, six-foot giant teddy bears.
“It’s a collection of classic pieces with a modern twist and lots of great color and surprises,” Burch notes. Simple V-neck cardigans feature pops of cerise, trench coats come in playful animal prints, and illustrations of elephants, zebras, and French bulldogs appear on cheeky, ceramic dinnerware.
“The great thing about C. Wonder is that it appeals to everyone,” he adds, “It is about making great product that everyone can enjoy, whether it is a busy mom or her teenage daughter. What makes C. Wonder so special is that all of these items are affordable. It is all about affordable luxury… the average price point is $50.”
Burch’s vision to revolutionize the traditional shopping experience is surely one reason the entrepreneur was never deterred from introducing a new brand in the midst of a less-than-ideal economy. “We wanted to change the way people think about retail. We don’t want to be like everybody else,” he explains of the technological details he has thoughtfully incorporated into each C. Wonder outpost.
So, rather than relying on conventional cash registers, the brand utilizes a mobile payment process, making it possible to check out anywhere in the store by way of Apple iPod touches. Outfitted with unique, interactive touch screens, the dressing rooms also provide a memorable experience, allowing individuals to select their preferred music and lighting while trying pieces on.
From the variety of lighthearted products to its inimitable client services, C. Wonder has become synonymous with the cutting-edge retail innovation Chris Burch is best known for. With plans to increase its presence in the US and hopes to expand internationally, the upcoming year promises to be even busier—yet Burch, quite fittingly, welcomes the challenge with two, wide-open Kelly-green doors. King of Prussia Mall, 610-337-1680
photography by eric ryan anderson