June 18, 2009
Since this week I will be focusing on CFDA ( Council of Fashion Designers of America) winners, both past and present, Vera Wang seems very appropriate. We all know this world renowned wedding dress designer, but do we know anything else about her ? Well let’s get down to business.
Vera was born as Wang Woiwei ( or Vera Ellen Wang) on June 27, 1949. Vera, of Chinese decent, was raised in the East side of Manhattan by an affluent family. Her mother, Florence Wu, is a United Nations translator. She exposed Vera to style and fashion early on in life. Cheng Ching, her father, started and owned a chemical company focused on oils and pharmaceuticals. He and her mother provided Vera and brother, Kenneth, a very comfortable childhood.
At the age of seven Wang’s parents gave her a pair of ice skates and it was love at first sight. What many of us don’t know about Vera is that she was a trained figure skater. She competed nationally in the U.S. National Championships. She placed fifth in 1968 and 1969 with partner James Stuart. She even appeared in Sport’s Illustrated ” Faces in the Crowd” issue.
Though she showed her talents in figure skating, she was unable to earn a space on the Olympic Team in 1968. She was given the opportunity to tour with an ice show, but she turned the opportunity down. She once told People magazine that the only thing she loved as much as skating were clothes and with that, design became her new focus in life.
The now womenswear designer went to the renowned Chapin School. She also studied at the University of Paris and studied at Sorbonne during her sophomore year in college. Her and her mother frequented fashion shows in Paris as well. Vera ultimately graduated from Sarah Lawrence College with a degree in art history in 1971.
Upon graduation, Vera went to work at Vogue Magazine, the launching pad for many legendary fashion careers. After completing her first year, she was named the youngest fashion editor in Vogue’s history at the age of 23. While at Vogue, Vera would work until the wee hours of the morning looking over photos from shoots and selecting clothing for the magazine. She said she would do anything in order to work her way up in the ranks of Vogue. While she was assisting Polly Mellen, she would sweep floors in the Scavullo’s studio and run out for yogurt per request of the models. After 16 faithful years at Vogue, Vera Wang was turned down for the editor-in-chief position, which was in turn given to Anna Wintour.
Her unemployment period did not last long, she was quickly acquired by Ralph Lauren where she worked as a design director for two years.
The inspiration for her current expertise, wedding gowns, came as she was shopping for her own wedding dress. Frustrated with the limited options she encountered, she hired a dressmaker and designed her own wedding gown for her marriage to Arther Becker which would cost her $10,000. Before Vera, there was no fashion in wedding gowns. After finding this market in need of contemporary elegant gowns, in 1990 Vera opened her own bridal boutique. With funding from her father, she set up shop at the Carlyle Hotel in New York. At her boutique she not only carried her own line, but lines from other great bridal designers.
Returning to her roots,in 1994 Vera designed a simple white skating dress worn by Nancy Kerrigan in the Winter Olympics. She also designed costumes for Michelle Kwan. These designs gave her international attention that she did not have before.
Vera took her career to the next step in the late 90’s making evening wear. From that moment on she became a hit in the celebrity arena. Celebs from Vanessa Williams, to J. Lo to Whoopi Goldberg were sporting Wang’s originals. Today Vera has dabbled in fragrances, shoes, jewelry, and home fashion. She even opening the first high fashion suite in a hotel in Hawaii, amazing right ?! However, she never strays too far from her roots in athletics. She was commissioned to design the uniform of the Philadelphia Eagles Cheerleaders. Their two piece ensemble was designed uniquely and specifically for those gorgeous ladies by Ms. Wang herself.
Vera’s achievements have not gone unrecognized. She has won the CFDA‘ womenswear designer of the year award in 2005 ( beating Marc Jacobs, mind you) and the Andre Leon Tally Lifetime Achievement Award. V era wrote a book about weddings in 2001 published by HarperCollins called Vera Wang on Weddings. She has made movie and tv appearances as herself throughout her years as well. The ink has recently dried on her contract to do Season 9 of Dancing with the Stars this year.
Vera has also taken advantage of an opportunity to design clothing and handbags for Khols, an affordable department store. This makes Vera Wang merchandise accessible to everyone.
Vera Wang, who is lives in NYC with her husband and two kids, has worked her way up in the fashion world with passion and desire for elegance. With help from family and connections she has grown into one of the most sought after designers to the stars and to any woman getting married. Vera’s father always inspired her to keep doing what she wants and what she loves and never to do nothing and she has taken his advice to new heights. Her multi million dollar empire is a household name and is sold in major department stores like Bergdorf and Saks and loved by many all over the world.
So Vera, here is to you, you are a genius in fit and style of clothing and you can make anyone feel sexy in one of your designs. Good Luck on DWTS ’09! Oh and Happy Birthday soon, 60 and Fabulous!