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May 16, 2013

Leveling the Paying Field

You know them as a tennis pro; a beloved actress and style icon; a megawatt journalist and talk show host; an award-winning fashion designer; and the junior senator from New York. But these five powerful women are also impressive negotiators at the top of their game. Here, they share their hardest fights—and give Marie Claire readers the tips they've learned along the way.


Photo Credit: Thos Robinson/Getty Images

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Marie Claire: What was your toughest negotiation?

Tory Burch: When I launched my company, I went from factory to factory—in Rhode Island, China, India, and Brazil—with books of tear sheets and sketches. They didn't know who I was. I brought this concept, which was a retail store that felt more residential, and the idea of making beautifully designed, well-made clothing that didn't cost a fortune. To them, I was only opening one store and an e-commerce site, so it was not a lot of orders. I had to convince them that if they took a shot on us, we would remain with them long term. And many of the people whom we started with we're still with today, nine years later.

MC: Your husband at the time was well-established in retail as the cofounder of Eagle's Eye. Did you ask him for any negotiating tips?

TB: I didn't work with my ex-husband much in the beginning; I relied on Mona Wu, now my director of sourcing, who introduced me to her contacts. I learned to negotiate on the job. I didn't go to business school, and I certainly didn't have any design experience. I started off with an idea and surrounded myself with incredible people.

MC: Did you have to tweak your negotiating style depending on the country you were in?

TB: In China, it's a lot about relationships and getting to know people. There are a lot of long dinners. But in general, as a woman, I had to realize that you can't shy away from asking for what you want. —Y.K.

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