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Iconoclasts

Christy Turlington Burns and Tory Burch have more in common than fashion. Find out how both have used their position and influence to empower women.

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ICONOCLASTS: Strong women Christy Turlington Burns + Tory Burch

ICONOCLASTS Christy Turlington Burns and Tory Burch

“I really like when strong women stand up and help other women,” says fashion designer Tory Burch of supermodel-turned-activist Christy Turlington Burns. At a time when women’s basic rights are in danger abroad and at home, it’s inspiring to see two women turn their own success into something greater. Tune in to tonight’s episode of ICONOCLASTS (8P on Sundance Channel) to see them in action.

At 14, Turlington was discovered by a photographer at the stables where she and her sister rode horses. She went on to become one of the most recognizable faces in the world, part of the supermodel brat pack. “It wasn’t ever a goal for me,” she says. But she “put the question out there into the universe, ‘OK, now I’m in this place where I’ve been lucky, how can I be of service?’ ”

Turlington Burns’ activism has been directed toward a very personal cause. After the birth of her daughter, she began to hemorrhage — the leading cause of maternal mortality in the world. She, of course, had the best of medical care, but so many women don’t have that luxury, and thousands die each year as a result.

This near-tragedy turned into a mission; she shared her own and other mothers’ tales in her directorial debut, the documentary No Woman, No Cry, that chronicles the difficulties in finding adequate, affordable care faced by pregnant women around the world.

The related advocacy campaign, Every Mother Counts, offers information and a chance for women to join in the cause to make pregnancy and childbirth safer. (And lest you think this is purely a developing-world issue, take note: Although the U.S. spends more on healthcare than any other nation, we rank a dismal 50th in maternal mortality).

Among Turlington Burns’ great admirers is another fashion figure who has used her considerable success to help others. Tory Burch, whose line of clothes and accessories are highly coveted, says that Turlington Burns has always had “a persona of substance,” using her celebrity to provide a “voice for women.”

Of course, Burch knows about that herself. As a mom to three young sons, she started her business in her kitchen; now her brand is sold in 1,000 retail stores. But her own 68 boutiques are especially unique, offering a welcoming, cozy environment that’s chic but where children can feel comfortable too.

Her fashion represents the modern American woman who has it all — family, career, a social conscience. “I think Tory has a sensibility that is very aspiring,” says Turlington Burns. “She’s this woman who’s so composed and has three kids and the brand is just an expression of her.”

Just as she was once helped by a wildly successful woman — Oprah picked her as the “next big thing” in fashion — Burch is passing on her good fortune through the Tory Burch Foundation, which provides mentorship and microfinance for women with great ideas who just need some help to get them off the ground.

These two women are clearly cut from the same cloth — and, fortunately for the rest of us, they’re willing to share.

Sundance Channel and Grey Goose Entertainment present ICONOCLASTS every Tuesday at 8P.